As tradition wants, Team Russia will bring a very good team to the WJC. As it was the case in the latest few years, the Russians will have a good lineup with solid goaltending and defense and a great depth up front. It’s of course quite obvious to consider them as contenders.
Players to watch:
Ilya Samsonov (G, Metallurg Magnitogorsk, 22nd overall Washington Capitals)
The 2015 first rounder is having a solid season in the KHL with Metallurg Magnitogorsk and will most likely be Team Russia starting goalkeeper. While he will have some good competition from Alexander Georgiyev, at this point Samsonov is probably the best goalie of the two, and is also a year younger. Having stong goaltending options has been quite a trend for the Russians in the latest few years, and this year it looks no different.
Ivan Provorov (D, Brandon Wheat Kings, 7th overall Philadelphia Flyers)
The all-around defenseman is a returnee from last year, silver medal-winning team. He didn’t impress much at the 2015 WJC, but he was very young and his time on ice not that big, therefore it’s to be expected to have a big jump from the Flyers prospect, as this year he will be one of the leading players of the team. Provorov is having a great season in the WHL and considering his skating and puck skills he should be one of the top players of the tournament, and anything below that level can be considered a disappointment.
Vladislav Kamenev (C, Milwaukee Admirals, 42nd overall Milwaukee Admirals)
After moving to North America, Kamenev seen a good development of his career, a thing that may have surprised some observers as he was a little bit struggling in the KHL with Metallurg Magnitogorsk last year. Kamenev will be the captain of the team and of course a lot of leadership is expected from him, not only in the locker room, but also regarding production. Kamenev is playing very well in the AHL and his experience in pro hockey has to be considered very advantageous for the Russians.
Evgeny Svechnikov (W, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, 19th overall Detroit Red Wings)
One of the top offensive players of the tournament, at least on paper, Svechnikov will be a primary offensive weapon for Russia, and will play in the team’s first line with Kamenev and his teammate Maxim Lazarev. Svechnikov has all it takes to be one of the top players of the tournament, being it skating, puck skills, size, and hockey IQ. The 2015 first rounder is expected to have a big tournament.
The best of the rest
With this levels of depth, especially up front, Team Russia can count on many good performers in pretty much any line. Goalie Alexander Georgiyev is considered one of the better undrafted goalies, and at this tournament he can get some attention on him from the NHL scouts. While he doesn’t look like the top candidate for the number one goalie position, he will certainly have some chances. Another player who will certainly get much attention is Kirill Kaprizov. The small forward is having a strong year in the KHL and is expected to contribute offensively and with the man advantage.
On the blueline, the Russians will have many interesting players from the CHL. One of them is Avalanche prospect Sergei Boikov. A lot is also being expected from the Kings prospect Damir Sharipzyanov.
Regarding forwards, if the Russians did cut Denis Guryanov from the roster, then it means that offensive depth is not a problem. Even more so considering that the team decided not to call Yakov Trenin too. There is plenty of interesting prospects in the offensive line. Some of the most popular include Kings draftee Alexander Dergachyov, Flyers prospect Radel Fazleev and 2014 6th round pick of the Winnipeg Jets Pavel Kraskovsky, who will be an alternate captain. Kraskovsky will most likely play on a line with KHL players Egor Korshkov and Alexander Polunin, with whom he showed great chemistry at home. Other two interesting KHL options are Avangard Omsk Artur Lauta and CSKA Moscow Andrei Svetlakov, the team’s second alternate captain.
The bottom line:
While the team doesn’t have a top-level talent like Vladimir Tarasenko or Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Russians will bring a very good roster to Finland, with excellent goalies, good blueliners and a very dynamic group of forwards. Size won’t be too much of an issue too, considering the presence of many big boys like Svechnikov, Dergachyov or KHL defenseman Nikita Zhuldikov (6’3″, 210 lbs.). The most accurate forecast can be a placement in the medals zone.
Other WJC previews from The Hockey Writers: