It’s just a matter of time before several Lightning prospects don jerseys for the Bolts, but the upcoming opportunity to represent their native country of Russia in the 2013 World Junior Championships perhaps will bring them one step closer to doing just that.
Four individuals including forward Nikita Kucherov, defensemen Nikita Nesterov and Artem Sergeev, as well as goaltender Andrey Vasilevskiy all received invitations to participate in Team Russia’s camp for this year’s tournament, which will be held in Ufa, Russia, from December 26 to January 5.
Joining them at the try-out will be other highly-touted NHL prospects, several of which were selected in the first round of this past summer’s NHL Entry Draft, such as first overall pick Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko.
For the foursome of Lightning prospects, competing at the international level is nothing new.
Each of them will be returning to Russia’s camp after appearing in the 2012 World Junior Championships held in Alberta a year ago. It was there where Kucherov came in third on the team with seven points, Nesterov notched a pair of goals and five points, Sergeev posted a goal and an assist and Vasilevskiy shined between the pipes, sporting a 4-1-0 record with a pair of shutouts in five games.
If last year’s performance is an indication, that, combined with each individual’s statistics thus far this season should again make them a lock for the final roster coming out of camp.
In his North American debut this season, Kucherov is quickly becoming a major talent in the QMJHL, as he has six goals and 17 points in just 12 games after missing the beginning of the season due to shoulder surgery.
Nesterov, meanwhile, has no points in 22 games but is known for his solid defensive play, while Sergeev is currently seventh in the QMJHL for points among defensemen, collecting 23 on the year.
Vasilevskiy, whom the Lightning chose with the 19th overall pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, sports a record of 18-6-2 with a 1.97 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage.
Regardless of how well each has done thus far this season though, the focus will now shift to making Team Russia’s final roster, and of course that of the Lightning, sooner rather than later.
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