World Junior Championship Preview: Team Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan (Group B) is one of the smallest countries to ever participate in the tournament. Kazakhstan has not participated in the tournament since they were relegated to Division 1, following a winless performance in the 2009 tournament.

Team Kazakhstan is 6-27-2 all-time in the tournament. Their best outing in the World Juniors came back in 1999, when Nik Antropov dragged the team to a sixth-place finish. Arguably, one of the biggest upsets in the entire tournament came at the hands of Kazakhstan. In the consolation round of the 1998 tournament, Kazakhstan defeated Team Canada 6-3 to earn a seventh-place finish. It is still the biggest win the country’s history, and the biggest loss in Canadian World Junior history.

No Pressure Whatsoever

When a team is promoted from Division 1, there is always interest to see how they will perform against the top teams from around the world. The benefit of being the new kids on the block is that there are almost no expectations. Kazakhstan is a team that is certainly happy to be in the position, but does not want to be a one-and-done team. They had an impressive performance in last year’s Division 1 tournament, going undefeated in five games.

The best thing going for this team is the familiarity with each other. Twenty-three players play for Snezhnye Barsy Astana of the Molodezhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga (MHL), the top junior league in Russia. Astana is having a solid season thus far, as they sit in the fourth seed in the MHL’s Eastern Conference. They also feature many returnees from last year’s Division 1 squad. So if Kazakhstan wants any opportunity to make an impact in this tournament, they are going to have use their experience to their advantage, as Group B is shaping up to be the tighter group of the two.

Who to Watch For

Demid Yeremeyev 

It is expected that Team Kazakhstan will start with Denis Karatayev in net, who started for the team during their run in the Division 1 tournament last year, but do not count the young Yeremeyev. In his first season with Astana, Yeremeyev has been outstanding between the pipes. He has even outplayed the veteran Karatayev in the 24 games he has played. He has a 2.63 GAA and a .924 SV% so far this season.

Temirlan Gaitamirov 

One of only two players on the Kazakhstan team with North American experience, Gaitamirov will be looked upon to be a key force on the blue-line for Kazakhstan. Born in Kazakhstan, but bred in the States, Gaitamirov found success while playing Tier 1 AAA hockey with the Colorado Rampage. In 18 games this season with Fargo, he is pointless, but is a +6 on a Fargo team that gives up the second-least amount of goals in the USHL.

Valeri Orekhov 

One of the returning defenceman from last year’s Division 1 squad, Orekhov finished tied for first in tournament scoring with teammate Artur Gatiyatov. In five games, he put home one goal and helped out with six assists. While he has spent some time with the Snezhnye, he has spent the majority of the last two seasons with the big club,  Barys, in the KHL. He has produced more offencively and has played more minutes while in the MHL. However, his experience in one of the top leagues in the world will be important if Kazakhstan will have any success in their own zone.

Maxim Musorov 

One of the young guns that will play a big role for Kazakhstan in this tournament will be Musorov. Since getting called up to Snezhnye last year, he has put up points at a moderate pace. In his first 38 games this year he has 10 goals and 6 assists for 16 points. That’s tied for third best with Astana and National Teammate Batyrlan Muratov. Musorov has represented Kazakhstan on the international stage before, as he was on the U18 team during last year’s U18 Division 1 tournament. The then 16 year-old put up four points in five games during the tournament. Expect to see a lot of minutes played by the 17-year-old in this tournament.

Sayan Daniyar 

A returner from last year’s D1 team, Daniyar will need to step into a bigger role if Kazakhstan wants to hold their own in a tough Group B. In his second season in Astana he’s averaging a point a game through 38 games. He leads the Snezhnye in points, one mark ahead of teammate Artur Gatiyatov. His 38 points puts him seventh in MHL scoring, and his 27 assists is tied for second-best. He only scored three points in last year’s Division 1 tournament, but has since fairly improved his game and turned himself into a real playmaker for Kazakhstan.

Artur Gatiyatov 

The Kazakhs will need the Stapaev native to be up to par next week. Gatiyatov has been a consistent, and persistent, scorer in past season and a half with the Snezhnye. Last season he put up 45 points for Astana. In the middle of that season, he shared the scoring lead in the Division 1 tournament with Valeri Ohekov. His four goals and three assists helped lead Kazakhstan to the promotion to the top division. He has been on a tear again this season in the MHL. He sits ninth in league scoring with 37 points, and will be tapped on by the Kazakhs to lead the team once again.

Roster

Goaltenders

Denis Karatayev (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Vladislav Nurek (Altay Ust-Kamenogorsk, MHL (Russia))

Villen Prokofyev (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Demid Yeremeyev (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Defence

Samat Daniyar (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Temirlan Gaitamirov (Fargo Force, USHL)

Yaroslav Khripkov (Altay Ust-Kamenogorsk, MHL (Russia))

Artyom Korolyov (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

David Muratov (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Ernar Musabayev (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Valeri Neroyev (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Valeri Orekhov (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Kirill Pak (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Yevgeni Shinkaretsky (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Mikhail Tarasov (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Forwards

Oleg Boiko (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Andrei Buyalsky (HK Temirtau, Kazakhstan)

Sayan Daniyar (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Ruslan Dyomin (HK Temirtau, Kazakhstan)

Artur Gatiyatov (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Dias Guseinov (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Davyd Makutsky (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Dmitri Mitenkov (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Maxim Mukhametov (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Batyrlan Muratov (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Maxim Musorov (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Sergei Pryahkin (HK Temirtau, Kazakhstan)

Vladislav Saiko (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Danil Tretyakovsky (Altay Ust-Kamenogorsk, MHL (Russia))

Ivan Vereshchagin (Nomad Astana, Kazakhstan)

Aidos Zhorabek (Snezhnye Barsy Astana, MHL (Russia))

Schedule

Dec. 27 vs. Finland (9:30 pm ET/7:30 pm PT)

Dec. 29 vs. USA (9:30 pm ET/7:30 pm PT)

Dec. 30 vs. Slovakia (9:30 pm ET/7:30 pm PT)

Dec. 31 vs. Sweden (9:30 pm ET/ 7:30 pm PT)

All statistics found on eliteprospects.com

All past tournament results found on iihf.com

Featured image photo credit – Pixbay

Author: Tyler Kuehl

Born in Michigan, Tyler was bred in Red Wings home. However, through many trips to Ontario, he developed a love for the Leafs and Canada itself. Tyler does hockey play-by-play around Michigan. As a former player, he can give insight inside the locker room and minds of players. He’ll be covering the Canadian Hockey League, as junior hockey is one of his passions. You can also catch Tyler on his hockey show, The Kuehl Podcast.