Russia at the 2016 Worlds
We are but hours away now from the start of the 2016 IIHF Men’s World Championship in Russia, and so it is past time to take a look at the home team’s roster, or at least such of it as is known at the moment. Read on, and we’ll see what Head Coach Oleg Znarok and his staff have in store!
The Russian Hockey Federation named a provisional, extended, 28-man roster on Wednesday; that is three more players than allowed by the IIHF for this competition, but it does indicate the pool from which Znarok will be drawing his troops. On Thursday, the coach designated 18 of those men as opening-game players, and there will doubtless be a couple of additions to that list as the tournament goes along. Of course, the “big” hockey countries will also be keeping a roster spot or two open with an eye on those teams to be eliminated in the second round of the NHL playoffs, which is currently ongoing. That aside, here is the extended Russian as it was presented the other day, with Znarok’s 18 “for-sures” indicated with italics.
Goaltenders: Sergei Bobrovsky* (Columbus Blue Jackets); Ilya Sorokin* (CSKA Moscow); Igor Shestyorkin (SKA St. Petersburg)
An unspecified injury to Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche means that Sorokin, CSKA’s 20-year-old starlet, moves into the top two among Russia’s netminders. And he may be the starter by the time everything is done. Bobrovsky has the experience, and his resume includes the 2013 Vezina Trophy, but he posted only a .908 sv% this year in Columbus — ok, but nothing to write home about. Sorokin meanwhile was second in the KHL with a .953 sv% in 28 regular season games, and he probably would have won the playoff MVP award had his team taken the Gagarin Cup. Znarok may rotate both goalies during the group stage of the tournament, and let them sort out who the medal-round starter will be. As for Shestyorkin, he’s an up-and-comer, and probably on the roster simply to get a taste of the World Championship.
Defencemen: Viktor Antipin* (Metallurg Magnitogorsk); Maxim Chudinov* (SKA St. Petersburg); Alexei Marchenko* (Detroit Red Wings); Vyacheslav Voynov* (SKA St. Petersburg); Alexei Yemelin* (Montreal Canadiens); Nikita Zaitsev* (CSKA Moscow); Anton Belov (SKA St. Petersburg); Alexei Bereglazov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk); Denis Denisov (CSKA Moscow)
Most North American fans will probably be watching Nikita Zaitsev closely, as he’s on his way to the Maple Leafs for next season. He’s worth watching, too — extremely competent at both ends of the ice. The inclusion of Marchenko is an interesting one; the 24-year-old played his first full NHL season in 2015-16, scoring 2-9-11 in 66 games and generally garnering decent reviews for his play. This will be a his debut tournament with the senior Russian national team.
Running with only six blueliners is a seriously risky move over the long term (although the Russian women’s team made it work fine for them at this year’s Worlds), so we will likely see some additions early in the tournament. From the extended roster, Belov and Denisov probably have the edge on experience alone; Bereglazov is still a young ‘un (he’s only 22), and may have to wait for a future tournament in which to play a regular role.
Forwards: Alexander Burmistrov* (Winnipeg Jets); Yevgeny Dadonov* (SKA St. Petersburg); Pavel Datsyuk* (Detroit Red Wings); Sergei Kalinin* (New Jersey Devils); Roman Lyubimov* (CSKA Moscow); Sergei Mozyakin* (Metallurg Magnitogorsk); Artemy Panarin* (Chicago Blackhawks); Sergei Plotnikov* (Arizona Coyotes); Vadim Shipachyov* (SKA St. Petersburg); Sergei Shirokov* (SKA St. Petersburg); Sergei Andronov (CSKA Moscow); Daniil Apalkov (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl); Yegor Averin (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl); Alexander Radulov (CSKA Moscow); Stepan Sannikov (Sibir Novosibirsk Oblast); Ivan Telegin (CSKA Moscow)
Line combinations will be the interesting story here! Reports from Moscow have indicated that Znarok intends to run Datsyuk and Mozyakin together, and that should be a real treat for the fans, as it will bring together two of the game’s wiliest and most skillful players. Alexander Radulov had been suggested as the probably third man on that line, but he has a nagging injury that will keep him out of at least the early stages of the tournament; recent rumours have CSKA’s Telegin as the lucky guy who will line up alongside Datsyuk and Mozyakin. And we should get a chance to see the old SKA St. Petersburg trio of Dadonov, Shipachyov, and Panarin together again. Those three combined for 162 points during the 2014-15 KHL regular season, before Panarin departed for the Chicago Blackhawks.
It is the forward corps, with only ten confirmed members heading into the opening game, that will benefit most from subsequent reinforcement, and there could be very big names indeed arriving. Alexander Ovechkin and his Washington Capitals team-mate Yevgeny Kuznetsov currently trail the Pittsburgh Penguins three games to one, and could be eliminated from the NHL playoffs as early as Saturday. And even if Washington does come back to win the series and advance, the consolation prize would be Pittsburgh’s Yevgeny Malkin (all this assumes, of course, that the players would be willing to extend their season at the Worlds, which is not a sure thing by any means).
That will do, I think, for a very quick introduction to the Russian roster for this tournament. Russia’s quest for a gold medal will begin on Friday at the VTB Arena in Moscow, when they take on the Czech Republic at 8:15 pm local time. Games against Kazakhstan, Latvia, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, and Sweden will follow to complete the round-robin stage in Group A. The top four (and a guess would have Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Czechs in those slots if not in that order) will subsequently advance to the medal round. Do check back here — we will keep you posted with all the goings-on!