One of the most talented rosters ever created is the Russian roster heading into the World Cup of Hockey. There are many players with the talent not only to carry the offense, but to carry the entire team. Let’s take a closer look at the team.
This forward core is absolutely locked and loaded with talent from all around the NHL. Look at two of the most skilled players in the game who happen to be on the same team, and sometimes even on the same line. Breakout youngster Evgeny Kuznetzov (20 goals, 77 points) alongside “The Great Eight” Alex Ovechkin (50 goals, 71 points) will team up on yet another team to help the Russians out with their scoring. However, don’t sleep on any other of the goal scorers on the team, such as Vladamir Tarasenko (40/74), Evgeni Malkin (27/58), Nikita Kucherov (30/66), Artemi Panarin (30/77), and many more. There are some notable players on the team like the recently retired Pavel Datsyuk, who continues to play for CSKA Moscow of the KHL, former NHLers Evegeni Dadanov and Ivan Telegin, as well as Vadin Shipachyov, who hope to go (or go back) to the NHL at some point in their careers (Maybe some teams view this as a showcase?)
The defense is a little weak, and when I say a little, I mean A LOTTA. Compared to the stars on the forward core, you’d expect talent in the back end, right? No, not really. You’ve got the aging Andrei Markov who has not been productive in who knows how long, his teammate Alexei Emelin who is a known rough guy, Dmitry Orlov of the soon to be KHL due to the unproductive contract talks with the Caps, Nikita Nesterov, who was bottom-six or scratched all year with Tampa, Alexey Marchenko, and Nikita Zatizev. And then there is Dmitry Kulikov, who is probably the only real talent on their D-core. I’m sorry for you Kulikov.
The most likely starter Sergei Bobrovsky, was injury-prone last season with the Blue Jackets, and was at one point the backup; however, the Russians have always praised his performance in the national tournaments. Semyon Varlamov was in the same situation as Bobs, but he wasn’t hurt as much. He did get demoted to the backup role in favor of Reto Berra at one point, but the backup in now Calvin Pickard who is up and coming and could be a legitimate threat to Valrlamov as he strives to be the goalie he was in 2014-2015, and to play well under new head coach Jared Bednar. The final tendy on the team in *future* starting goaltender for the Bolts Andrei Vasilevskiy, who may not get time on the ice, but will hope to in proving he is a true starting goaltender.
The offense is no doubt one of the most threatening in the tournament, and being led by two superstars in Ovi and ‘Geno helps way more than you think it would. Look for the team to score most of its’ goals up front and not from the defenseman.
The obvious weakness on this team is the defense. There isn’t one true top two defenseman on the team, and hopefully the goalies are saving as much as they can because the defense may not step up as much as other teams’.
The X-Factor of Team Russia is Chicago Blackhawks center Artem Anisimov. He does have a current linemate from this year in Artemi Panarin, but they played alongside of Patrick Kane. The reason that it’s an X-Factor is it depends who the two of them play alongside.
There is one of our two Russian players on this team, and it is our only healthy guy, Nikolay Kulemin. Kulemin did not have a very productive season, scoring nine goals and 22 points. The Isles and Team Russia are hoping that he returns to his 2014-15 self and picks up his offensive production.