Team Russia announces Olympic roster

The 23-man Olympic roster for Team Russia was officially announced today. Russia became one of the first countries in serious contention for gold to unveil their squad. Team Canada is expected to release their roster next week and Team USA will unveil their group during the Winter Classic on January 1.

Alexander Ovechkin (pictured) headlines a team that includes two of Ovechkin’s teammates on the Washington Capitals and a total of eight players who helped Russia nab back-to-back World Hockey Championships. Theovechkin-5 team features a total of 14 NHL players.

The Russians haven’t won gold in Olympic hockey since 1992. Team Russia came in fourth place during the 2006 Winter Olympics.

In addition to Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Semin and Ilya Kovalchuk will help lead the way on offense. Veteran forward Sergei Federov, who currently plays in the KHL, was also named to the roster and will help provide leadership and depth at forward. One questionable move is the addition of current Atlanta Thrasher’s forward Maxim Afinogenov, whose career seems to have rejuvinated alongside Kovalchuk in Atlanta. Afinogenov currently has 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points in 36 games. That’s almost as many goals as he scored in the previous two seasons combined. This recent surge certainly paved the way for his Olympic roster spot.

Sergei Gonchar, Andre Markov and Fedor Tutin lead the way on defense. Gonchar, making his fourth appearance as part of the Russian Olympic squad, will be a huge asset alongside Markov on the power play.

The Russians will also have a huge amount of depth in goal this year. Evgeni Nabokov, who will most likely get the starting job, currently has 19 wins and 5 losses with the San Jose Sharks. He also has two shutouts and a goals against average 2.33. Ilya Bryzgalov is also enjoying a rejuvinated season with the Phoenix Coyotes. Bryzgalov has a 2.02 goals against average and has 5 shutouts throughout his 21 wins in Phoenix. Semyan Varlomov, the young Capitals goaltender who broke through with a stellar post-season performance last spring but has struggled this year, rounds out the goaltender list for Russia.

Notably absent from the roster is Alexie Kovalev, the enigmatic winger who has struggled this season since leaving Montreal to sign with Ottawa in the offseason. Not including Kovalev but including Afinogenov is a curious decision. Although Kovalev is struggling, he is a proven player who could provide more veteran presence for this squad. Also absent from the roster is Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who currently sits in the IR with back issues. Khabibulin has not played for the national team since 2002.

Obviously the biggest strength of this team will be offense – and plenty of it. Ovechkin can score at will it seems, and will have plenty of opportunities if he plays alongside Red Wings playmaker Pavel Datsyuk. And Afinogenov should thrive if he gets time with Thrashers teammate Kovalchuk, whom he has played with for the better part of the season. The two of them already have chemistry together and it would be tough to split them up. Kovalchuk will score regardless, but Afinogenov might suffer if a split occurs.

The key to stopping Russia will be a strong defense that can bog down their scoring threat. Regardless, with that type of fire power under your belt, Russia could light the lamp often and make a serious run at Olympic gold.






Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *