Score Strip

  1. League: NHL
  2. Philadelphia vs. NY Rangers
    7:00 PM
    3 PHI
    2 NYR
  3. Chicago vs. St. Louis
    8:00 PM
    3 CHI
    2 STL
  4. Minnesota vs. Colorado
    9:30 PM
    4 MIN
    1 COL
  5. Los Angeles vs. San Jose
    10:30 PM
    3 LA
    2 SJ
  6. View All

Olympic Preview: Pool A

Rotoworld
Olympic Preview: Pool A
.

View photo

Ryan Dadoun, Corey Abbott and Michael Finewax preview all the Pool A players including Russia, Slovakia, …

This is the third and final preview of each pool for the 2014 Olympics. Michael Finewax, Ryan Dadoun and Corey Abbott have done player profiles on every player in the tournament. We hope you enjoy it.


Click here for Pool B, featuring Austria, Canada, Finland and Norway.

Click here for Pool C, featuring the Czech Republic, Latvia, Sweden and Switzerland.

Don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News, and follow @Rotoworld_ HK, @mfinewaxhockey  @RyanDadoun, and @CoreAbbott,

Russia

Goalies:

Sergei Bobrovsky (Columbus Blue Jackets – NHL) – Russia is perhaps the most intriguing team when it comes to their goaltending.  In theory, this should be a strong suit for them, especially after Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy in 2013 after posting a 2.00 GAA and .932 save percentage.  On top of that, he’s spent years in the KHL and consequently is very familiar with the larger international ice surface that the Winter Games will be using.  At the same time, this has been a bit of an up-and-down season for him, to the point where it’s debatable if he’s even Russia’s best option in goal.  There’s no question he’s good, but does he match up to Roberto Luongo in Canada, the United States’ Ryan Miller, Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist, or the Finnish duo of Antti Niemi and Tuukka Rask?  Maybe, but it’s a tough sell.

Semyon Varlamov (Colorado Avalanche – NHL) – One of the NHL’s most improved goaltenders this season.  He had a 3.02 GAA and .903 save percentage in 35 contests last season, but he’s reinvented himself under Colorado Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy and goalie coach Francois Allaire.  Although he’s endured some rough patches, he still has a 2.48 GAA and great .924 save percentage in 46 games.  Even though Bobrovsky is the reigning Vezina Trophy winner, Varlamov might prove to be Russia’s best bet.  It’s worth pointing out that Bobrovsky has very little international playing experience while Varlamov was superb in the 2010, 2012, and 2013 World Championships.

Alexander Yeryomenko (Moscow Dynamo – KHL) – Who is this guy who got chosen over NHL netminders Evgeni Nabokov and Ilya Bryzgalov?  Yeryomenko, 33, has spent his entire career playing hockey in Russia and he’s been one of the KHL’s best goaltenders since the league was established.  He’s led the Dynamo Moscow to back-to-back Gagarin Cup championships and has a posted a GAA of less than 2.00 in three consecutive campaigns.

Defensemen:

Anton Belov (Edmonton Oilers – NHL) – After spending years with the KHL’s Omsk Avangard, Belov made the jump to the NHL in 2013-14.  He inked a one-year, two-way deal with the Edmonton Oilers and has managed to stick with the club, recording six points and 32 penalty minutes in 47 games.

Alexei Emelin (Montreal Canadiens – NHL) – Emelin rarely shows up on the scoresheet, but over the past three seasons he’s established himself as a solid defensive defenseman with the Montreal Canadiens.  That led to him signing a four-year, $16.4 million extension with the club in October.  That’s despite the fact that he underwent reconstructive knee surgery in April to repair his ACL and MCL and consequently didn’t even make his season debut until Nov. 16.  He has eight points and 37 penalty minutes in 37 games in 2013-14.

Andrei Markov (Montreal Canadiens – NHL) – Team Russia doesn’t have much in the way of offensive defensemen now that Sergei Gonchar, who didn’t even make the team, is in the twilight of his career.  At this point Markov, 35, is their best bet in that regard.  The Canadiens have been using him extensively with the man advantage and that’s helped Markov score five goals and 31 points in 59 contests this season. This will be Markov’s third Olympics.  He has a goal and six points in 12 contests in the previous two Winter Games.

Evgeny Medvedev (Kazan Ak-Bars – KHL) – Medvedev was never drafted by an NHL club and has spent his entire career in Russia.  Since the KHL was founded, Medvedev has played for Kazan Ak-Bars and helped them win the Gagarin Cup in 2009 and 2010.  He also stepped up for Team Russia in the 2013 World Championship by scoring two goals and seven points in eight contests.  He has 22 points and 49 penalty minutes in 46 games this season.

Nikita Nikitin (Columbus Blue Jackets – NHL) – The St. Louis Blues took Nikitin with the 136th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, but he didn’t head to North America until the 2010-11 campaign.  By the time he did though, he was already a seasoned veteran with the Omsk Avangard in the Russian Superleague and then KHL, so it didn’t take him long to establish himself as a regular with the Blues.  He was dealt to Columbus in his sophomore campaign, which proved to be his best season as he recorded 32 points in 61 games while averaging 23:12 minutes per contest.  He hasn’t been nearly as impressive this season with 14 points in 51 contests.

Ilya Nikulin (Kazan Ak-Bars – KHL) – Russia leaned heavily on NHL talent when it came to their blueline, but Nikulin is one of the exceptions.  The 31-year-old has been a superb offensive defenseman in the KHL, surpassing the 30-point mark in four of the past five campaigns.  That feat is more impressive when you factor in that a KHL season ranges from 52 to 56 contests.  It’s worth adding that he’s also close with Alex Ovechkin as the two used to play together on Moscow Dynamo and is Nikulin’s son godfather.

Fedor Tyutin (Columbus Blue Jackets – NHL) – The Columbus Blue Jackets teammate of Nikita Nikitin, Tyutin’s career followed a significantly different route.  Unlike Nikitin, who spent a fair amount of his career in Russia, Tyutin wasted little time in making the transition to North America after being drafted by the New York Rangers in 2001.  Tyutin has never been an elite player, but he’s always been a valuable one.  He has recorded at least 20 points in each of the last seven seasons and has never averaged less than 20 minutes per contest in an NHL season.  He’s still in the prime of his career at the age of 30, but he’s already participated in two previous Winter Games.

Slava Voynov (Los Angeles Kings – NHL) – At the age of 24, Voynov has established himself as one of the Los Angeles Kings’ best defensemen.  He was taken in the second round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and quickly developed in the AHL, to the point where he recorded 51 points in 76 contests with Manchester Monarchs in 2010-11.  He made his NHL debut the following season and played regularly as a rookie in the Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup-winning playoff campaign.  He’s in the first season of a six-year, $25 million contract and has three goals and 22 points in 59 games.

Forwards:

Artem Anisimov (Columbus Blue Jackets – NHL) – After being taken in the second round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers, Anisimov spent one final season in Russia before heading over to North America.  He spent two seasons working on his game in the AHL and by the end of it, he was one of the league’s best with 81 points in 80 contests.  In the NHL, he’s served primarily in a complimentary role and has never recorded more than 18 goals or 44 points in a single season.  Now with the Columbus Blue Jackets, he has 13 goals and 13 assists in 58 contests in 2013-14.

Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit Red Wings – NHL) – The knock on Pavel Datsyuk is that he sustained a major knee injury that sidelined him for more than a month.  If he’s anywhere close to 100% though, he’ll be one of the best players in the tournament.  He’s good for about a point-per-game, but that alone doesn’t describe him.  He’s a tremendous two-way center who is typically solid on the draw and is always a threat to force a turnover.

Alexander Svitov (Kazan Ak-Bars – KHL) – Svitov didn’t make Team Russia’s original roster, but he was added after Moscow Dynamo forward Denis Kokarev suffered a leg injury.  Like the man he replaced, Svitov is playing in the KHL this season, but the difference is that Svitov was actually drafted by an NHL squad.  In fact, the Tampa Bay Lightning took him with the third overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft.  He ended up playing in just 179 NHL games, recording 37 points and 223 penalty minutes to become one of the bigger first-round busts of that draft.  In the KHL, he continued his physical style of play and has 12 points and 37 penalty minutes in 46 games in 2013-14.

Ilya Kovalchuk (St. Petersburg SKA – KHL) – In North America, all eyes will be on Kovalchuk when Russia plays. For years, he was one of the greatest goal scorers in the NHL and one of the most reliable.  He found the back of the net at least 30 times in nine consecutive campaigns before the shortened season brought an end to that streak.  After that, Kovalchuk “retired” rather than stick with his 15-year, $100 million contract with New Jersey that ran through 2024-25.  That allowed him to bolt to the KHL, where he’s scored 16 goals and 40 points in 44 contests this season.

Nikolai Kulemin (Toronto Maple Leafs – NHL) – It wasn’t long ago that Kulemin seemed to be poised to become a first-line forward.  After two decent campaigns with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Kulemin set new career-highs with 30 goals and 57 points in 82 games in 2010-11.  Unfortunately, he’s struggled since then and only has eight goals and 10 assists in 48 games this season.  It’s worth adding that he did record 14 goals and 38 points in 36 KHL contests while playing with Evgeni Malkin during the lockout.

Evgeni Malkin (Pittsburgh Penguins – NHL) – Malkin is one of those players who don’t need an introduction.  He recorded 85 points in his rookie campaign and while injuries have disrupted some of his campaigns since then, he has been one of the league’s elite when he’s been healthy.  He has captured the Calder Trophy, Hart Trophy, and is a two-time Art Trophy winner.  When the Pittsburgh Penguins captured the Stanley Cup in 2009, he led the league with 36 playoff points in 24 contests to add the Conn Smythe Trophy to his list of accomplishments.  He’s also won gold at the World Championship, so really the only thing he’s missing now is an Olympic gold.

Valeri Nichushkin (Dallas Stars – NHL) – Nichushkin is a pretty special case.  It’s rare to see an 18-year-old play for a men’s Olympic hockey team in general, but it’s particularly special given how stacked the Russians are.  After being taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, he has quickly adapted to playing in North America, to the point where he’s regularly gotten minutes on the Stars top line.  He recorded just two points in his first 12 contests, but has recorded 26 points in 43 contests since then.

Alex Ovechkin (Washington Capitals – NHL) – The Russian have some truly scary players on their team, but Ovechkin is arguably the one who frightens opponents the most.  Whenever he has the puck, he’s a threat to score.  The man has never potted less than 32 goals in an NHL season – and that includes the shortened campaign.  He has led the league in scoring three times and is poised to do so again in 2013-14.  On top of that, he’s won the Hart Trophy three times, which ties him with the likes of Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr.  Only Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, and Eddie Shore have won the league’s MVP honors more times and Ovechkin still has a lot of hockey left in him.  That being said, Ovechkin has never led the Capitals past the second round of the playoffs, so  has something to prove in Sochi.

Alexander Popov (Omsk Avangard – KHL) – Popov has spent his entire career playing hockey in Russia and parts of the last 16 campaigns with Omsk Avangard specifically.  He’s 33 years old and has gotten more productive since the formation of the KHL.  He scored 15 goals and 39 points in 56 contests in the league’s inaugural season and has reached the 30-point mark in three of his last four campaigns.

Alexander Radulov (CSKA Moscow – KHL) – Radulov’s career has been nothing if not interesting.  The Nashville Predators took him with the 15th overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and he went to the QMJHL to hone his game.  While there, he had a campaign that was so unreal, his statistics look like a typo.  He recorded 61 goals, 91 assists, and 101 penalty minutes in 62 contests.  From there he quickly established himself in the NHL and after his 58-point sophomore campaign, it looked like he would eventually come one of the league’s top forwards.  Instead he decided to sign with the KHL’s Ufa Salavat Yulayev despite the fact that he was still under contract with Nashville.  He ended up returning to the Predators late in the 2011-12 campaign to finish out his contract, but he was involved in a controversy over breaking the team’s curfew during the playoffs.  Although he had seven points in nine playoff contests, Nashville didn’t even want to make him a qualifying offer that summer and Radulov returned to the KHL.

Alexander Semin (Carolina Hurricanes – NHL) – Semin was one of the bigger snubs when Team Russia originally announced its Olympic roster, but he was put on the club after Sergei Soin was hurt.  Semin is a bit of an enigma.  He has the tools to be one of the game’s elite, but he doesn’t always play at that level.  That eventually led to Washington parting ways with him and him having difficulty finding a home during the summer of 2012.  The Carolina Hurricanes eventually decided to risk signing him to a one-year contract and he went on to record 44 points in 44 games.  As a reward, the Hurricanes inked him to a five-year, $35 million deal, but he’s taken a step back in the first season of that contract with 29 points in 45 games.

Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Blues – NHL) – One of the younger members of the squad at 22, Tarasenko established himself as an elite in the KHL at a young age before making the transition to North America in 2013.  After a decent rookie season, he’s taken a step forward in 2013-14 with 18 goals and 34 points in 54 games this season.  It’s worth noting that he’s the son of Andrei Tarasenko, who played for Russia in the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Alexei Tereshenko (Kazan Ak-Bars – KHL) – Tereshenko is another example of a Russian player who was drafted by an NHL squad, but never ended up playing in North America.  In his case, the Dallas Stars took him in the third round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, but instead he has played for Moscow Dynamo, Ufa Salavat Yulayev, and Kazan Ak-Bars.  At his height, he had 29 goals and 57 points in 55 contests in 2008-09, but he hasn’t recorded more than 30 points since then.  He frequently serves Russia on the international level and has won three gold medals in the World Championship.  However, he has yet to play in an Olympic game.

Viktor Tikhonov (St. Petersburg SKA – KHL) – Tikhonov was born in what was now Latvia and actually grew up in California, but his family has a long history of serving Team Russia.  He was named for his grandfather, who won Olympic gold in the 1984, 1988, and 1992 games as the Soviets’ head coach, although that last one was as the bench boss of the United Team as the USSR dissolved in 1991.  His father, Vasily, was born in Moscow and also had a prolific coaching career.  As for the 25-year-old Viktor Tikhonov, he was taken in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes, but he only ended up playing in 61 games over one season with the squad.  He has spent the last three campaigns with St. Petersburg SKA and has 17 goals and 31 points in 48 games this season.

Slovakia

Goalies:

Jaroslav Halak (St. Louis Blues - NHL) - Halak has been given most of the goalie starts in St. Louis this season.  He has posted 24 wins, including four shutouts, along with a solid 2.26 goals-against average and a respectable .915 save percentage in 39 appearances.  Halak was superb for the surprising Slovaks in 2010 Winter Olympics and he nearly helped guide the country to a bronze medal, but they ended up losing to Finland and had to settle for a fourth place finish.  He will be the country's starting netminder again in Sochi.

Peter Budaj (Montreal Canadiens - NHL) - Budaj has been a solid backup option in Montreal over the past two seasons, including the 2013-14 campaign.  He has a 6-4-1 record with a .926 save percentage and a 1.97 GAA in 14 outings this year.  He doesn't get to play a lot behind workhorse netminder Carey Price and he probably won't get much action in the Olympics as Jaroslav Halak's understudy either. 

Jan Laco (HC Donbass - KHL) - Laco plays out of Donetsk in the Ukraine for HC Donbass of the KHL.  He has picked up nine wins in 12 games to go with a .942 save percentage and a 1.47 goals-against average.  He was Slovakia's starter during the 2012 World Championships, but he'll be relegated to third string during the Olympic Games in Sochi with NHL netminders on the club. 

Defensemen:

Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins - NHL) - The Bruins allowed their captain to leave for Sochi before the Olympic break, so that he could carry Slovakia's flag during the opening ceremony.  The Slovaks will lean on him for ice time during the Olympics just like the Bruins do in the NHL, so getting that extra time off may be good for him.  Chara has generated 13 goals, 26 points and a plus-11 rating in 54 games this season.  He'll play in all situations for Slovakia. 

Andrej Sekera (Carolina Hurricanes - NHL) - Sekera is having the best offensive season of his career in his first year with Carolina.  The 27-year-old blueliner has recorded nine goals and 32 points in 55 games.  He was acquired from Buffalo prior to the 2013-14 campaign.  Sekera has been good on the power play and he should see plenty of minutes on the Slovakia's top unit. 

Andrej Meszaros (Philadelphia Flyers - NHL) - The Flyers have scratched Meszaros 23 times this season, but he's earned 16 points and 51 shots in 35 appearances.  He will probably get more ice time and responsibility on Slovakia's roster during the 2014 Winter Olympics. 

Ivan Baranka (Avangard Omsk - KHL) - Baranka has 18 points in 47 matches with his KHL squad this year.  He was a second-round choice of the Rangers in the 2003 draft, but he only played NHL one game and it came in 2007-08.  Baranka has played six straight seasons in the KHL since then.  He's a defensive-minded blueliner, but he can chip in with an occasional point.     

Martin Marincin (Edmonton Oilers - NHL) - Marincin has split time between the Oilers and Edmonton's AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City this season.  In 22 NHL contests, he has two assists, 28 blocks and a plus-4 rating and in 24 minor-league matches he has seven points.  He was a good point producer in junior, but he's still trying to find his groove in the professional ranks.  He has plenty of potential, which could be fulfilled once he grows into his 6-foot-5 frame.   

Milan Jurcina (TPS Turku - Liiga) - Jurcina has skated in 21 games, where he has six points and 18 penalty minutes, with TPS Turku of Finland's SM-liiga  this season.  His last appearance in the NHL came in 2011-12 when he suited up in 65 games with the New York Islanders.  Jurcina was named to Slovakia's Olympic team as one replacement after injuries struck Michal Sersen and Dominik Granak.   

Rene Vydareny (Mountfield HK - CZE) - Vydareny was a third-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks back in 1999, but he never got a chance to make his NHL debut.  He played parts of three seasons with the AHL's Manitoba Moose before heading back to Europe to continue his playing career.  Vydareny has contributed five goals and 19 points in 44 games from the back end for Mountfield HK of the Czech Extraliga this season.  He got his roster spot on Slovakia's Olympic squad because of injuries to  Michal Sersen and Dominik Granak.   

Tomas Starosta (HC Yugra - KHL) - Starosta has been practicing with Slovakia as a possible injury replacement and he's expected to get the nod to play in the Olympics because Lubomir Visnovsky won't be going to Sochi.  Marek Daloga and Ivan Svarny were also skating with the Slovaks as potential options.  Starosta has 13 points in 44 KHL contests this season. 

Forwards:

Marian Hossa (Chicago Blackhawks - NHL) - Hossa has been brilliant for the Blackhawks this season, with 24 goals and 50 points in 55 games.  He is also tied for third in the league with a plus-26 rating.  Hossa's two-way skills will be relied upon heavily by Slovakia and he should be their top offensive threat during the Olympics.   

Tomas Tatar (Detroit Red Wings - NHL) - In 49 games with the Red Wings, Tatar has recorded 13 goals and 11 assists for 24 points.  He hasn't spent any time with Grand Rapids this season, so he appears to have shed his minor-league label.   Tatar's skating and scoring abilities could come in handy for Slovakia.    

Tomas Jurco (Detroit Red Wings - NHL) - Jurco has skated in 19 games with Detroit because of a plethora of injuries.  He has notched three goals and seven points during that time.  Jurco has also been superb at the AHL level this campaign, where he has generated 13 goals and 32 points in 32 matches with Grand Rapids.   

Tomas Kopecky (Florida Panthers - NHL) - Kopecky has contributed just 12 points in 49 games this season after he amassed 15 goals and 27 points in 47 contests during the lockout-shortened season.  He's been asked to take on a different role this year, but if Slovakia places him in a position to contribute offensively then he can return to his post-lockout form. 

Marcel Hossa (Dinamo Riga - KHL) - Hossa has racked up 20 goals and 38 points in 46 games for Dinamo Riga of the KHL this year.  Hossa sits just outside of the top-10 point producers in the league and he's one of only seven players to hit 20 goals so far.  He hasn't played in the NHL since 2007-08, but he's become a reliable scorer in the KHL.  Slovakia may pair him up front with his older brother, Marian.   

Michal Handzus (Chicago Blackhawks - NHL) - Handzus has had a season to forget so far in 2013-14.  He has four goals and 11 points in 41 games.  Handzus was playing on Chicago's second line, but that position has proven to be hard for anyone to hold onto.  Still, he is better suited for checking lines and that's where Slovakia should use him as well.  

Tomas Zaborsky (Salavat Yulaev Ufa - KHL) - Zaborsky appeared in 10 AHL games with the New York Rangers' AHL affiliate after he was drafted in the fifth round by the club in 2006.  He spent most of his two seasons in the pro ranks in the ECHL before returning to Europe.  Zaborsky has collected 10 goals and 17 points in 41 games between KHL teams Avangard Omsk and Salavat Yulaev Ufa this campaign.  He has good offensive instincts but the puck hasn't been bouncing his way thus far in 2013-14. 

Richard Panik (Tampa Bay Lightning - NHL) - Panik was assigned to the minors after he played 39 games with the Lightning.  He registered 11 points and 56 hits during that span.  In seven outings with AHL Syracuse, Panuk has collected two assists.  Panik has good potential but it's unlikely that he breaks out during the Olympics. 

Branko Radivojevic (HC Slovan Bratislava - KHL) - He was granted a spot on Slovakia's roster as an injury replacement for Columbus' Marian Gaborik.  Radivojevic last played in the NHL as a member of the Minnesota Wild in 2007-08.  He has played the last six seasons in the KHL.  He has four goals and nine points in 41 games between HC Neftekhimik and HC Slovan Bratislava this season.  He won't chip in much in the way of offense, but he's an experienced player who plays with energy. 

Michel Miklík (HC Slovan Bratislava - KHL) - In 50 games this campaign with HC Slovan Bratislava of the KHL, Miklik has picked up 14 goals and 32 points.  Miklik was a member of the Slovakian team that made it to the World Championship final against Russia in 2012, but he didn't make an impact on the stat sheet.  This will be his first Olympic Games.   

Milan Bartovic (HC Slovan Bratislava - KHL) - Bartovic is an offensive player, who has generated 12 goals and 27 points in 50 games for HC Slovan Bratislava of the KHL this season.  He has had some success in World Championship play in the past, but he didn't play in the 2013 tournament.  This will also be his first Olympic Games. 

Tomas Marcinko (HC Kosice - SVK) - Marcinko, who plays in the Slovak Extraliga with HC Kosice, was originally a fourth-round draft pick of the Islanders in 2006.  He has posted 10 goals and 28 points in 44 games this season, but he's known more for being a good penalty killer and a solid defensive player. 

Tomas Surovy (Dinamo Minsk - KHL) - Surovy was a drafted in 2001 by Pittsburgh and he skated in 126 NHL games with the Penguins, where he accumulated 59 points.  He has played the last four seasons in the KHL.  In 46 games with Dinamo Minsk this year, he has seven goals and 20 points. 

Peter Olvecky (HC Slovan Bratislava - KHL) - The 28-year-old forward has three goals and 12 points in 45 games for HC Slovan Bratislava of the KHL this year.  Olvecky was selected in the third round (78th overall) by the Minnesota Wild in 2004.  He had seven points in 32 career NHL outings with Minnesota and Nashville.  Olvecky posted his best numbers in the minors and he hasn't scored very much since he started playing again in Europe. 

Slovenia

Goalies:

Luka Gracnar (Red Bull Salzburg - AUT) - The 20-year-old netminder has played well in his first season with Salzburg of the Austrian League. Gracnar has played 33 games this season with a .925 save percentage and a sparkling 2.00 GAA. He looks to be their goalie of the future as well as the starter for the Slovenians in Sochi.


Andrej Hocevar (Epinal Dauphins - FRA) - Hocevar has bounced around Europe as he has played in Slovenia, Austria, Italy, Ukraine and now France. The 29-year-old has struggled this season with a 3.50 GAA and a .900 save percentage for Epinal.


Robert Kristan (HK Nitra - SVK) - Kristan played twice for Slovenia in the Olympic Qualifier, with Gracnar and Hocevar each playing once. Kristan gave up only three goals over the two games as Slovenia qualified for Sochi. The 30-year-old is tending the net in Slovakia this season after playing the last three seasons in Austria. He has a 2.00 GAA in 22 games this season.

Defensemen:


Blaz Gregorc (HC Pardubice - CZE) - The 24-year-old undrafted blueliner played last season in Denmark where he had six goals and 23 points in 40 games with Odense before joining HC Pardubice of the Czech League this season. Gregorc had one assist in three games during Olympic Qualifying.


Sabahudin Kovacevic (Sary-Arka Karaganda - KAZ/RUS2) - Kovacevic is playing this season in the Russian second division, one level below the KHL. He has been playing well offensively with nine goals and 21 points in 43 games. The 27-year-old has also spent time in his career in Austria, Denmark, Italy and Slovakia.


Ales Kranjc (Kolner Haie - GER) - The 32-year-old blueliner has remained in Europe his entire career and had played only in Austria and Slovenia until a few years ago. Kranjc played the last two seasons in the German League after playing one season for Ceske Budejovice of the Czech League. He had two points in three Olympic qualifying games. He has eight goals and 33 points over 82 games in the last two seasons with Kolner Haie.


Ziga Pavlin (IF Troja-Ljungby - SWE2) - A defensive minded rearguard, Pavlin also has a good shot from the point and should see power play time during the Olympics. Another player who has played mostly in Slovenia and Austria, Pavlin has played the last three seasons in the Swedish second division with Troja-Ljundby but was called up to the Swedish Elite League for 10 games last season with Rogle in which he had three assists. He has four goals and 15 points this season.


Matic Podlipnik (Dukla Jihlava - CZE2) - The youngster of the Slovenian defense at the tender age of 21, Podlipnik has played the last two seasons in the Czech second division for Dulka Jihlava where he had two goals and 11 points in 44 games last season while chipping in with a goal and eight points in 43 games this year.

 
Klemen Pretnar (VSV Villach - AUT) - Pretnar has remained home for most of his career, but has played for Villach in the Austrian League for the past two seasons. Pretnar is 27 and has five goals and 26 points in 44 games this season. He had one assist in three Olympic qualifying games.


Mitja Robar (Krefeld Pinguine - GER) Another veteran Solvenian, Robar has played most of his career at home but journeyed to Sweden for a nine game trial in 2011-12 before settling in with Krefeld Pinguine of the German League over the last three seasons. He has five goals and 14 points in 34 games this season.


Andrelj Tavzelj (Rouen Dragons - FRA) Tavzelj is a defensive defenseman so do not expect many, if any, points during the Olympics. He played for Cortina of the Italian League in 2009-10 after playing early in his career at home in the Slovenian and Austrian League and now calls Rouen home. He has two goals and four points in 17 games in the French League.

Forwards:


Bostjan Golicic (Briancon Diables Rouges - FRA) - Golicic played a couple of seasons for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL but was undrafted as a junior and returned home. He had 38 goals and 48 assists in 124 games in the WHL. He now is playing in France where he has five goals and 13 points in 13 games in his second season with Briancon.


Ziga Jeglic (ERC Ingolstadt - GER) - Jeglic is a playmaking forward who can play center or on the wing. He had 14 goals and 40 assists in 54 games in his last season with Jesenice, a Slovenian team that plays in the Austrian League, before playing for Sodertalje of the Swedish second division the following two seasons. This season he has played for Assat of the Finnish SM-liiga where he had two goals and two assists in 32 games and has also played eight games for Ingolstadt of the German League where he has three goals and eight points in eight games.

Anze Kopitar (Los Angeles Kings - NHL) Kopitar is likely the only recognizable name on the Slovenian side as he is a star for the Los Angeles Kings who took him with the 11th overall pick in the 2005 Draft. They stole him with that pick as he has been an offensive juggernaut for the Kings, leading them in points the last seven seasons in a row. Kopitar led the Kings to the Stanley Cup with 20 points in 20 playoff games during the 2011-12 season. He may be blanketed during the Olympics as he is Slovenia's only real offensive threat.

 
Anze Kuralt (Epinal Dauphins - FRA) - The 22-year-old diminutive Kuralt is playing his first season outside Slovenia as he has 15 goals and 30 points for Epinal of the French League. He could have trouble if the going gets rough. He played six games for Herning in the Danish League with four goals and nine points in the 2012-13 season.


Jan Mursak (CSKA Moscow KHL) - Possibly the only other recognizable name on the Slovenian side, Mursak played 46 games for the Red Wings over three seasons but had only two goals and four points in 46 games. He had a great playoff for Grand Rapids as they won the Calder Cup last season. Mursak had 11 goals and 17 points in 23 games. He is playing in the KHL this season where he has 12 goals and 24 points in 48 games with Khabarovsk and CSKA Moscow.


Ales Music (Olimpija Ljubljana - SLO) -The 31-year-old Music has spent his entire career with Olimija Ljubjana, his hometown. He is a small forward at five foot nine (the same size as Anze Kuralt) and has seven goals and 28 points in 46 games this season.


Ziga Pance (Bolzano Foxes - ITA) - The 25-year-old Pance moved on to Bolzano this season after playing his entire career for Olimpija Ljubljana. He played parts of a couple of seasons for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL where he scored twice and added an assist in 32 games before returning to Europe. He has 14 goals and 21 points in 37 games this season with Bolzano.


Tomaz Razingar (IF Troja-Ljungby - SWE2) Razingar was the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremonies for Slovenia. The veteran of the team at age 34, Razingar is playing his first season in the Swedish second division. He played a couple of seasons in North America as he was with Peoria of the ECHL and one game with Worcester of the AHL before returning back to Europe. He also spent time with the Newmarket Hurricanes of the OJHL but never got into a game in the 1998-99 season.


David Rodman (IK Oskarshamn - SWE2) -  Brother of fellow Olympian Marcel, David played at the start of the century for Val-d'Or of the QMJHL where he had 70 points in his final year in 65 games. He returned to Europe where he has played mostly in the Austrian League. He had four goals and six points in three qualifying games for the Olympics. He is currently playing his second season in the Swedish second division where he has seven goals and 19 points in 27 games.


Marcel Rodman (Schwenninger ERC  - GER) The older brother of the aforementioned David, Marcel Rodman played a couple of seasons with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL where he had 37 and 71 points playing 61 games in each season in the late 90s. Before that he played with Pickering of the OPJHL, picking up 20 goals and 51 points in 37 games. He returned to Europe and has played mostly in the Austrian League although this season he has played in Germany where he picked up four goals and 12 points in 34 games. No relation to Dennis.


Robert Sabolic (ERC Ingolstadt -GER) Sabolic is 25 years of age and had a very good Olympic qualifying tournament for Slovenia as he scored three times and added an assist in three games. He is currently playing in the German League for Ingostadt along with fellow Slovenian Ziga Jeglic. Sabolic has 11 goals and 22 points this season.

Rok Ticar (Kolner Haie - GER) Ticar is a center who has good wheels and is a playmaker. The 25-year-old has played the last three seasons in Germany with this being his second season in Kolner Haie. He has seven goals and 30 points in 43 games. Ticar had a goal and three helpers in three Olympic qualifying games.

Jan Urbas (Red Bull Munchen - GER) The six foot three inch Urbas has spent plenty of time in the Swedish League, playing a season and a couple of games for Vaxjo of the SEL but his lack of scoring (two goals and four points in 54 games) did not help and he played this season with Munchen (Munich) of the German League where he has seven goals and 17 points in 34 games. He had two goals and four points in the Olympic qualifier.

Miha Verlic (Olimpija Ljubljana - SLO) At the age of 22, Verlic is the youngest forward on the Slovenian team. He has spent most of his career with Olimpija Ljubljana and forcing his way onto the Olympic team with 18 goals and 37 points in 46 games, despite not playing in the Olympic qualifier.

United States

Goalies:

Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres – NHL) – This will be a big adjustment for Miller – not so much playing in Russia or on international ice.  The thing Miller will need to get used to is playing for a team that’s actually good.  He has done it before, but with the Sabres chasing their franchise record for the least points per game in a single season, he might have gotten used to the idea of being embarrassed.  It’s Buffalo’s dreary team that makes hard to take his 2.74 GAA at face value.  He’s still the same goaltender that led Team USA all the way to the Finals with a 1.35 GAA and .946 save percentage in six contests.  With Miller likely to play between the pipes, America should count their goaltending as a strength.

Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings – NHL) – Ryan Miller is likely to be the team’s starter, but Quick is worthy of consideration as well.  Since the 2010 Winter Games, Quick has made a name for himself with his stunning 2011-12 campaign.  He had a 1.95 GAA and .929 save percentage in 69 contests that season and followed it up with a 1.41 GAA and .946 save percentage in 20 playoff contests en route to his first Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy.  He struggled during the shortened campaign, but bounced back in the playoffs to lead the kings all the way to the Western Conference Finals.  He’s having a solid season with a 2.18 GAA and .911 save percentage in 32 games.

Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings – NHL) – When he’s at his best, Howard is one of the best goaltenders in the league.  The problem is that he doesn’t consistently play at that level.  This has been one of his weaker campaigns with a 2.65 GAA and .914 save percentage in 34 contests.  It hasn’t helped matters that he’s battled through knee and hip problems.  He doesn’t look out of place on the United States’ roster by any stretch of the imagination, but he should be regarded as the team’s third-string netminder.

Defensemen:

John Carlson (Washington Capitals – NHL) – After playing 22 games as a rookie in the 2009-10 campaign, Carlson quickly established himself as a top-four defenseman.  He recorded over 30 points in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons and is likely to accomplish that feat again this time around.  Meanwhile, he has also blocked 123 shots while logging a team-high 24:47 minutes per game.

Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes – NHL) – One of Team United States’ promising young stars, Faulk won’t celebrate his 22nd birthday until nearly a month after the Olympic tournament.  He’s a well-rounded defenseman, capable of playing in all situations, getting things going with the puck, throwing his body around, and getting in front of shots.  It’s no wonder that the Hurricanes ask him to play nearly 25 minutes per game.  He’s also on course to set a new-career high this season after 22 points in 57 contests last this season.

Cam Fowler (Anaheim Ducks – NHL) – Fowler is only 22 years old, but he’s already done a lot growing.  Even has a rookie he was brilliant offensively with 40 points in 76 games in 2010-11, but it took him some time to develop the rest of his game.  Now he’s far more responsible defensively with a plus-11 rating.  He’s also been getting plenty of ice time when the Ducks are killing penalties.  That hasn’t come at the expense of his work with the puck though as he still has six goals and 31 points in 60 games.

Paul Martin (Pittsburgh Penguins – NHL) – Martin has been a great defenseman for years, but he took things a step further in the shortened campaign by recording six goals, 23 points, and a plus-14 rating in 34 games while logging 25:20 minutes per contest.  Martin hasn’t been nearly as effective offensively in 2013-14, in part because his season was disrupted due to a fractured tibia, but he remains a solid all-around defenseman.

Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers – NHL) – At the age of 24, McDonagh doesn’t have much international experience at the adult level.  He was still in with the University of Wisconsin during the 2010 Winter Games and competed in his only World Championship in 2011.  So this tournament might prove to be a bit of an adjustment for him, but he’s certainly up to the challenge.  It didn’t take him long to establish himself as one of the New York Rangers’ top defensemen following his 2010-11 rookie campaign.  He’s taken things a step forward this season though with eight goals and 30 points in 59 games while logging a team-high 24:35 minutes per contest.

Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins – NHL) – The United States chose to lean on a lot of youngsters when selecting the nation’s defense, which makes Orpik the team’s oldest blueliner at 33.  He was taken in the first round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins and was part of their Stanley Cup-winning campaign as well as the United States’ silver medal run in the 2010 Olympics.  He has 12 points in 50 games this season, but he’s more of a defensive defenseman with 145 hits and 99 blocked shots.

Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues – NHL) – Just before the Olympic break, Alex Pietrangelo became the first St. Louis Blues’ defenseman to record at least 40 points in his first full three campaigns (in other words, minus the shortened season).  The funny thing is that Pietrangelo’s feat is going to be replicated pretty soon.  After recording 43 points in each of his rookie and sophomore campaigns, Shattenkirk is on pace to do even better this season after recording eight goals and 36 points in 56 games.  He’s a complete blueliner, who is also capable of throwing his body around and willing to get in front of shots.

Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild – NHL) – The man who will anchor Team United States’ defense, Suter is an absolute workhorse.  He’s averaged an incredible 29:49 minutes per game this season while the next best player is at 27:41 minutes.  Along the way, Suter has scored six goals and 33 points while also blocking 96 shots.  None of that is particularly new for Suter, he’s been one of the NHL’s best and most consistent defensemen for years.  In fact, this will be the sixth straight campaign where Suter has recorded at least 30 points while logging over 24 minutes per contest.

Forwards:

David Backes (St. Louis Blues – NHL) – Backes is a well-rounded player who can be equally scary with and without the puck.  After something of an off-year where he scored just six goals in 48 contests, Backes is back on track in 2013-14 with 20 goals and 22 assists in 52 contests.  On top of that, he has 179 hits and 78 penalty minutes.  The United States has enough skill on their roster to potentially use him primarily as a bottom-six forward.

Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings – NHL) – Like Backes, Brown plays with an edge, but Brown has lacked Backes’ scoring touch this season.  Although Brown recorded at least 20 goals and 50 points in five straight seasons from 2007-08 to 2011-12, he has just 10 goals and 16 points in 58 contests this season.  On top of that, he couldn’t be colder going into the Olympics given that he has no points and a minus-eight rating in his last 12 games.  That being said, Brown was terrific during the Kings’ Stanley Cup-winning run in 2012 with eight goals and 20 points in 20 playoff games, so he is capable of stepping up with the pressure on.

Ryan Callahan (New York Rangers – NHL) – Callahan is known for playing with a lot of heart and grit while leading his New York Rangers teammates.  The Rangers captain certainly won’t be the flashiest player on the ice as he has never recorded more than 54 points in a single season, but he can play a valuable role as a bottom-six forward against opposing nation’s powerhouse lines.  This will be his second trip to the Olympics after participating in America’s silver medal run in 2010.

Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks – NHL) – Kane is both one of the best players in the league and a big game guy.  Even at the age of 21 he managed to score three goals and five points in six Olympic games in 2010.  He’s only gotten better since then and currently ranks fifth in the NHL with 63 points in 59 contests.  He’s also risen the Stanley Cup twice with the Chicago Blackhawks.  In his first trip to the finals, he buried the game-winning goal in overtime.  The second time around he won the Conn Smythe Trophy.  So a strong showing in the Olympics certainly isn’t beyond his capabilities.

Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks – NHL) – When Kesler was selected to the United States’ Olympic team in 2010, he was seen as a rising superstar.  Unfortunately, the last four years haven’t been kind to him.  He had back-to-back 70-plus point campaigns in 2009-10 and 2010-12, but dropped to just 49 points the following season.  After missing most of the shortened campaign, he has just 20 goals and 37 points in 60 games this season.  Consequently, Kesler shouldn’t be counted on to play a big role with America in this tournament.

Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs – NHL) – Arguably one of the league’s more underrated players.  It’s rare to see him be mentioned among the NHL’s best forwards, but he deserves to be part of that conversation.  Since the start of the 2011-12 campaign, Kessel ranks second in the NHL’s scoring race with 199 points in 190 games.  That puts him behind just Evgeni Malkin.  This season, Kessel is second in the league with 31 goals and fourth with 65 points in 60 contests.  He’s also reached the 30-goal mark for five straight campaigns, excluding the shortened season.  The United States will be relying heavily on Kessel and Kane to lead their offensive charge.

T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues – NHL) – T.J. Oshie has been a solid top-six forward for a few seasons now, but he’s taken a step forward in 2013-14 with 14 goals and 46 points in 57 games.  Although this will be his first trip to the Olympics, Oshie has frequently served the United States on the international stage.  He has taken part in three World Championships, with his most noteworthy showing coming in 2010 when he scored four goals and six points in six games.

Max Pacioretty (Montreal Canadiens – NHL) – Pacioretty was taken in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but it took him a while to firmly establish himself in the NHL.  He took a significant step forward in 2010-11 with 24 points in 37 contests, but Pacioretty truly made his mark in the following campaign with 33 goals and 65 points in 79 contests.  This season he’s been a pure sniper and ranks fourth among Americans with 26 goals in 50 games, despite the fact that he only has 37 points in total.

Zach Parise (Minnesota Wild – NHL) – The former New Jersey Devils captain, Parise currently wears an ‘A’ with the Minnesota Wild, but he will lead Team USA.  That’s not particularly surprising after the showing he had in the 2010 Olympics.  He led all American forwards in that tournament with four goals and eight points in six contests.  At his height in 2008-09, Parise had 45 goals and 94 points, but the 29-year-old has slowed down in recent years.  He’s going into the tournament with 19 goals and 36 points in 44 contests, which puts him behind players like Kessel and Kane in terms of points per game.  Still, Parise is capable of being this team’s hero.

Joe Pavelski (San Jose Sharks – NHL) – The San Jose Sharks haven’t hesitated to use Pavelski with a lot of different linemates and even have him serve on the team’s third line.  That’s because he can perform almost regardless of the situation.  He leads the Sharks with 29 goals and ranks behind only Joe Thornton with 54 points in 59 contests.  He’s also been superb with the man advantage as evidenced by the fact that he’s entering the break tied for ninth in the league in power-play points.  Pavelski had three assists in six games in the 2010 Olympics, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he is one of the Americans top goal scorers in Sochi.

Paul Stastny (Colorado Avalanche – NHL) – Stastny’s career got off to an amazing start with him breaching the 70-point milestone in three of his first four campaigns.  At the height of that, he served on Team USA during the 2010 Olympics and recorded a goal and three points.  After that Stastny took a step back with 57 and 53 points in 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively.  He’s done a bit better this season and certainly is worthy of his spot on the team, but he still shouldn’t be regarded as one of this team’s elite forwards.

Derek Stepan (New York Rangers – NHL) – Stepan is the youngest forward on the team, but he wasn’t a surprise addition.  After recording 45 and 51 points in his first two campaigns with the New York Rangers, Stepan stepped up in the shortened campaign with 18 goals and 44 points in 48 games.  He’s endured some rough patches in 2013-14 and has consequently taken a step back, but he still has 10 goals and 35 points in 59 contests.  It’s worth adding that Stepan’s also been a force in previous international tournaments.  He helped lead the States to a gold medal in the 2010 World Junior Championship in 2010 with five goals and a tournament-leading 15 points in seven games.  He participated in the World Championships the following year and recorded two goals and seven points in seven contests.

James van Riemsdyk (Toronto Maple Leafs – NHL) – The Philadelphia Flyers selected van Riemsdyk with the second overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but he never ended up getting a lot of ice time with that club.  It wasn’t until the Flyers sent him to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Luke Schenn that he got an opportunity to shine.  Van Riemsdyk did just that, scoring 18 goals and 32 points in 48 contests in the shortened campaign.  He’s taken things a further step forward this season with 24 goals and 47 points in 58 games.  He’s also logged a lot of minutes with Kessel, so America might experiment with putting them on the same line in the Olympics.

Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets – NHL) – Wheeler started his career as a solid secondary scorer for the Boston Bruins, but it wasn’t until he was dealt to the Atlanta Thrashers in February 2011 that he got a chance to serve in a top line role.  He rose to the occasion, scoring 17 goals and 64 points in 80 games after the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg in 2011-12.  He followed that up with 19 goals and 41 points in the shortened campaign.  This season has largely been more of the season in that regard as he ranks fifth among American-born players with 48 points in 60 games.

View Comments