Team OHL looks to get back on track in Game 4 of the 2017 CIBC Canada Russia Series in Sudbury tonight following a 5-2 Thursday night loss in Owen Sound.
Among the names returning to the OHL lineup for a second audition with Hockey Canada looking on is Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds winger Boris Katchouk, a second round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016. The 19-year-old is currently second in OHL goal-scoring with 18 over his 20 games this season and looks to bring his pace and intensity to the international scene this December as he attempts to crack Canada’s National Junior Team.
While he’ll be squaring off against a team of Russian National Junior Team hopefuls tonight, Katchouk, who will serve as Team OHL captain, shares something in common with his opponents.
The son of Russian parents who came to Canada in 1992, Katchouk also comes from an athletic background. His mother Elena Toumanova represented the Soviet Union in speed skating at the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary while his father passed away when he was just one.
“Pavel Bure was one of my idols as a kid,” said Katchouk, who also enjoyed playing lacrosse in his youth. “There are a lot of aspects to the Russian style of play that I appreciate. They make the most of their possession opportunities and their offensive confidence is always fun to watch.”
Though he comes from Russian bloodlines, Katchouk plays a real Canadian brand, developing a reputation as a tenacious forechecker, physical competitor and intelligent penalty killer.
Last year he joined a group of three past Greyhounds that includes all-time great Wayne Gretzky in scoring seven shorthanded goals in a single season. He currently leads the OHL with three goals on the penalty kill after being named the Western Conference’s Best Penalty Killer in last year’s OHL Coaches Poll.
“He’s a huge part of our special teams,” said Greyhounds general manager Kyle Raftis. “With his speed and strength he has the ability to take over shifts and we’ve seen that from him this season. He has managed to form some great chemistry with Morgan Frost and the two of them are a lot of fun to watch.”
Opposing power plays take note when Katchouk sets foot on the ice. While scoring goals down a man requires a bit of risk-taking, it’s important to stay within the system.
“I think there’s some risk involved when it comes to trying to read a play and create offence on the penalty kill,” he said of his shorthanded success, “but at the end of the day it all comes down to structure and systems. Our coaches have laid out a good plan and when we follow it, it provides us with some extra space to make plays and take some offensive chances.”
Katchouk has represented Canada once before, recording a goal and an assist in five games at the 2016 World Under-18 Hockey Championship in Grand Forks, North Dakota where Canada placed fourth.
Asked about the prospect of suiting up at the World Juniors, Katchouk was quick to express his eagerness to be a part of things this December.
“The entire identity of Hockey Canada and how they go about things is unbelievable,” he said. “The approach is always team-first and we all form a close bond before the puck even drops.
“It is always an honour and privilege to represent Canada.”
Katchouk is one of 10 Team OHL players returning to the lineup tonight while 10 newcomers join the ranks to try and reverse Thursday’s Game 3 outcome and send the series to Charlottetown in good shape for Tuesday’s Game 5.
Known on Twitter by his handle ‘@RussianRocket13‘, Katchouk and Team OHL square off against Team Russia in Sudbury tonight trailing the series 6-3 in points.
Be sure to catch tonight’s action on Sportsnet Ontario, East and Pacific when the puck drops at 7:00pm ET/4:00pm PT.