Since November 5, five of the Boston Bruins top prospects have squared off on behalf of either Canada or Russia in the annual CHL Subway Super Series.
The competition pits all-star teams from the three sub-leagues of the Canadian Hockey League against a select team of top Russian prospects, some of whom are CHL veterans themselves. Four Bruins were chosen to represent the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) while one was given the honor of playing for Russia.
After four games, the Russian team has split two-games series with both the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) and the OHL. The Russians will complete the series with two games against the Western Hockey League's best and brightest.
Although the bragging rights are motivation enough in a rivalry that harks back to the 1972 Summit Series, the competition is primarily a showcase of talent for future NHL stars, especially those eligible for the 2013 draft. Players are more intent on becoming the next Nail Yakupov, who was selected first overall last June, than the second-coming of Paul Henderson, who led Canada to its historic victory in '72.
Luckily, Yakupov was on hand to captain Team Russia and show everyone how it's done. He was joined on Russia's top line by Bruins prospect Alexander Khokhlachev.
Khokhlachev has had an eventful series so far. Assisted by Yakupov, he scored a highlight-reel goal in a 6-2 Game 1 victory over the QMJHL.
Khokhlachev was silent in a Game 2 dominated by Florida Panthers top prospect Jonathan Huberdeau and potential first overall pick Nathan Mackinnon. Mackinnon and Huberdeau combined for seven points in the 5-2 QMJHL victory.
Khokhlachev suffered a very scary moment in Game 3 when he took a slap shot to the face from Ottawa Senators prospect Cody Ceci. Luckily, the Russian forward, who is spending this season with the KHL's Spartak Moscow, returned to the lineup on Tuesday night with little more than a bruise.
Game 3 also saw Boston's 2012 first-round pick Malcolm Subban start in net for Team OHL. Subban played a perfect 32 minutes, making seven saves before Jordan Binnington took over. Binnington allowed two third-period goals, which nullified Team OHL's one-goal lead and gave Russia a 2-1 victory. It was Russia's first victory over Team OHL in the history of the series.
Subban's resume continues to improve as he currently ranks third in the OHL in both save percentage (.930) and goals-against average (2.24). His strong performance in the series should earn him consideration to represent Team Canada at this year's IIHF World Junior Championships in Russia.
Three more Bruins prospects took the ice for Team OHL in Game 4.
Dougie Hamilton wore an A on his sweater, in his second consecutive Super Series. Team OHL also featured the high-flying offensive duo of Seth Griffith and Anthony Camara.
Hamilton, selected ninth overall by the Bruins in 2011, starred on the OHL blue line. He was on the ice for both OHL goals, assisting on the game winner scored by future Vancouver Canucks defenseman Frankie Corrado. Hamilton's physical defensive play helped shut down Yakupov and his fellow Russian starlets.
Through 21 games for the Niagara Ice Dogs, Hamilton leads all OHL defensemen with 26 points. Hamilton is nearly guaranteed a spot on the Boston blue line whenever they return to action.
Meanwhile Seth Griffith and Anthony Camara played a solid game despite failing to produce points. In the second period, Griffith provided his future teammate with a superb feed that Camara should have finished off.
Grifftih and Camara have turned heads in the OHL this season, sitting eighth and 13th in points respectively. Their offensive upside bodes well for Boston in the future.
Although Khokhlachev will finish out the series with two more games against the Western Hockey League, his fellow future Bruins will now return to their regular teams.
Meanwhile Bruins fans will anxiously await another chance to see their top prospects in the World Junior Championships, beginning December 26.