When the NHL and NHLPA made the drastic announcement that NHL players would not be going to Beijing to compete in the 2022 Olympics, fans wondered who would fill the roles left by superstars such as Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Andrei Vasilevskiy. Russia has one of the top men’s leagues in the world – besides the NHL. The Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) produces top-quality talent, and the ROC has had a lot of big names to choose from.
On Jan 24, the ROC announced the players who will represent Russia in Beijing. The team will be comprised of seven returning gold medalists from the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, as well as a few former NHLers all recruited from the KHL.
Seven defending Olympic champions🥇 from #PyeongChang2018 made it to the roster of #ROC for #Beijing2022 in their quest for gold.— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 24, 2022
Read more 👉 https://t.co/kIpZTcT9w2#hockey #icehockey #хоккей @russiahockey @russiahockey_en @Olympic_Russia pic.twitter.com/af4V9W3TlC
The ROC will be looking to repeat as champions once again. They are situated in Group B with Czechia, Denmark, and Switzerland. They will be led by head coach Alexei Zhamnov, as well as former NHL legends Sergei Fedorov, Sergei Gonchar, and Ilya Kovalchuk.
Gusev was a seventh-round selection in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. While his NHL stint was short, it was impactful. He made his rookie debut in 2019-20 with the New Jersey Devils and registered 44 points in 66 games. However, the next year, he would record five points in 20 games, before being traded to the Florida Panthers where he finished off the season with five points in 11 games.
Gusev is one of the returnees from the 2018 championship team, he has had a great season in the KHL so far, putting up 35 points in 31 games.
Another one of the returnees and a former 12th overall pick Mikhail Grigorenko brings a solid two-way game to the ROC. In total, Grigorenko played six seasons in the NHL, which includes 26 goals, and 50 assists in 249 games played with the Buffalo Sabres, and Colorado Avalanche. He has also represented Russia at the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships, and the World Championship.
Anisimov will take reign as one of the top forwards on ROC. He played 13 years in the NHL, totalling 180 goals, and 196 assists in 771 NHL games. He fulfilled key roles on the New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Chicago Blackhawks, and Ottawa Senators before leaving the NHL last season.
While he possesses the pro experience, the 33-year-old also has a plethora of international experience on his resume as well. Which includes, a World Championship gold medal, among various silvers. The large centre will surely be one of the top players to watch for ROC.
Vadim Shipachyov (Dynamo Moskva-KHL) Nikita Gusev (SKA St.Petersburg-KHL), Andrei Chibisov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk-KHL), Mikhail Grigorenko (CSKA Moksva-KHL), Areseni Gritsyuk (Avangard Omsk-KHL), Anton Slepyshev (CSKA Moskva-KHL), Kirill Marchenko (SKA St.Petersburg-KHL)), Artur Kayumov (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl-KHL), Artem Anisimov (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl-KHL), Pavel Karnaukhov (CSKA Moskva-KHL(, Kirill Semyonov (Avangard Omsk-KHL), Dimitri Voronkov (Ak Bars Kazan-KHL), Sergei Andronov (CSKA Moskva-KHL)
Only two defencemen on the roster will be known to North Americans, that’s former NHLers Nikita Nesterov and Slava Voynov.
After a four-year NHL career, Nikita Nesterov packed it in and headed back to Russia to play in the KHL. The defenceman put up 37 points in 170 career NHL games with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, and Calgary Flames. He even made his NHL return in 2020-21 with the Flames after spending three years with CSKA Moskva, however, he had just four assists in 38 games.
Nesterov now once again plays for CSKA Moskva and has put up 33 points in 41 games this season, so far. He is one of the returning defencemen from the previous gold medal team and will surely bring international experience to the blue line.
Slava Voynov’s NHL career was cut short, but ultimately so due to domestic abuse charges. The Russian defender played a key role on the blue line for the LA Kings during their two Stanley Cup Championship victories in 2012, and 2014. In total, he played four seasons in the NHL and registered 81 points in 190 games played. Voynov currently plays for Dynamo Moskva and has 31 points in 40 games this season, so far. This will be his third Olympics, and he will surely bring the international and pro experience to the blue line for ROC.
Yegor Yakovlev (Metallurg Magnitogorsk-KHL), Alexander Nikishin (Spartak Moskva-KHL), Damir Sharipzyanov (Avangard Omsk-KHL), Sergei Telegin (Traktor Chelyabinsk-KHL), Nikita Nesterov (CSKA Moksva-KHL), Artem Minulin (Metallurg Magnitogorsk-KHL), Slava Voynov (Dynamo Moskva-KHL), Alexander Yelesin (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl-KHL)
Of the three goaltenders chosen, none have NHL experience, but Ivan Fedotov is a current prospect of the Philadelphia Flyers, he was drafted in the seventh round in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Ivan Fedotov (CSKA Mosvka-KHL), Timur Bilyalov (Ak Bars Kazan-KHL), Alexander Samonov (SKA St. Petersburg-KHL)
Going for Gold
Many of these players have not played in North America, but what they do hold is the experience in international tournaments. Whether it be the World Championships, the World Cup of Hockey, or the Olympics, the ROC has put together what they believe is the best roster to compete in Beijing. Out of the 25-man roster, seven players will be returning and hoping to win back-to-back gold medals.
While this team is not comprised of the NHLers who were thought to have been on this roster a few months back, they are a stacked team that has plenty of experience. For those who have played in previous Olympics, they are hungry to get another gold, and this is a squad that could very well win back-to-back golds.
Born and raised in Kamloops B.C. and a die-hard fan of the Kamloops Blazers, hockey has always been a part of his life. Now, Colton is exploring the sports media world and looking to make it a career. He currently covers the Winnipeg Jets, as well as contributes to World Juniors, and draft-related content. He is co-host of the WesternCentric Podcast, which revolves around the WHL.