Regina Pats defenseman Sergey Zborovskiy is getting a chance to show his stuff on the world stage.
Zborovskiy has been invited to Team Russia’s selection camp for the World Junior Hockey Championships which begins later this month in Helsinki, Finland.
“(I’m) for sure excited. I will see my family and my parents but my first job is to make the team,” said the Moscow native.
“It’s a big plus for me, I get to see my family because I (haven’t) seen them in a long time. It will be fun.”
Even though the tournament is widely considered one that mostly Canadians care about, Zborovskiy grew up watching it as well.
“It’s the best time, Christmas time, World Junior Hockey,” he said.
Specifically, Zborovskiy remembers watching the final between Canada and Russia when Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin went head-to-head in 2005.
Zborovskiy will be one of 10 defenseman trying to crack the Russian lineup.
The invite is just another big achievement for the defenceman who came to Regina last year following the WHL’s import draft as a relative unknown.
Since that day, Zborovskiy not only earned a spot on the Pats roster but he’s improved so much that he was drafted by the NHL’s New York Rangers in June. He also played for Team Russia during the CHL Canada-Russia Challenge last month.
“I think if you’re on that level, your game is always improving,” said assistant coach Brad Herauf.
“I think more than anything, you watch for the boys to not be improving, (they) start thinking ahead.”
Most notably this year, Zborovskiy has been scoring at a much higher rate than he did in his rookie season in the WHL. Zborovskiy has 11 points in 27 games this year compared to 19 in 71 games last year.
“I think the biggest thing is the (CHL Canada-Russia Challenge), he played there and got his feet wet. He’s been a part of the program over there in Russia for the last few years,” said Herauf.
Zborovskiy will still have to beat out two or three other players to make the team. Making the team could be a challenge for the 18-year-old as politics have sometimes played a role when it comes to selection for Russian national hockey teams.
For his part, Zborovskiy doesn’t think playing in North America will hurt his chances.
“I don’t think three guys from the WHL could make the team – two defencemen and one forward,” he said.
If anything, Zborovskiy thinks it could help him, as he could work well with Ivan Provorov of the Brandon Wheat Kings since they know how each other’s play as WHL defencemen in camp. Also helping Zborovskiy is that half of the defencemen in camp are currently playing in Canadian major junior hockey.
Playing in North America also creates another interesting dynamic for Zborovskiy as most of his teammates are Canadian, which leads to some trash talk in the room.
“Obviously we all joke around him a little bit,” said forward Austin Wagner.
“But, it’s a great accomplishment for him and we’re all happy for him.”
Zborovskiy knows that the joking around is all in good fun.
“It’s good chirp. It’s always funny.”
The Pats play their first home game in nine games on Wednesday night as they host the Calgary Hitmen at the Brandt Centre.