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2019 World Junior Hockey Championship: Team Kazakhstan preview & roster

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Kazakhstan is back in the Top Division for the first time in 10 years.

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It’s been a long road for Kazakhstan’s under-20 program over the past 10 years. In the IIHF’s Top Division for the World Junior Hockey Championships in 2008 and 2009, they struggled to even make the second tier of nations in the first part of this decade, finally snapping a three-year streak of finishing as the runner-up in 2015 to get back into the group that competes for a place in the main tournament.

It took two nail-biting contests at the beginning of last year’s Division IA schedule to get them here. They defeated eventual third-place finisher Germany in overtime in the first game of the event, and needed a shootout to get by Latvia in their second contest. That was a critical result in the end, as they finished one point ahead of the Latvians in the standings to earn their promotion.

Knowing how hard it was to get back, the Kazakhs are going to be eager to stick around for more than one year. As is typically the case for most of the teams making the jump, it’s not going to be an easy task.

Team Kazakhstan final roster

# Player Position League Current team
# Player Position League Current team
20 Denis Karatayev G MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
1 Vladislav Nurek G MHL Altay-Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk
30 Demid Yeremeyev G MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
7 Samat Daniyar D MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
19 Yaroslav Khripkov D MHL Altay-Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk
21 Artyom Korolyov D MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
23 David Muratov D MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
3 Ernar Musabayev D MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
9 Valeri Orekhov D KHL Barys Astana
24 Yevgeni Shinkaretsky D MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
5 Oleg Boiko F MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
6 Andrei Buyalsky F Kazakhstan HK Temirtau
17 Sayan Daniyar F MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
26 Ruslan Dyomin F Kazakhstan HK Temirtau
15 Artur Gatiyatov F MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
11 Dias Guseinov F MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
12 Davyd Makutsky F MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
25 Dmitri Mitenkov F MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
18 Batyrlan Muratov F MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
29 Maxim Musorov F MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana
27 Danil Tretyakovsky F MHL Altay-Torpedo Ust-Kamenogorsk
28 Ivan Vereshchagin F Kazakhstan Nomad Astana
8 Aidos Zhorabek F MHL Snezhnye Barsy Astana

Weaknesses

There’s little doubt that Kazakhstan will have difficulty getting a win in the tournament. They’ll get thrown right into the fire on the second day, facing perhaps the best team at the event, Finland, to kick things off. Their best chance at a victory in Group B will come when they play Slovakia, but they’ll have to wait for the penultimate day for the preliminary round for that game.

That negates what could have been a strength for them. Many of the players have been playing together all season long for Snezhnye Barsy Astana of Russia’s MHL and know what to expect of one another. With Slovakia having a few games to get accustomed to their linemates and defence partners, including some pre-tournament contests as well, that advantage will be gone by the time their crucial matchup starts.

Many of the players who helped Kazakhstan qualify for the tournament are no longer eligible to play this year. The team that actually qualified for the tournament is no longer together to build upon their Division IA title.

Strengths

Yet they do get some of the top players from last year’s team back in the fold, including the two who led the 2018 Division IA tournament in scoring. Forward Artur Gatiyatov had four goals and three assists in five games to claim the top forward award, and is just shy of a point-per-game pace in the MHL this season. As long as his 5’7”, 130-pound frame will allow him to make an impact among the world’s top Junior-aged players, he will be a key part of Kazakhstan’s offence. Joining him on the top line should be Sayan Daniyar, who just pips his small teammate with 38 points in 38 games versus Gatiyatov’s 37.

X-Factor

The other major returning player is defenceman Valeri Orekhov, who had one goal and six assists to get his country promoted, and has been playing in the KHL this season. There he has three goals and three assists in 24 games with Barys Astana, which is great production for a blue-liner who won’t turn 20 until mid-July. It could very well be his play, especially in that game versus Slovakia, that decides the fate of his team.