Will Switzerland have the scoring leader of the World Juniors?

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Philipp Kurashev

Will Switzerland have the scoring leader of the World Juniors? Philipp Kurashev led temporarily both in points and goals on Saturday afternoon before Canada had its game. He’s now tied in goal scoring with Maxime Comtois – both have five markers after three games.

Kurashev was born in the Alpine resort town of Davos in Switzerland, the country in which he has spent most of his life. But his name reveals his Russian roots. Kurashev the younger represents Switzerland at the World Juniors almost four decades after his father played at the tournament for the Soviet Union.

His father Konstantin was a long-time player in the Soviet top league for Dynamo Moscow and Krylya Sovietov Moscow until 1991. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, he and many other hockey players moved to the west to use their talent as professional hockey player and earn money. He played in Austria for six years before becoming a coach in Switzerland in the late 1990s. He was the assistant coach of legendary Arno Del Curto at HC Davos for six years before moving to other teams in pro, amateur, and junior hockey.

Konstantin spent last season as an assistant coach for HK Sochi in the KHL before returning to Switzerland where he coaches EHC Chur. (Interestingly league rival EHC Basel is coached by Albert Malgin, the father of Florida Panthers forward Denis Malgin, another Swiss international player with Russian roots.)

Philipp Kurashev followed his father around Switzerland while he was coaching – and followed in his footsteps as a hockey player. It was a natural choice given that his father was at the rink every day and living in a winter sport resort.

“I was born in Davos, then we moved to Belp near Berne, Munsingen, Rapperswil, St. Gallen. We were kind of everywhere, and I have friends everywhere,” the 19-year-old said about his time in Switzerland. “I started to play when I was two-and-a-half or three in Davos.”

Kurashev played top-level junior hockey in Switzerland for SC Bern and for the GCK Lions Zurich before he decided to move to North America where he’s in his third year with the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL. The Chicago Blackhawks drafted him in the fourth round last summer.

“We can beat anybody if we stick to our game plan”.
Philipp Kurashev,Swiss forward
After 54 points in his first and 60 points in his second season, he’s on pace to have more points than ever in his junior career with currently 43 points in 33 games. While having collected many assists last season, he has improved in goal scoring in the QMJHL and has converted his form on World Junior ice as well scoring five goals in the last two games. “I try to shoot more often, go to the slot. Recently it has worked out well,” Kurashev said. He is particularly happy that the Swiss won the game against Denmark – a regular opponent in the last few years in the battle for a playoff spot.

“It’s a big win. It was one of the most important games for us. I’m very happy. Everybody expected us to win, and we did it. We’re now in the quarter-finals and hope we will continue like that and look to the future,” he said after his hat trick performance against the Danes.

The forward isn’t sure yet where his path will continue next season. Will he make it to NHL? Have a last season in the QMJHL? Or develop in senior hockey in Switzerland or Russia? “I want to finish the World Juniors, and the season, and then we will see,” he said.

His next game today will be a special one. He will play against the country of his parents. It’s even more special since he speaks in Russian at home, has all his family’s relatives in Moscow, and regularly enjoys the Russian cuisine of his mother, who moved to Quebec.

Russia has won the last five encounters against Switzerland, but there have been some heated quarter-final games that went to overtime in the recent past. In 2010 the Nino Niederreiter-led Swiss ousted Russia in overtime in the quarter-finals. Three years later, Russia took revenge with a shootout win on home ice in Ufa en route to a bronze medal.

“It’s always special for me to play against Russia. We want to play a good game again. We can beat anybody if we stick to our game plan,” Kurashev said.