Michael Finewax

Olympic Preview

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2010 Olympic Hockey Preview

Wednesday, February 17, 2010



RUSSIA

Russia enters the Olympic tournament as a co-favorite alongside Canada. They finished a disappointing fourth in Torino in the 2006 games, but they are coming off two consecutive gold medals in the World Championships. They have 14 NHLers on the team and nine Kontinental Hockey League players.

They will arguably have the top two offensive lines in the tournament with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk.

A side note: Andrei Markov has missed the last two games for the Montreal Canadiens, but insists that he will be ready to play in the Olympics.

Roster:

Who you know:

The Russian lineup is a familiar one. All three goalies play in the NHL: Evgeni Nabokov, Ilya Bryzgalov and Semyon Varlamov. Five of eight defenders are currently in the NHL and they include Sergei Gonchar, Denis Grebeshkov, Andrei Markov, Fedor Tyutin and Anton Volchenkov. Dmitri Kalinin also has 539 NHL games on his resume, but is now playing in the KHL with Salavat Yulayev Ufa.

Six of Russia's 12 forwards play in the NHL. They include Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Datsyuk, Malkin, Alexander Semin and Maxim Afinogenov. Sergei Fedorov, Viktor Kozlov, Alexei Morozov and Alexander Radulov have all played in the NHL, but are now playing in the motherland.

Who you may not know:

Konstantin Korneyev: Korneyev was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens with the 275th pick in the 2002 entry draft, but never made it to North America. He is an offensive defenseman for CSKA Moscow in a notoriously defensive league.

Danis Zaripov: Zaripov actually played junior hockey for the Swift Current Broncos, but returned to Russia after failing to get drafted by an NHL team. He has played with Ak Bars Kazan since 2001. He has 16 goals and 42 points in 50 games this season.

Sergei Zinovyev: Zinovyev is among the KHL's leading scorers this season with 17 goals and 53 points in 47 games with Salavat Yulayev Ufa. He was drafted by the Bruins with the 73rd pick in 2000 and actually played 10 games with Boston in the 2003-04 season, but has otherwise played strictly in Russia.

Ilya Nikulin: Ilya Nikulin is one of the best Russian defenders and will impress many at the Olympics. He was drafted with the 31st pick in 2000, but never left Russia. He has six goals and 32 points in 47 games with Ak Bars Kazan.


Schedule:

Latvia - Feb. 16
Slovakia - Feb. 18
Czech Republic - Feb. 21

The Russians start off fairly easy with Latvia on Tuesday and then the games get progressively tougher with Slovakia and finally the Czech Republic. The Russians are the top rated team by the IIHL in the world at this time.

SLOVAKIA

Slovakia will enter the tournament with a mix of 13 NHL players, as well as 10 participants from other leagues, mostly the KHL. Although depth may be an issue Slovakia, the team certainly isn't without its star power, including the likes of Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa.

Slovakia enjoyed a fifth place finish in 2006, their best showing ever in the Olympics. They aren't a favorite to win a medal in 2010, but they are certainly capable of competing against the powerhouses such as Finland, Sweden, and the United States and perhaps even Canada and Russia.

Roster:

Who you know:

The 13 NHL players who are on the Slovakian lineup are goaltenders Peter Budaj and Jaroslav Halak, blueliners Zdeno Chara, Milan Jurcina, Andrej Meszaros, Andrej Sekera, and Lubomir Visnovsky, and forwards Pavol Demitra, Marian Gaborik, Michal Handzus, Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky, and Miroslav Satan.

The team also includes former NHLers Zigmund Palffy, Jozef Stumpel, and Richard Zednik. Lubos Bartecko, Branko Radivojevic, and Marcel Hossa are all currently playing in Europe but have logged more than 200 games each in the NHL.

Who you may not know:

Rastislav Stana: Stana will serve as Slovakia's third-tier goaltender after Peter Budaj and Jaroslav Halak. He was originally selected in the seventh round of the 1998 entry draft by the Washington Capitals, but he is currently playing for Cherepovets Severstal of the KHL. He has a 2.63 GAA and .905 save percentage in 46 games this season.

Richard Lintner: Originally drafted by the Phoenix Coyotes in 1996, Lintner went onto score eight goals and 20 points in 112 NHL games with the Nashville Predators, New York Rangers, and Pittsburgh Penguins. The 32-year-old blueliner hasn't played in the NHL since 2002-03 and is currently in his second season with the KHL's Minsk Dynamo. He has 11 points and 34 penalty minutes in 33 games this season.

Martin Strbak: The 35-year-old defenseman is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career with eight goals and 32 points in 51 games with Balashikha MVD HC of the KHL. He was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the ninth round of the 1993 entry draft, but he has only played in 49 games between the Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins.

Martin Cibak: Cibak was selected in the ninth round of the 1998 entry draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. He bounced around between the NHL and AHL between the 2001-02 and 2003-04 seasons, before playing in Europe in 2004-05. He returned to Tampa Bay in 2005-06 but he hasn't appeared in an NHL game since. He had five goals, 23 points, and 60 penalty minutes in 154 career games with the Lightning. He spent three seasons in the Swedish Elite League before he moved to Moscow Spartak of the KHL for the 2009-10 campaign. The 29-year-old center has 17 goals, 29 points, and 91 penalty minutes in 48 games with Moscow this season.

Schedule:

Czech Republic - Feb. 17
Russia - Feb. 18
Latvia - Feb. 20

No one ever said Slovakia was going to have it easy. They'll quickly find out what they're made of with back-to-back games against the rival Czech's and the powerhouse Russians. If they can manage to find a way to win one of their first two games, they're all but guaranteed passage in to the quarter-finals. They shouldn't have much trouble against Latvia on February 20th.

SWEDEN

The Swedes are the defending gold medal champions, but they enter the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver as slight underdogs behind Canada and Russia. That should suit them just fine as it should take a great deal of pressure off their shoulders.

The Swedish Olympic team will be represented by 19 NHL players and 13 returning players from their gold-medal performance in Torino.

They are expected to contend again for gold in 2010 with the likes of Canada and Russia.

Tomas Holmstrom will not play for Sweden after being named to the team in December due to injury. He will be replaced by fellow Detroit Red Wing Johan Franzen.

Roster

Who you know:

Sweden will bring NHLers Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Backstrom, Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Loui Eriksson, Johan Franzen, Patric Hornqvist. Fredrik Modin and Samuel Pahlsson for their forward contingent, while Tobias Enstrom, Nicklas Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Doug Murray, Johnny Oduya, Mattias Ohlund and Henrik Tallinder will help make up their defense corps.

NHL netminders Henrik Lundqvist and Jonas Gustavsson will help the Swedes between the pipes.

Swedish flag bearer Peter Forsberg will also represent his native country on their hockey roster, while blueliner Magnus Johansson, who currently plays for Linkoping HC in the Swedish Elite League, last appeared in the NHL in 2007-08 for the Panthers.

Who you may not know:

Mattias Weinhandl: His last appearance in the NHL was in 2006-07 with the Minnesota Wild. Weinhandl has collected 24 goals and 58 points in 53 games for Moscow Dynamo in the KHL this campaign. He will likely end up on Sweden's fourth line in a checking role.

Stefan Liv: The Swedish goalie was drafted back in 2000 by the Detroit Red Wings, but he has spent the vast majority of his career with HV71 Jonkoping in the Swedish Elite League. He is expected to serve as Lundqvist's backup, but he likely will not see much, if any, ice time.

Schedule

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

Sweden should be back in medal contention in 2010. They should have a relatively easy time with Germany and Belarus, while Finland will provide stiffer competition. The fact that they are slightly slipping under the radar this Olympics, despite being the defending gold medalists, could work in their favor as well. They are a team to watch out for.


SWITZERLAND

The Swiss pulled off their greatest upset in hockey at the 2006 Olympics as they shut out Canada 2-0 in a preliminary game with Martin Gerber stopping all 49 shots. The strength of the Swiss is their goaltending as Anaheim star Jonas Hiller will start and former NHL goaltenders Martin Gerber and Tobias Stephan will back him up.

Roster:

Who you know:

Jonas Hiller, Martin Gerber and Tobias Stephan are the goaltenders, while Mark Streit, Luca Sbisa and Yannick Weber will man the blueline. Hnat Domenichelli is a transplanted Canadian who has played in the Swiss League since 2003-04. He played 267 NHL games, scoring 52 goals with four teams. Andreas Ambuhl is New York Ranger property, playing in the AHL for Hartford. He has four goals and seven points in 50 games.

Who you may not know:

Thomas Deruns: The 27-year-old is playing on Servette-Geneva with former NHLer Kris Beech. Deruns has 19 goals and 29 assists this season with a plus-18 rating and 42 penalty minutes in the Swiss A League.

Seandy Jeannin: The 33-year-old is in his second season with Fribourg-Gotteron after a lenthy career with Lugano of the Swiss League. He has nine goals and 25 points this season and will likely line up with teammate Julien Sprunger on the Olympic team.

Thibaut Monnet: Monnet is second in goal scoring for Zurich of the Swiss A League with 23. He also has 15 helpers. Monnet is likely to be a top-six forward with Switzerland at the Olympics.

Thierry Paterlini: Paterlini is the second oldest member of the Swiss squad at age 34, trailing only goaltender Martin Gerber. Paterlini is not much of a scorer. He had his best season last year, scoring 16 times.

Martin Pluss: Pluss is tied for the SC Bern scoring lead with 15 goals and 42 points this season. Pluss is a talented scorer and spent four seasons in the highly regarded Swedish Elite League before returning to his native Switzerland in 2008. He will be a top-six forward.

Kevin Romy: The 25-year-old Romy was drafted in the fourth round in 2003 by the Philadelphia Flyers, but never played for the organization. The bottom-six forward has six goals and 17 points this season for Lugano of the Swiss A League.

Ivo Ruthemann: Ruthmann is having the best season of his career with 24 goals and 42 points for SC Bern. The 33-year-old will likely play with teammate Martin Pluss, on one of the top two lines.

Raffaele Sannitz: 'Rafi' was a seventh round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2001 Entry Draft. He has played his entire career in Switzerland. He will likely line up with Kevin Romy on the third or fourth line. He has only four goals and 15 points in 30 games with season with Lugano.

Julien Sprunger: Sprunger has nine goals and 26 points for HC Fribourg-Gotteron, his hometown. The 24-year-old was drafted in the fourth round, 117th overall, by the Minnesota Wild in 2004. He knows where the net is as he has scored 27 and 25 goals in his last two seasons.

Roman Wick: Wick spent two years in Canada playing in the WHL, but returned home and has played for Kloten the last four seasons. The 24-year-old was drafted by Ottawa in the fifth round of the 2004 Entry Draft. He has 12 goals and 15 assists this season.

Goran Bezina: Bezina has actually played three games in the NHL with the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2004 season after spending three seasons in the AHL. The native of Split, Croatia, a region known more for NBA basketball players than hockey defensemen, went to Servette-Geneva at the outbreak of the NHL lockout and became a citizen of Switzerland, allowing him to play in the Olympics. He has seven goals and 26 points this season, with a plus-21 rating. He was drafted in the eighth round of the 1999 Entry Draft.

Severin Blindenbacher: As with Bezina above, the Phoenix Coyotes also drafted Blindenbacher, but in the ninth round of the 2001 Entry Draft. He played nine seasons in Switzerland before moving to Sweden this season to play with Farjestad Karlstad of the SEL where he has eight goals and 19 points.

Rafael Diaz: Diaz is a 24-year-old defensive defenseman. He was never drafted by an NHL team. He currently plays for EV Zug in the Swiss A League.

Roman Josi: Josi is someone to watch in the Olympics if he is healthy. The second round selection, 38th overall, by the Nashville Predators in the 2008 Entry Draft, the 20-year-old Josi has nine goals and 20 points in only 24 games for SC Bern. He will be a mainstay on the power play alongside Mark Streit.

Mathias Seger: No relation as far as we know to Pete. Seger is having the best season of his career with seven goals and 49 points. The 32-year-old defenseman is also plus-16 and should be a veteran force for the Swiss in the Vancouver games.

Late Notes: Kevin Romy, Goran Bezina and Roman Josi will not play in the Olympics. They will be replaced by Romano Lemm, Philippe Furrer and Patrick von Gunten.

Romano Lemm: The 25-year-old winger has played most of his career with Kloten of the Swiss League, scoring 17 times in the 2006-07 season. He has played the past two seasons with Lugano.

Philippe Furrer: The 24-year-old defenseman was drafted by the New York Rangers in the sixth round of the 2003 entry Draft. He never came over to North America. He had four goals and 16 points last season with Bern.

Patrick von Gunten: The 25-year-old blueliner has some scoring touch as he had 12 goals and 27 points for Kloten in the 2008-09 season. He's a little chippy as well with 90 penalty minutes last season in 46 games.


Schedule:

United States - Feb. 16
Canada - Feb. 18
Norway - Feb. 20

The big game for Switzerland will be the Norway 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. Canada will not overlook them this time.

UNITED STATES

The Americans picked up the Silver medal in 2002, but they dropped all the way to eighth place in 2006. With that embarrassing finish looming over him, Team USA GM Brian Burke completely revamped America's roster for 2010. Just three players originally selected had previous Olympic experience and 13 players were 25 or younger.

Like Team Canada, every player on the United States roster is currently playing at the NHL level. The United States enters the 2010 Olympics as an underdog to win a medal, but they should be considered the dark horse of the tournament.

There hopes could rest on Ryan Miller, who has been one of the league's best goaltenders this season, but he'll enter the Winter Games in the midst of a disappointing February.
Roster:

Who you know:

As previously mentioned, this is a young team, but you should already be familiar with stars such as Brian Rafalski, Zach Parise, Phil Kessel, Paul Stastny, Patrick Kane and Dustin Brown.

Team USA features a well-rounded squad with blueliners Jack Johnson, Brooks Orpik, Ryan Suter, and forwards David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Ryan Kesler, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski and Paul Stastny.

The United States also added veteran defenseman Ryan Whitney and Tim Gleason as injury replacements.

Ryan Miller is projected to serve as the team's number one goaltender, but if he falters, Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas should fill the void. Jon Quick will round out America's goaltending trio.

Who you may not know:

Erik Johnson: The St. Louis Blues picked him first overall in the 2006 entry draft in the 2006 entry draft and he went onto have a fantastic rookie season with 33 points in 69 games in 2007-08. Unfortunately, a torn ACL forced him to miss all of last season, but he's come back in 2009-10 with five goals and 27 points in his first 58 games. His numbers might not be overwhelming yet, but he could develop into one of the league's best offensive defenseman.

Bobby Ryan: Although Ryan was selected immediately after Sidney Crosby in the 2005 entry draft; he's only now starting to make his mark. Power forwards like Ryan often take a while to develop, but he proved worth the wait when he finally broke out in 2008-09 with 31 goals and 57 points in 64 games. Although Ryan has taken a small step back in his sophomore season, he still has 27 goals and 20 assists in 60 games.

Schedule:

Switzerland - Feb. 16
Norway - Feb. 18
Canada - Feb. 21

The United States will enter their games against Switzerland and Norway as the heavy favorites, but they will face their first major challenge on February 21st against Canada. Eight of the 12 preliminary round teams will make it to the Quarter-Finals, meaning that only a collapse of epic proportions will prevent Team USA from going at least that far.

Rotoworld Predictions

Corey Abbott

Gold - Canada
Silver - Sweden
Bronze - Russia

Liam Casey

Gold - Canada
Silver - Russia
Bronze - Sweden

Ryan Dadoun

Gold - Canada
Silver - Russia
Bronze - Czech Republic

Michael Finewax

Gold - Russia
Silver - United States
Bronze - Canada

Ryan Ma

Gold - Canada
Silver - Russia
Bronze - United States

Brian Rosenbaum

Gold - Canada
Silver - Russia
Bronze - Sweden


Michael Finewax is entering his 10th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.
Email :Michael Finewax



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