By Kerry Jackson – JuniorHockey.com
Estonia had the home ice advantage in the 2019 International Ice Hockey Federation’s U20 World Junior Championship and didn’t squander it, winning the gold and receiving a promotion from Division II, Group A to Division I, Group B.
Along the way to the title, the Estonians scored 25 goals, allowed only seven. They won four games in regulation, their only stumble a 2-1 overtime win against Lithuania on Jan. 14. The 2020 tournament will be the first time Estonia appears in Division I since 2009.
Estonia’s win was produced by a balanced attack. Only one player, 2001-born right wing Kirill Lodeikin, scored as many as four goals. One, Kristofer Jogi, a 2000 center-left wing, had three goals, while five players scored twice and seven contributed one goal. In the gold-clinching win, a 7-2 blowout over Korea, seven different players put the puck in the net.
Jogi was the team points leader with seven, which tied him for fourth for the tournament. No other Estonian was among the top 10.
On a roster of 22, there is no one playing junior hockey in North America. But it’s clear several could play at a high level if they decided to continue their development in the U.S. or Canada. Lodeikin and Jogi would be solid players, and many coaches would be happy to have Saveli Novikov on their blueline. The 1999 defenseman stands 6’8” and weighs 214 pounds, and was Estonia’s second-leading scorer with two goals and four assists. He was also named the tournament’s top defenseman.
Forward Rasmus Kiik, a 2000 who also totaled six points with one goal and five assists, would also be a welcomed addition on this side of the Atlantic.
Defenseman Eduard Slessarevski, who isn’t small at 6’2” and 185 pounds but isn’t the giant Novikov is, could help a team next season in his last year of junior hockey. He recorded no goals in the WJC but did help set up four.
Many teams would love to get their hands on Estonia’s goalies. Both put up stellar numbers at the tournament. Christopher-Kollervo Jogi, a 2000, finished with a 1.31 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage in three appearances, while Oliver Soovik, also a 2000, went 1.50 and .925 in three appearances.
The sole Estonian playing in North America is blueliner Hendrik-Paul Laosma. The 2000, who has great size at 6’3” and nearly 200 pounds, is in the program at Bishop’s College prep school in Sherbrooke, Quebec, where he is listed as a forward. He has three assists in nine games. In five games at the WJC, he had one goal and an assist in front of the home crowd.