Ryan Dadoun

Olympic Preview

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Olympic Preview: Pool A

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


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.


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Ryan Dadoun is an Associate Editor for Hockey on Rotoworld. Feel free to follow him on Twitter or check out his blog.
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