As the World Juniors are just over a month away, the evaluation process for all ten countries playing ramps up around this time of year, whether it’s playing in the U20 Four Nations tournament or international friendlies. For Canada and Russia their evaluation process involves the annual Canada-Russia series, where Russia will play all-star U20 teams from the QMJHL, OHL, and WHL. The series spans six games in ten days, and there is a trophy awarded to the series winner at the end.
As the Russians traveled across Canada, they and the CHL racked up points (three for a regulation win, two for an overtime/shootout win, and one for an overtime/shootout loss). This year’s series ended up tied at nine points each after six games, and required an additional shootout to decide the winner.
The Colorado Avalanche had three representatives at this year’s series. Here’s how all three of them played.
Alex Beaucage (QMJHL)
I pretty much summed up his play in this tweet. There wasn’t a whole lot to really talk about.
I didn't really notice Beaucage much tonight. He was predominantly a perimeter player. I was expecting more of the offensive dominance he's displayed this season, to be more involved on the forecheck and in battles. Hopefully he puts up a better showing tomorrow night in Moncton.— ♀️Lauren Kelly ♀️ (@laurkelly24) November 5, 2019
Things got better in this game.
So, after about two periods of the same ‘meh’ play, I tweeted this:
Still not a lot out of Alex Beaucage tonight. Was a little more involved, had a couple of good shifts, but I haven't been blown away by his play. He's a been shade of his Rouyn self. #GoAvsGo— ♀️Lauren Kelly ♀️ (@laurkelly24) November 6, 2019
And then Beaucage came alive:
Beaucage didn’t record any points in the two games with the Q. I’m not sure he really did himself any favours with his lacklustre performance in the first game. He was definitely a long shot to make Canada’s World Junior team, and although his start to the season was definitely deserving of an appearance in this series, I don’t think it was enough to really put him ahead of other, older bubble players fighting for depth spots up front. As an eighteen-year old, though, he still has one more year of World Junior eligibility, so he’s got another shot at making the team.
Luka Burzan (WHL)
Well, when 90% of Team WHL was asleep for the first two periods, Burzan was one of their better players.
Burzan picks up right where he left off in the first. Good backchecking, lots of speed. #GoAvsGo— ♀️Lauren Kelly ♀️ (@laurkelly24) November 14, 2019
Burzan sort of faded into the background in the third, probably because the rest of the team woke up and remembered that they were playing a hockey game. Regardless, I thought he had a solid game and hopefully he can carry it over to the next one.
Let’s just put it lightly, this game was wild from start to finish, and it needed two shootouts (I know, right) to determine the winner of the series.
Here are some Burzan highlights from regulation:
Although Burzan didn’t get any points in regulation, the game would need a shootout to decide a winner. The WHL called upon him to shoot, and he scored:
Overall, I thought Burzan was solid. He didn’t blow me away offensively (and he did take a penalty late in this game that could’ve been costly), but he was reliable and showed some good offensive instincts. Given the depth that Canada always has up front, I’m not sure he’s done enough to separate himself from the other bubble players and play himself into roster contention, but his performance should be enough to get him an invite to selection camp in December.
Bowen Byram (WHL)
Byram was in the starting lineup, playing with Vancouver Canucks prospect Jett Woo. I was not a fan of this pairing, especially as the game dragged on.
Well, for two periods, I wasn’t sure what was going on, because not only did the entire WHL team look disjointed and sluggish, but I was convinced Byram was labouring on rushes, and he looked really slow when defending incoming zone entries.
Erm, Mikhailov just walked around Byram and almost beat Maier... then Rtishchev walks around Byram too. #GoAvsGo— ♀️Lauren Kelly ♀️ (@laurkelly24) November 14, 2019
Thankfully, that thought disappeared as soon as we got to the second half of the game.
Byram really turned it around in the third:
I was devastated that they didn’t score here. It would have been awesome to see both Avs prospects hook up for a goal, especially after the shift that Byram had:
With the way that Byram was buzzing around the net, surely a goal was on its way:
And then it happened:
And to cap it all off, he assisted on the overtime winner as well:
Whew. This game was a snoozefest until Team WHL came alive in the third period. Russia outplayed the WHL at every turn and probably deserved a better outcome. In any case, the WHL took a one-point lead in the series with an overtime win (it would’ve been three points with a regulation win). The CHL leads the series 8-7.
Byram was once again great in this one (and barring injury, should be a lock to make the Canadian team). Here are some of his highlights:
Byram was actually on the WHL’s first powerplay unit with two other defensemen. It took some getting used to at first, but the unit really came through for the WHL in the end. It was a really unique and innovative set up, and I think it looked solid. It was also the first time I’ve ever seen three defensemen on a powerplay unit.
Looked really good, honestly. pic.twitter.com/KAuoEVoCZL— ♀️Lauren Kelly ♀️ (@laurkelly24) November 15, 2019
Byram was pretty much flying, all night long:
He also showed off his physical play:
Byram took a penalty at the end of overtime (with 1.5 seconds to go, precisely), which made him ineligible to shoot in the shootout to decide the winner of the game. Because Russia won the shootout and tied the series, an additional shootout was required to decide the series winner — and Byram was eligible to shoot in that one. He was stopped in round 6, but it doesn’t matter, because the WHL won the series for the CHL.
Hockey Canada will announce its selection camp roster in two weeks, on Monday, December 2nd. Here’s hoping that the Avalanche are represented by all three players who played for their CHL leagues in the Canada-Russia series.