CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Think of the CIBC Canada Russia Series as an all-star game of sorts with some of the best major junior hockey players in the world.
That’s how Pierre-Olivier Joseph is looking at it.
The Charlottetown Islanders defenceman is part of a 23-man Quebec Major Junior Hockey League squad taking on a Russian national team in Games 5 and 6 of the annual six-game series between the Russians and the Canadian Hockey League.
Game 5 is tonight (Tuesday), at 8 p.m., at Eastlink Centre. It’s the first time the series has landed on the Island.
“It’s going to be great at home playing for the fans with a group of talented guys. It’s going to really be fun playing with these guys. They’re so fast so you have to be ready,” said Joseph after team practice Monday. “The Russians are really, really fast and adjusting really good in the last three games. We have to use our skills and we have to be aggressive.”
The series pits the Russians in two games each against all-star teams from the Western Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League. This year, the Russians lead 2-1 and played Monday in Sudbury, Ont., against the OHL.
Joseph is the Islanders’ captain and an assistant captain with the QMJHL team. And the Arizona Coyotes first round pick at the 2017 NHL draft is right about the Russian adjustments.
Russia lost 7-0 to the WHL in the opener Nov. 6, then recovered with a 4-3 win the next night. It dropped the OHL 5-2 in the game on Nov. 9.
So Summerside native Noah Dobson, who often paired with Joseph in practice, knows stopping the skilled Russians means digging deep into his defensive bags of tricks.
“They seem to have a pretty strong team, and are strong physically but we have to focus on our game and on our style,” said Dobson, who was Acadie-Bathurst’s first round pick in 2016. “Instinct has to take over. Every (team) plays a similar defensive system. You’re here for a reason so instincts have to take over.”
Dobson expects his parent and grandparents, who billet him in Bathurst, N.B., to be at the game.
The six-foot-three blue-liner has 18 points through 22 games this year and is one of four Atlantic Canadians on the roster.
Jared McIssac of Truro joins him in the d-corp from the Halifax Mooseheads, goalie Evan Fitzpatrick (Sherbrooke) is from St. John’s, N.L., and Mika Cyr, who hails from Sainte-Anne-de-Madawaska, N.B., is tied for the Moncton Wildcats scoring lead with 27 points.
The games also attract pro scouts by the dozens. A good thing for many on the roster who are in their NHL draft year, are draft eligible or have already been selected.
One on those draft eligibles, Shawn Boudrias, an Islanders first rounder in 2015, comes back to the Link with the Q squad after being traded last year to Gatineau as Charlottetown beefed up for a long playoff run.
And he’s ready for the spectacle and the return to Charlottetown.
“It feels pretty good to be back here, pretty good to play in front of the (Charlottetown) fans again,” said Boudrias, who’s fourth in scoring on the Olympiques with 14 points. “The Russians are more aggressive this year, they’re getting used to the North American game. We’re representing the Q and it’s a good league that can compete with anyone.”
The final game of the series is Thursday in Moncton, N.B. Start time is 8 p.m.