Written by: Jesse Michael
With Team Russia heading westbound for Regina, they will look to make it back-to-back SUBWAY® Super Series titles with a repeat of last year’s performances in Kamloops and Prince George.
But Team WHL is poised to bounce back from their 2010 loss and have a plethora of great talent in the lineup for the first game on Wednesday night with a chance to clinch the series with a regulation win.
“I think all the guys are going to be exciting to coach,” said Don Hay, this year’s coach at both the SUBWAY® Super Series and the World Junior Championship. “I’m looking forward to seeing these players – especially the Eastern players who I don’t get to see that often. It’s going to be exciting to try and put together the right lines and match ups to see how they respond.”
Some of the players Hay is talking about include two top NHL prospects for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Matt Dumba (RD), and Colton Sissons (KEL). Game five will also feature two first round draft picks from the 2011 NHL Draft, Duncan Siemens (SAS), and Joe Morrow (POR).
One of the challenges Coach Hay wonders about is how he and his players are going to handle the style of play that the Russians possess.
“I haven’t coached against the Russians before; they’re not your typical North American game,” Hay said. “It’s going to be interesting to see how they [Team WHL] respond to how the Russians play the game.”
One player on Team WHL that does have some experience from playing the Russians in last year’s SUBWAY® Super Series is Pats’ forward Jordan Weal.
Weal, who was the 70th overall selection of the Los Angeles Kings at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, is one of the smaller players in the league at 5’8, 158 pounds. But what he lacks in size, he makes up for in talent, as he is one of the most exciting players in the WHL.
This year, he has 29 points in 20 games, which ties him for tenth in league scoring.
He attributes the development of his skill to playing with a former Pat and Team Canada standout, current Edmonton Oiler Jordan Eberle.
“It gave me someone to look up to and ask questions if I was struggling or needed help with something,” Weal said. “He was a great and fun guy to play with over those two years.”
Eberle also taught Weal some sneaky plays in practice in order to sharpen up his game.
“I learned little tricks around the net which he could do since he’s such a great scorer,” Weal said. “He always seemed to be in the right spot at the right time.”
Hay also believes Weal benefited from playing with such a high skilled player in Eberle.
“I think playing with Eberle really helped him gain confidence,” said Hay. “He can use his skill at this level and be a player that can be creative and do a lot of things with the puck. I’m looking forward to seeing Jordan.”
That skill is what Weal is banking on to try and give himself an opportunity to head to World Junior camp in December.
“You can’t think about that too much,” said Weal. “You need to just go out there, do what you do best and give yourself the best shot to make the camp.”
He’s also looking forward to playing in front of the home crowd in Regina.
“It should be awesome,” he said. “They’re always loud and into the game. It should only help us get some energy and get us going.”
Game five can be seen live on Sportsnet at 7pm CST.