Russia Unveils Olympic Roster
Since Christmas only comes in about a week and a half in Russia, General Manager Vladislav Tretiak and head coach Vyacheslav Bykov took it upon themselves to unveil their roster for the upcoming Vancouver Olympic men's hockey tournament.
15 NHLers figure amongst the 23 man roster. Russia has strength in each position and while we many not know a lot of their KHL players that aren't amongst the NHL ranks, they could certainly end up figuring into the starting line-up during the tournament.
Some familiar non-NHL names include Viktor Kozlov and Sergei Federov. Both will be reunited with former Washington teammates Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin.
There is a lot of potential Chemistry in this roster, as the two current Capitals and two former Capitals certainly know each other very well. Kovalchuk and Afinogenov play together in Atlanta. Moreover there are 3 forwards from the KHL team Salavat Ufa and 2 forwards from Ak Bars Kazan (not to mention a defenseman from each as well).
Clearly Tretiak and his crew value chemistry and familiarity on their team. A lot has been said of Chemistry for Team Canada, which will announce its roster next week, but Russia clearly knows what it's doing here as well.
And while former Nashville Predator Alexander Radulov made the team (if you remember he left the team in controversy to return to Russia and play in the KHL), a lot of troublemakers were left off the roster. The notorious Alexei Yashin was left off the team, as was Alex Kovalev, who hasn't made a team Russia roster in 4 years. Nikolai Zherdev was also left off the team, as were Maxim Sushinsky and Sergei Mozyaki, two of the KHL's leading scorers.
Nikolai Khabibulin was the most notable goaltender left off the team, but with Bryzgalov and Nabokov certain locks for the team all season, and Semyon Varlamov a young goaltending sensation for the Capitals, there was simply no room left on the roster.
The biggest question mark is who will start in goal for the team. Nabokov has to be the favorite, but Bryzgalov has been incredible for a not-so-deep Phoenix team. (Who starts for Team Russia? You be the judge.)
The top 12 forwards and top 4 defensem have to be all but set, so it will be interesting to see who makes that last D pairing and how the lines are set up.
This is a very well balances team... lots of superstars, a few veterans and nard-nosed players, and they represent a big threat to that gold medal position.
Here is the roster (organized by projected lines, although no linemates have officially been announced):
Alex Ovechkin (WAS) - Evgeni Malkin (PIT) - Alex Semin (WAS)
Ilya Kovalchuk (ATL) - Pavel Datsyuk (DET) - Max Afinogenov (ATL)
Sergei Zinoviev (Salavat Ufa) - Viktor Kozlov (Salavat) - Alex Radulov (Salavat)
Alexei Morozov (Ak Bars Kazan) - Sergei Fedorov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk) - Danis Zaripov (Ak Bars Kazan)
Sergei Gonchar (PIT) - Andrei Markov (MTL)
Fedor Tyutin (CLB) - Anton Vonchenkov (OTT)
Denis Grebeshkov (EDM) - Dmitri Kalinin (Salavat)
Konstantin Korneyev (CSKA Moscow) - Ilya Nikulin (Ak Bars Kazan)
Evgeni Nabokov (SJ)
Ilya Bryzgalov (PHO)
Semyon Varlamov (WAS)
More to come as other rosters are announced!