The Toronto Star recently had an in depth article detailing the Greater Metro Hockey League, and more specifically the Shelburne Red Wings. The GMHL labels itself as a Junior A (Tier II)league but is not officially sanctioned by Hockey Canada. The main reason for Hockey Canada's disapproval is the extremely unconventional route most teams went in filling their rosters. In the small town of Shelburne about an hour northwest of Toronto, the Red Wings 22 man roster consists of 19 Russian-born players.
The management of the team outwardly recruited in Russia, offering Russian youngsters a chance to develop their careers in Canada. Shelburne isn't the only team ignoring Hockey Canada's rules about Canadian content on their roster. Bobcaygeon has 11 Europeans on it's roster and the Jamestown (N.Y.) Jets have 23 Americans, 2 Russians and a Kazak on it's squad...zero Canadians. The Eliot Lake Bobcats have 7 Americans, 7 Slovaks and 2 players born in France and Bradford has only 3 Canadians to go with 18 Europeans.
The Shelburne experiment appears to be working fairly well too. In the thirteen team league Shelburne sits fourth overall with a 15-9-1 record. More impressively is the fact they sport the leagues top two point prodecers...by a ridiculous margin. 17 year olds Alexander Nikulnikov and Stanislav Dzakhov, both from Moscow have 84 and 83 points respectively in 25 games. The GMHL's third place scorer has 52 points. As well, Shelburne has scored a total of 129 goals on the season meaning these two have each garnered a point on almost two-thirds of the team's goals.
Understandably, the overall talent level in the GMHL may not be the greatest, but these two are impressive non-the-less. This past Friday Dzakhov did something that is impressive in ANY league. In a 13-8 win over the Algoma Avalanche he scored 5 goals and 7 assists for 12 points. His pal Nikulnikov had a mere 9 points with 5 goals. Last month the Columbus Blue Jackets were inquiring about the 6' 1", 205 lb Dzakhov, perhaps there will be more interest soon in this "renegade" league.