By Greg Harder – Regina Leader-Post
If there was any question about Sergei Zborovskiy’s allegiance heading into the Canada Russia Series, he’s putting it to rest.
The 19-year-old defenceman is all business as he prepares to face Team WHL on Monday in Prince George and Tuesday in Edmonton, even though the competition includes three Regina Pats teammates.
Connor Hobbs, Sam Steel and Austin Wagner are all slated to oppose Russia in the two-game showdown, but Zborovskiy doesn’t expect to exchange pleasantries — or any other form of banter — with his Pats’ pals.
“It’s not my thing to chirp somebody or talk trash,” insisted Zborovskiy. “My first thing will be to play for my country. It will be fun to play against your guys but, when the game starts, friendship will be gone and we’ll play for our countries. I’m looking forward to that.”
The same goes for Hobbs, who took a slightly more lighthearted approach to the matchup with Zborovskiy. He also admitted there has been some pre-series posturing on his part.
“It’s all in fun,” Hobbs said with a smile. “We’re pretty tight. We’re pumped to go at it out there but it’s not just me versus Sergey. It’s country versus country.”
Hobbs is a candidate for Canada’s world junior team after participating in the summer development camp and exhibition series. He’s off to a nice start with Regina this season, sitting among the WHL’s top-scoring defencemen with four goals and 18 points in 13 games.
Hobbs could solidify an invitation to Canada’s upcoming tryout camp with a strong performance against Russia.
“It’s a huge opportunity for me,” he said. “I’m really excited personally. I know the other guys are really pumped too. It’s going to be great for us to get that look.”
Ditto for Zborovskiy, who played in last year’s Canada Russia Series and was invited to his country’s world junior selection camp.
He ended up as one of the last cuts.
“It was tough for me,” said the New York Rangers’ prospect. “This year, we’ll see. I’ll just come on the ice every game — it doesn’t matter if it’s here with Regina or with my country — like it is my last game, play right, play smart and don’t think about it.”
The last one is easier said than done.
“(It’s a goal) for everybody my age to play for your country at world juniors,” he added. “Same for me.”
Russia will presumably be looking for players who can adapt to the smaller ice surface at the world juniors in Toronto and Montreal. That scenario favours Zborovskiy, who’s in his third season with the Pats, but he doesn’t think it’ll be a huge factor.
“If you’re a good player you can play anywhere,” added Zborovskiy, who has one goal, 10 assists and a plus-22 rating in 12 WHL contests this season. “World junior games will be on smaller Canadian rinks. It will be fast hockey so we have to be ready for that.”