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2018 World Junior Hockey Championship: Team Belarus preview & roster

As the World Juniors approach, EOTP will be profiling every team in the tournament.

Prince George Cougars v Calgary Hitmen Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

Belarus is making a dramatic return to the Men’s Under-20 World Ice Hockey Championship after winning the Division IA title last year.

The country’s roster currently holds five players who play in the CHL and one player who plays in the MHL: Russia’s junior league. Most of the players play in domestic leagues within Belarus. They do not have an Andrej Meszaros, Andrei, or Sergei Kostitsyn, so if they do win a game this year, it will not be on the back of one player.

Team Belarus final roster

# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
20 Andrei Grischenko G Belarus Team Belarus U20
1 Dmitri Rodik G Belarus Team Belarus U20
25 Nikita Tolopilo G Belarus2 Team Belarus U18
18 Dmitri Burovtsev D Belarus Team Belarus U20
5 Dmitri Deryabin D Belarus Team Belarus U20
22 Vladislav Gabrus D Belarus Team Belarus U20
3 Andrei Gostev D Belarus Team Belarus U20
6 Vladislav Martynyuk D MHL KRS Junior
4 Vladislav Sokolovski D Belarus Dinamo-Molodechno
8 Vladislav Yeryomenko D WHL Calgary Hitmen
26 Nazar Anisimov F Belarus Team Belarus U20
13 Arseni Astashevich F Belarus Team Belarus U20
7 Viktor Bovbel F Belarus Team Belarus U20
19 Ivan Drozdov F Belarus Yunost Minsk
32 Dmitri Grinkevich F Belarus Team Belarus U20
30 Ilya Litvinov F Belarus Yunost Minsk
11 Alexander Lukashevich F Belarus Team Belarus U20
12 Igor Martynov F WHL Victoria Royals
21 Vladislav Mikhalchuk F WHL Prince George Cougars
14 Sergei Pischuk F Belarus Team Belarus U20
10 Vladislav Ryadchenko F Belarus Team Belarus U20
17 Yegor Sharangovich F KHL Dinamo Minsk
24 Maxim Sushko F OHL Owen Sound Attack (PHI)

Weaknesses

Belarus will always be at a disadvantage in major tournaments. They only have 3,567 junior players to choose from and 41 rinks, 38 indoors, for those players to practise. The disadvantage means that Belarus is not coming into the tournament looking to win it all, but simply to not finish last and have to go back to the Division IA level.

Belarus is going to be in tough in Group B with Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. Their best chance for a win might be against the Czechs, whose program has struggled the past few years. Switzerland can also run hot and cold at this tournament.

Strengths

For Belarus to win any games, however, they will need strong goaltending. This might come from the youngest of their three goalies, 17-year-old Nikita Tolopilo.

He is a 6’6” giant and has the best in-season stats of their three options, albeit in a lower-level league. Tolopilo is Belarus’ only player from a U-18 team, as the nation has elected to use a group of players that have played together in the past and are all 18 or 19 years old. This is a smart move for a team that wants to stay in the top division and lacks a star player.

X-Factor

The fact that the Belarussians have several members who’ve been playing together on the same team and will simply be adding a few decently talented players bodes well for them in the long run. It shows a commitment to building a program from the ground up, and may give them the leg up on their opponents in the first few games of the tournament.

Belarus has been a part of the IIHF since 1992 when the Soviet Union fell. That is not a long time to build up a program when the first few years are about finding national stability. The fact that they are a respectable hockey nation is impressive unto itself.

Belarus is not coming into this tournament looking to walk away with a medal. They will simply be trying to hang around. If they achieve this then they will have accomplished something that they have never done before.