NHL Players & Prospects to Represent Russia in Denmark

On May 1, the Russian Hockey Federation published the roster for the upcoming IIHF World Championship in Denmark. The roster will include several NHL players and prospects, and it could have included even more if it wasn’t for injuries.

Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov, Nikita Zadorov, Ivan Provorov, and Artemi Panarin were among the players called but who had to renounce due to injuries. Vladimir Tarasenko would also have been called, but his shoulder surgery set him out for several months. Other players who will not represent Russia in Denmark are Valeri Nichushkin, Ivan Telegin, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Alexander Radulov.

Team Russia Goalies

Vasili Koshechkin (Metallurg Magnitogorsk), Ilya Sorokin (CSKA Moscow), Igor Shestyorkin (SKA Saint Petersburg)

Ilya Sorokin
Ilya Sorokin during a 2016/17 KHL game. (Photo: Sergei Manzheleyev, www.ak-bars.ru)

The goalie brigade will be the same as it was for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea, and Koshechkin will start the tournament as the number-one goalie. It would have been interesting to finally have a look at Sorokin or Shestyorkin as a number one goalie, but the staff has decided to give an advantage to experience, thus picking Koshechkin, who played rather well for the Russians at the Olympics. With Koshechkin, Sorokin, and Shestyorkin, the Russians have three strong options in net, thus this department won’t be a problem in Denmark.

Team Russia Defensemen

Nikita Nesterov, Bogdan Kiselevich (both CSKA Moscow), Nikita Zaitsev (Toronto Maple Leafs), Vladislav Gavrikov, Dinar Khafizullin, Yegor Yakovlev (all SKA Saint Petersburg), Alexei Bereglazov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk), Nikita Tryamkin (Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg)

Nikita Zaitsev
Nikita Zaitsev (John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Considering the NHL injuries (and Mikhail Sergachev and Dmitri Orlov playing in the NHL playoffs), this is pretty much the best the Russians are able to ice right now, and the situation doesn’t look too good for them. Zaitsev is a capable NHL defenseman, Vladislav Gavrikov is a young player on the rise, and Yegor Yakovlev is about to sign in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils, but the defensive line does look thin, especially compared to other countries, and even more so due to the lack of younger options from the NHL like Nikita Zadorov or Ivan Provorov.

The top defenseman on the team is certainly Nikita Zaitsev. The Russian defenseman didn’t have the best season for the Maple Leafs, but he is a good player and will certainly log many minutes patrolling the Russian blueline. Other interesting players include Yakovlev, Gavrikov, and Bogdan Kiselevich, whose contract with CSKA Moscow just ran out and is rumored to sign in the NHL this year.

Of course, the coach is leaving at least one spot free should Orlov or Sergachev become available within a viable time frame.

Team Russia Forwards

Pavel Datsyuk, Nikita Gusev, Alexander Barabanov, Ilya Kablukov, Alexei Byvaltsev (all SKA Saint Petersburg), Kirill Kaprizov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Sergei Andronov, Maxim Shalunov (all CSKA Moscow), Evgeny Dadonov, Maxim Mamin (both Florida Panthers), Artem Anisimov (Chicago Blackhawks), Pavel Buchnevich (New York Rangers), Nikita Soshnikov (St Louis Blues), Ilya Mikheev (Avangard Omsk)

As usual, the forwards are the part that causes fewer concerns and that has the most theoretical alternatives, even if depth at center is very thin. The roster presents some of the usual suspects like former Detroit Red Wings superstar Pavel Datsyuk and Vegas Golden Knights prospect Nikita Gusev, but there are also some new names like the Florida Panthers’ Maxim Mamin, the New York Rangers’ Pavel Buchnevich, and the St. Louis Blues’ Nikita Soshnikov, among others. Soshnikov’s teammate, Ivan Barbashev, had to miss the tournament due to an injury while Edmonton Oilers forward Anton Slepyshev didn’t make the cut.

Pavel Buchnevich Rangers
Pavel Buchnevich, New York Rangers, Mar. 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Unfortunately for the Russians, Gusev is not in the best shape and will miss the first few games of the tournament. Thus, at least at the start, we won’t see again the Gusev-Datsyuk-Kaprizov line that was the best at the recent Olympic games. Gusev will be replaced by Blackhawks prospect Maxim Shalunov on the first line.

The team will hope to find some leadership from Evgeny Dadonov and Artem Anisimov. Dadonov had a very good season with the Panthers while Anisimov didn’t have the best campaign, as was the case for the Chicago Blackhawks as a whole. Pavel Datsyuk will be the team’s captain.

As with the defensemen, the staff will most likely wait to add one or two players coming from the NHL playoffs.

The Russians will start the tournament on May 4 against Team France.