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A look at the potential Team Russia hockey roster for the 2014 Olympics
Despite being one of the favorites to win in 2010 Team Russia wasn't able to tie things together. The team was uncoordinated and filled with too many players playing their own style.
In 2014 a much more motivated Russian squad will take to the ice as they represent their country at home in Sochi. Losing in Canada is one thing, but the proud nature of Russian hockey players will not allow them to lose on home ice. Given the talent that is produced by the Russia hockey system, they should have no trouble doing just that, the only question is which players make the team.
Alex Ovechkin(notes) - The Russians have the benefit of being the home of, arguably, hockey's current best player. Everybody knows that Alex Ovechkin knows how to score, but a continued evolution to become more defensively responsible and a better leader could make him even more dangerous.
Evgeni Malkin(notes) - Only a couple of years ago the discussion of the top players came down to three men: Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby(notes) and Evgeni Malkin. Malkin has had trouble with injuries and, seemingly, motivation since winning the Stanley Cup, but he is still one of the more talented individuals in hockey today.
Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) - A mainstay at the top of the NHL scoring charts for years, though the most recent NHL season has seen major holes exposed in Kovalchuk's style of playing. The good news: Jacques Lemaire's coaching style appears to have made a huge impact on Ilya Kovalchuk, which could mean a more well rounded player in the future.
Pavel Datsyuk(notes) - Each of the above names is in need of some form of improvement if the Russians want to defeat star-studded line-ups like those fielded by Canada and the United States. Pavel Datsyuk is already one of the most well rounded players in hockey and should be looked to as the anchor of Team Russia.
Alexander Radulov(notes) - Though his career has been overshadowed due to the controversy around his exit from the NHL, Alexander Radulov has nonetheless developed into an excellent hockey player with great offensive instincts.
Nikolai Kulemin(notes) - Quietly toiling away as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Nikolai Kulemin is actually a fairly talented player. On a team with few upsides Kulemin has managed to pass the 20-goal mark in 2010-11 and is also one of the few Maple Leafs players with a positive plus/minus rating.
Artem Anisimov(notes) - For brief stretches Anisimov has looked as though he is about to break out in a big way. That could still happen before the 2014 Olympics, but for now he makes the roster as a solid depth player.
Alexander Burmistrov - Jumping into the NHL as a 19-year-old, Burmistrov was a key member to the Atlanta Thrashers early success in the 2010-11 NHL season. There is still a lot of time for this kid to grow into the professional game, and his break out could coincide nicely with the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Evgeny Dadonov(notes) - Another player who sometimes looks ready for the big time and at other times looks like he needs a lot more seasoning. With hard work over the next few years Dadonov will make the team, but if he fails to meet his potential Dadonov will have to watch from the sidelines.
Alexander Frolov(notes) - Once a highly touted prospect, Frolov has sunk low over the past two seasons. Still, Alexander Frolov has crossed the 20-goal barrier five times and the 30-goal mark twice in his career and has experience playing in every situation.
Maxim Afinogenov(notes) - It is difficult to predict which young Russian stars are going to develop in time for the 2014 Olympics, so instead of choosing a young gun who might end up a bust the final forward spot goes to an established forward. Maxim Afinogenov will be one of the players returning from 2010 with a chip on his shoulder, which should help motivate the team.
Ilya Nikulin - Ilya Nikulin has proved through his KHL play that he is a skilled passer. A close friendship with Alex Ovechkin also should help develop chemistry on the team.
Dmitry Kulikov(notes) - Playing for a team that almost never seems to win Dmitry Kulikov has nonetheless found a way to hold a +8 rating through 51 games in the 2010-11 NHL season. This young player is rapidly improving and should be a force in a few years time.
Denis Kulyash - The owner of a booming 110 mile per hour slap shot, Kulyash should figure into the Russian power play quite effectively, especially when looking at his goal totals throughout his career.
Konstantin Korneyev - A steady scorer and solid defensive presence, Korneyev will be expected to be a big minute player.
Semyon Varlamov(notes) - Semyon Varlamov has turned into a reliable netminder for the Washington Capitals, but at 22-years-old he still shows signs of inexperience. In a few years Varlamov might be able to move into the role of undisputed starter for Russia.
Sergei Bobrovsky(notes) - Only a rookie, "Bobby" Bobrovsky has taken the NHL by storm behind the Philadelphia Flyers. It will be interesting to see how Bobrovsky's play changes when the team changes in front of him, but for now he is unquestionably worthy of Olympic play.
Close Calls: None.
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