Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin top Russian Olympic roster
NHL netminders Bobrovsky, Varlamov make the grade
Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk help form a potent offensive group for a Russian hockey team that includes a mix of NHL and KHL players.
The Russian roster announced Tuesday includes four of the last six NHL most valuable players in Washington sniper Ovechkin and Pittsburgh star Malkin. In addition, there's the two-way threat Pavel Datsyuk, who's been named top defensive forward in the NHL three times for Detroit.
There's also Kovalchuk, the consistent NHL scorer who bolted a decade-plus contract with New Jersey to return to Russia and the KHL.
Ovechkin has expressed excitement at the prospect of playing in Sochi since the Games were awarded to Russia, vowing to play even when it wasn't guaranteed the NHL would reach an agreement with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) to release players from North America for the tournament.
There are 14 NHL players on the Sochi roster, including Montreal blue-liners Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin, Edmonton defenceman Anton Velov and Toronto forward Nikolai Kumelin.
In net, last year's Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky of Columbus and Semyon Varlamov of Colorado are part of a trio that includes KHL netminder Alexander Eremenko. NHL goaltenders Ilya Bryzgalov and Evgeni Nabokov were left out.
The team also includes former NHL players Alexander Radulov and Viktor Tikhonov, grandson of the legendary Soviet hockey coach.
The roster did not include forwards Nail Yakupov (Edmonton) or Alex Semin (Carolina), nor defenceman Sergei Gonchar (Dallas) and Anton Volchenkov (New Jersey).
The Soviet Union dominated Olympic hockey in the 1970s and 1980s with a team of seasoned veterans, but the last gold medal for the country came as the Unified Team over Canada in 1992 in Albertville.
Since NHL players have played in the Olympics en masse, the Russian earned silver in 1998, bronze four years later, and have finished off the podium in the last two tournaments.
They will be looking to repeat Canada's feat from four years ago of winning on home ice.
The Russian roster is as follows:
- Sergei Bobrovsky, 25, G, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Alexander Eremenko, 33, G, Moscow Dynamo
- Semyon Varlamov, 25, G, Colorado Avalanche
- Anton Belov, 27, D, Edmonton Oilers
- Denis Denisov, 32, D, CSKA Moscow (KHL)
- Alexei Emelin, 27, D, Montreal Canadiens
- Andrei Markov, 35, D, Montreal Canadiens
- Evgeny Medvedev, 31, D, Kazan Ak-Bars (KHL)
- Nikita Nikitin, 27, D, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Ilya Nikulin, 31, D, Kazan Ak-Bars (KHL)
- Fedor Tyutin, 30, D, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Vyacheslav Voynov, 23, D, Los Angeles Kings
- Artem Anisimov, 25, F, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Pavel Datsyuk, 35, F, Detroit Red Wings
- Denis Kokarev, 28, F, Moscow Dynamo (KHL)
- Ilya Kovalchuk, 30, F, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
- Nikolai Kulemin, 27, F, Toronto Maple Leafs
- Evgeni Malkin, 27, F, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Alex Ovechkin, 28, F, Washington Capitals
- Alexander Popov, 33, F, Omsk Avangard (KHL)
- Vladimir Tarasenko, 22, F, St. Louis Blues
- Alexei Tereshchenko, 33, F, Kazan Ak-Bars (KHL)
- Viktor Tikhonov, 25, F, St. Petersburg SKA (KHL)