After winning the Division IA title last season to earn a promotion to the IIHF's Top Division, Belarus makes a return to the World Junior Hockey Championship after an eight-year absence, replacing Germany who was relegated after the 2015 tournament.
Belarus scored the most goals while also allowing the fewest at that qualification event to gain entry. Unfortunately the two players who finished first and second in competition scoring — Dmitri Ambrozheichik and Artur Buinitsky, respectively — have aged out of the under-20 bracket. As has that tournament's second-best goaltender by save percentage, Maxim Gorodetsky.
The team will play in Group B with Russia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Finland. The main goal for Belarus will be surviving relegation to maintain a place among the top 10 junior hockey nations.
|31 ||Ivan Kulbakov||G||Belarus||Dinamo U20 / HK Gomel|
|20||Alexander Osipkov||G||MHL B ||Yukost Minsk|
|25||Vladislav Verbitsky||G||Belarus||Dinamo U20 / Shakhtyor Soligorsk |
|24||Daniil Bokun (A) ||D||Belarus||Dinamo U20 / Shakhtyor Soligorsk|
|4 ||Stepan Falkovsky||D||OHL||Ottawa 67's |
|9 ||Vladislav Goncharov (C)||D||Belarus||Dinamo U20 / Shakhtyor Soligorsk|
|14 ||Sergei Romanovich||D||Belarus2 ||Dinamo U20 / Neman Grodno |
|5 ||Ilya Sushko||D||Belarus||Dinamo U20 / Shakhtyor Soligorsk|
|2 ||Alexander Tabolin||D||Belarus||Dinamo U20 / Yunost Minsk |
|3 ||Pavel Vorobey ||D||Belarus||Dinamo U20 / Yunost Minsk |
|16 ||Andrei Belevich||F||Belarus||Dinamo U20|
|18 ||Ilya Bobko||F||Belarus||Dinamo U20|
|10 ||Dmitri Buinitsky||F||KHL||Dinamo Minsk|
|13 ||Alexei Busko||F||Belarus2||Shakhtyor Soligorsk|
|19 ||Artemi Chernikov||F||Belarus||Dinamo U20 / Shakhtyor Soligorsk|
|11 ||Dmitri Filippovich||F||Belarus||Dinamo U20 / Yunost Minsk |
|22 ||Danila Karaban (A) ||F||Belarus||Dinamo U20|
|27 ||Vadim Malinovsky||F||USPHL Premier ||Okanagan|
|6 ||Alexander Patsenkin ||F||MHL B ||Yunost Minsk |
|16 ||Alexei Patsenkin ||F||MHL B ||Yunost Minsk |
|8 ||Yegor Sharangovich||F||MHL||Dinamo Raubichi|
|26 ||Ruslan Vasilchuk||F||Belarus||Dinamo U20|
|15 ||Grigori Veremyov||F||Belarus||Dinamo U20|
Belarus' finalized roster includes three goaltenders, seven defencemen and 13 forwards. The team decided to forgo the normal eight defencemen, 12 forwards strategy many European nations use, instead skewing the lineup to an offensive orientation that would help them score a late-game goal in a close contest.
Artemi Chernikov, Dmitri Buinitsky, and Danila Karaban played top-line minutes in the pre-competition game versus Canada and had a few decent offensive chances. Six-foot-seven Ottawa 67's defenceman Stepan Falkovsky and five-foot-six pointman Vladislav Goncharov make up an effective (though odd-looking) first defensive pair. The duo received significant time in that tune-up game and will be Belarus' most dangerous offensive options from the back end.
Those players got the majority of power play time against Canada, and were able to score the team's only goal while up two men. They have the ability to score, and a team heading to the box as much as Canada did in that first pre-tournament game could find that out the hard way.
After that top five-man unit, there isn't much skill to speak of. The Patsenkin twins have had success in under-18 competition for Belarus, and the second-pairing d-man Daniil Bokun had a competent outing versus the defending gold medallists, but those players couldn't handle the skill that Canada displayed against them, and will struggle to do so versus the talented forwards they will face in Group B action.
With focus on avoiding relegation, an opening-game victory over a Finnish team that seems to face a perennial struggle to score would go a long way to getting a playoff-round berth. That would allow Belarus to avoid the best-of-three relegation competition that could result in the team being sent back down to the lower ranks they've finally climbed out of. A poor group-stage showing by Czech Republic could make them a target for a surprise win on the last day of round-robin play.
Belarus' best chance of achieving success at the tournament will be to catch a team not playing up to its best standards. The team does not have the skill to contend for a medal, but may be determined enough to get the one win required to survive until reinforcements can arrive next year.