Michael Finewax

Olympic Preview

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2010 Olympic Hockey Preview

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Michael Finewax, Liam Casey, Ryan Dadoun and Corey Abbott

For those of you who are currently undergoing hockey withdrawal, do not fret as the Olympic hockey tournament starts on Tuesday. Whether you are in an Olympic fantasy hockey pool or not, this column is a must read.

There are seven teams that have a legitimate shot at winning gold and Rotoworld will provide up-to-the-minute coverage of all games, even the Germany-Belarus game.

You cannot get better coverage than here at Rotoworld. We have previewed all players in the tournament including the entire Norwegian, Latvian and Belarusian teams.

To learn more about all NHL players, just click on their name. We have provided information on all European hockey players so if you are watching the United States playing Switzerland, you will have some information on the entire Switzerland roster.

One interesting fact. The Toronto Maple Leafs management team of coach Ron Wilson and GM Brian Burke, are in charge of the United States team, while the Detroit Red Wings management team of Vice-President Steve Yzerman and coach Mike Babcock are responsible for the Canadian team.

You will have something on all 276 players in the tournament.



Belarus comes into the Olympics as a decided underdog as they are rated ninth in the IIHL rankings. They pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history when they defeated Sweden 4-3 in the 2002 quarter-finals, finishing fourth overall after losing all three games in the preliminary round.

The Belarussians named four NHL players to their roster, but Mikhail Grabovski will not play due to injury and Sergei Kostitsyn and Ruslan Salei have recently returned to action. Look for Detroit prospect, defenseman Sergei Kolosov to replace Grabovski in the lineup.

Belarus has drawn most of its players for the Kontinental Hockey League. They should know each other well as eight players come from Dynamo Minsk and four from Shakhter Soligorsk, Dynamo Minsk's farm team.


Who you know:

Sergei Kostitsyn, Andrei Kostitsyn are forwards for the Montreal Canadiens. Ruslan Salei plays defense for the Colorado Avalanche.

Konstantin Koltsov was a first round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1999 Entry Draft, going 18th overall. He played 144 games in the NHL, but the speedy winger never made a dent, even though he played with Mario Lemieux on occasion.

Who you may not know:

Oleg Antonenko: The 38-year-old is the veteran of the team and was rewarded by being named the flag bearer for Belarus. He was dealt this season from Yekaterinburg Automobilist to Dynamo Minsk. The left winger has 11 goals and 18 points in 34 games this season. He played for Belarus in the 2002 Olympics.

Sergei Demagin: Currently in his second year in the KHL, the 23-year-old Demagin was traded earlier in the season from Dynamo Minsk (so he has some familiarity to a lot of his teammates) to Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik where he has scored 16 goals and 27 points this season. The six foot, 187 pound forward was never drafted by an NHL team.

Alexei Kalyuzhny: The Belarusians go into the Olympics with a veteran roster and the 32-year-old Kalyuzhny is no exception. He has played the last two seasons with Dynamo Moscow of the KHL and has 11 goals and 29 points in 53 games this season. The center played on the 2002 Olympic team, scoring once.

Alexander Kulakov: Although 26 years of age, this is only Kulakov's second season in the KHL. He is not a scorer as his five goals and 11 points in 40 games will attest to. He is also a member of Dynamo Minsk.

Andrei Mikhalev: Mikhalev actually played for Chicoutimi of the QMJHL in the 1996-97 season, but only garnered one assist in six games. The 31-year-old currently plays for Dynamo Minsk and has eight goals and 14 points in 53 games.

Andrei Stas: The 21-year-old undrafted Stas is in his second season with Dynamo Minsk. He has five goals and 11 points this season.

Alexei Ugarov: Ugarov is a five foot, ten inch, 176 pound forward for Balashikha of the KHL. He should be one of the top snipers for Belarus as he currently has 17 goals and 23 points this season.

Sergei Zadelenov: Another veteran, the 33-year-old will be a bottom-six forward for Belarus as he has only scored four goals and five points this season in 38 games with Dynamo Minsk.

Andrei Antonov: The 24-year-old rearguard is in his second season with Shakhter Soligorsk. Belarus named four of its eight defensemen from Shakhter Soligorsk, so they likely will match up as two of the defensive pairings. He has a goal and five assists in 22 games this season.

Andrei Bashko: Great name for a tough defenseman, but we do not think he is. There is not much known about the defenseman as even his place of birth is unknown at this time, but the 27-year-old did manage to play six games with Dynamo Minsk this season.

Vladimir Denisov: Denisov returned to Russia after a couple of seasons in North America. He played 66 games with the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL in 2007-08, scoring twice and adding six assists to go with 111 penalty minutes. He then played for the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL in 2008-09, scoring five times and getting 20 points in 62 games with 117 minutes in penalties. He could line up with Salei as a defense pairing and should play on the power play.

Viktor Kostyuchenok: Currently in his second year in the KHL, Kostyuchenok was dealt from Amur Khabarovsk to Moscow Spartak earlier in the season. He has ten assists in 50 KHL games this season.

Nikolai Stasenko: The 22-year-old is in his first season in the KHL. He has five assists with Amur Khabarovsk and will likely team up on the blueline with Viktor Kostyuchenok for Belarus at the Olympics.

Vadim Sushko: Playing in the KHL minors with Shakhter Soligorsk, Sushko played eight games with Dynamo Minsk last season with no points. He is 23.

Alexander Syrei: The six foot, two inch, 203 pound Syrei is playing for Shakhter Soligorsk in the Belarusian Extraliga. Not much is known about the native of Grodno.

Vitali Koval: The backup to Andrei Mezin with Dynamo Minsk, Koval is 7-10-2 this season with a 2.61 GAA and a .903 save percentage. If he sees the net at the Olympics, it will be in a blowout.

Maxim Malyutin: The 21-year-old netminder is playing in the Belarusian Extraliga. He is definitely their third goalie in the tournament.

Andrei Mezin: This is Mezin's third trip to the Olympics as he played in 1998 and 2002. He had one of the most memorable games as he stoned the Swedes in the 2002 quarter-finals, beating them 4-3 as he stopped 44 shots. He will have to play as well as he did then if the Belarusians are to advance to the quarter-finals.

Late notes: The Belarusians dropped Sushko, Syrei, Bashko, Antonov and Andrei Kostitsyn due to injuries. They were replaced by Andrei Karev, Alexander Makritsky, Alexander Ryadinsky, Konstanin Zakharov and Dmitri Meleshko.

Andrei Karev: The 25-year-old defenseman has played the last three seasons with HC Minks of the Belarusian League. He had three goals and five assists in 49 games last season.

Alexander Makritsky: Makritsky has spent all of his career in Russia and Germany. The 38-year-old defenseman has spent the last two seasons with Dynamo Minsk of the KHL. The veteran is not a scoring threat at all as he has only two assists in 12 games this season.

Alexander Ryadinsky:The 32-year-old defenseman has only played 10 games on the blueline for Dynamo Minsk this season with one assist.

Konstantin Zakharov: Zakharov was a third round pick of the St. Louis Blues in the 2003 Entry Draft. The 24-year-old center spent one year in the QMJHL with Moncton, scoring 33 times and then spent a couple of seasons in the AHL with Worcester and Peoria before going back to Europe in 2007. He has only played four games this season in the KHL with no points.

Dmitri Meleshko: The 27-year-old forward has shown some offensive flair this season with 10 goals and 20 points in 49 games this season.


Finland - Feb. 17
Sweden - Feb. 19
Germany - Feb. 20

The big game for Belarus will be the Germany game on the 20th. Win and they have a shot at being one of the two third place finishers to get into the quarter-finals. Lose, and they will be done. Sweden will not overlook them this time.


After finishing a disappointing seventh place in the 2006 Winter Olympics, Team Canada enters the 2010 games as a favorite to win the gold on home ice. Although teams like Russia can match Canada in terms of raw power upfront, no team is more well-rounded. Every player on Canada's Olympic roster is a star at the NHL level, and Canada may have enough depth to field a second competitive Olympic team with those left off the list if the rules would allow it.


Who you know:

There's a good chance you're familiar with every player on Canada's roster, but the superstars that even the most casual fans should be aware of are defensemen Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, and Dan Boyle.

Sidney Crosby should center a top line of Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash, while the San Jose Sharks' line of Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau will likely make up Canada's second unit.

The team also includes defensemen Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Shea Weber, and forwards Ryan Getzlaf, Brenden Morrow, Corey Perry, Mike Richards, Eric Staal and Jonathan Toews.

Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo, and Marc-Andre Fleury are the goaltenders for the Canadians.

Who you may not know:

Patrice Bergeron: Perhaps the biggest surprise selection on Canada's roster was Boston's Bergeron. After scoring 22 goals and 70 points in 77 games in 2006-07, his career was derailed when he suffered a major concussion in October 2007. He was not the same player when he returned in 2007-08 and missed another 15 games when he sustained another concussion in January 2008. He seemed to put that all behind him through the first three months of the 2009-10 season, with 11 goals and 30 points in 39 games. However, he missed two weeks in January due to a broken thumb and he only now seems to be shaking off the rust.

Drew Doughty: Okay, so if you're in a fantasy hockey league, you obviously know who Doughty is, but at the age of 20, he is the youngest player on Canada's roster. Selected with the 2nd overall pick in the 2008 entry draft, Doughty had a solid rookie season with six goals and 27 points in 81 games in his rookie season. Rather than fall victim to the dreaded sophomore slump, Doughty has exploded this season with 11 goals and 44 points in 60 games.


Norway - Feb. 16
Switzerland - Feb. 18
United States - Feb. 21

Team Canada shouldn't have much trouble with Norway or Switzerland, but the United States will serve as their first major test. Although the United States aren't typically viewed as one of the top teams in this tournament, Canada can't dismiss their neighbors to the south. The two teams always play fiercely against each other on the international level and February 21st game should be no exception.


The Czech Republic comes into the Vancouver Olympics with a lineup that includes 16 NHL players and three others who have played in the NHL including Hall-of-Famer to be, Jaromir Jagr. Jagr was the flag bearer for the Czech Republic at the opening ceremonies.

The Czechs won the bronze medal at the Torino Games in 2006, but come into Vancouver as a second tier team, behind powerhouses in Canada, Russia and Sweden.

The Czechs could surprise, especially if Tomas Vokoun is able to play as well as he is capable of.


Who you know:

As said earlier, the Czechs have 16 playing in the NHL. Patrik Elias, Martin Erat, Tomas Fleischmann, Martin Havlat, David Krejci, Milan Michalek and Tomas Plekanec are up front, while Jan Hejda, Tomas Kaberle, Filip Kuba, Pavel Kubina, Zbynek Michalek and Marek Zidlicky make up most of the defense.

Tomas Vokoun and Ondrej Pavelec are the top two netminders for the Czechs.

Jaromir Jagr, Josef Vasicek and Petr Cajanek are playing in the KHL but have seen NHL action.

Who you may not know:

Roman Cervenka: Cervenka is having his best season in the Czech League with 30 goals and 71 points this season in 48 games. The 24-year-old was never drafted by the NHL.

Tomas Rolinek: Rolinek turns 30 at the beginning of the hockey tournament. This is his second year in the KHL after a lengthy career in the Czech League. The five foot, nine inch, 172 pound forward was never drafted by the NHL. He has 19 goals and 32 points for Magnitogorsk Metallurg this season.

Miroslav Blatak: A fourth round selection of the Detroit Red Wings in the 2001 Entry Draft, Blatak never came over to North America to try and play in the NHL. The 27-year-old now plays for Salavat Yulayev Ufa of the KHL, where he has five goals and 17 points this season. The six foot, 174 pound defenseman has also played in the Czech League and the Swedish Elite League during his career.

Jakub Stepanek: The 23-year-old netminder will be the third goalie in Vancouver. He was never drafted by the NHL. Stepanek plays for Vitkovice of the Czech League. He was spectacular in the Czech playoffs last season as he had a 1.85 GAA and a .944 save percentage in 10 games.


Slovakia - Feb. 17
Latvia - Feb. 19
Russia - Feb. 21

The Czechs will find out right away how good their team is as they play neighboring Slovakia. A win should guarantee them a spot in the quarter-finals, as Latvia should be a fairly easy win. They face the Russians in their last game of the preliminaries and they are in tough there. Should the Czechs lose to Slovakia, they could still get in the back door as two third place teams will make the quarter-finals.


The Finnish Olympic team will bring 18 NHL players to the forefront, while four will be representing the KHL and one will hail from the Swedish Elite League.

The Finns shocked the hockey world with a surprising second place finish in Turin. They have also medaled in four of the past six Winter Games with two silvers and two bronze.

However, Finland is considered to be among the second tier level for hockey teams for Vancouver, behind the powerhouses of Canada, Russia and Sweden. They will be considered long shots to medal again in 2010.


Who you know:
The Finnish roster is loaded with NHL players. Their forward group includes Teemu Selanne, Valterri Filppula, Niklas Hagman, Olli Jokinen, Mikko Koivu, Saku Koivu, Jere Lehtinen, Antti Miettinen, Jarkko Ruutu and Tuomo Ruutu. Finland's defense is also NHL-heavy with Sami Lepisto, Toni Lydman, Joni Pitkanen, Sami Salo and Kimmo Timonen.

Their goaltending will be strong with the likes of Miikka Kiprusoff, Niklas Backstrom and Antero Niittymaki patrolling their crease.

Some of their other representatives were playing NHL hockey as early as last season like defensemen Lasse Kukkonen and Janne Niskala as well as winger Ville Peltonen who was the flag bearer for Finland. Niko Kapanen skated with the Phoenix Coyotes in 2007-08 before joining the KHL.

Who you may not know:

Jarkko Immonen: Immonen was taken in the eighth round by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2002 entry draft. He last appeared in the NHL for the New York Rangers in 2006-07. Immonen currently plays in the KHL with Kazan Ak-Bars where he has tallied 37 points over 53 games.


Belarus - Feb. 17
Germany - Feb. 19
Sweden - Feb. 21

The Finns are not a team to take lightly as their goaltenders are strong enough to carry them through any rough patches and quite possibly steal games. They can also open the tournament strong with games against weaker opponents in Belarus and Germany. Finland's true test will come on Feb. 21 when they play against rival country Sweden in a gold medal rematch from 2006.

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Michael Finewax is entering his 13th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.
Email :Michael Finewax

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