We’re continuing through our series anticipating the Mar. 2 first roster announcements for the reborn World Cup of Hockey with a Team Russia World Cup roster projection.
In the first roster announcement, each team will be required to announce 16 players, including two goaltenders. Below, a full roster is projected with the first 16 players to be announced bolded.
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeni Malkin – Vladimir Tarasenko
Ilya Kovalchuk – Pavel Datsyuk – Alexander Radulov
Artemi Panarin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Nikita Kucherov
Vladislav Namestnikov – Artem Anisimov – Valeri Nichushkin
Possibilities: Yegor Averin, Ivan Barbashev, Alexander Burmistrov, Evgenii Dadonov, Sergei Kalinin, Vladislav Kamenev, Nikolai Kulemin, Alexander Popov, Vadim Schipachyov, Alexander Semin, Alexander Svitov, Alexei Tereshchenko, Viktor Tikhonov, Nail Yakupov, Danis Zaripov
The Russian offense is always a serious threat. They have a lot of elite talent and a ton of depth, which is highlighted by all the possibilities they have up front.
It’s an impressive group that is easily one of the best top six groups in the World Cup.
Veteran KHLer Sergei Mozyakin could easily be higher in the depth chart, but age and the NHL focus of the World Cup maybe has him as an extra.
There’s also a chance you see someone like Alexander Burmistrov, Viktor Tikhonov, Nail Yakupov or Nikolai Kulemin make a push to get into the lineup. None of them have had a great year, but Kulemin and Tikhonov were both a part of the 2014 Sochi Olympic team and a strong push down the stretch could position them to elbow out someone else in the final roster.
Unlike the defensive group, this is heavily skewed toward NHL players. Only three KHLers are on the roster. It could easily be more, but with the World Cup being a different beast than the Olympics, there’s a chance that the NHL is pushing for more of its young rising stars to be on this roster.
Andrei Markov – Alexei Emelin
Evgeny Medvedev – Slava Voynov
Anton Belov – Maxim Chudinov
Possibilities: Alexander Loginov, Alexei Marchenko, Nikita Nikitin, Ilya Nikulin, Yegor Takovlev, Fedor Tyutin, Nikita Zadorov
The Russian blue line is a bit of an enigma. Many of the best Russian defensemen are playing in the KHL and with this not being the Olympics, but a NHL-run event, it’ll be interesting to see if there’s any focus on NHL players. The Russian team likely benefits if they’re able to put as many KHLers on as they want and there isn’t any indication that they won’t be able to.
It’s for that reason — and an injury to Ilya Nikulin — that Dmitry Kulikov is the seventh defender over a guy like Nikulin or Alexander Loginov, who has come seemingly out of nowhere to have a dynamic season at age 28.
Pre-season there may have been hope that a younger NHL player like Alexei Marchenko or Nikita Zadorov would step up in a way that demands a roster spot, but that hasn’t happened. Marchenko has earned a spot on the Detroit blue line, but hasn’t been worthy of a spot in the Russian best-on-best roster. Zadorov hasn’t been able to secure a place on the Colorado blue line and isn’t likely to find his way in here.
Evgeny Medvedev gets a spot, as he’s found a level of comfort in Philadelphia and has been effective there in his debut season in North America. His familiarity with the smaller ice rink may be an asset to the Russian team, which here features three players skating in the KHL.
And that brings us to yet another big question about the Russian blue line: Will Slava Voynov be a part of the roster? On talent alone, he’s worthy of a spot on the team and is easily a top four piece. He additionally gains some importance due to the dearth of right-hand shots for Russia.
Voynov self-deported while facing deportation after serving a jail sentence for a no-contest plea to domestic violence in the U.S. The tournament isn’t in the U.S., so there aren’t likely to be legal issues, but his status with the NHL currently lacks definition.
Possibilities: Igor Bobkov, Anton Khudobin, Ilya Sorokin
It’s a strong trio that Russian can put together. The possible guys who could snag a spot seem like long shots outside of the 20-year-old Islanders prospect Ilya Sorokin, who is highly regarded by scouts and having an outstanding year for CSKA Moscow in the KHL. With Sergei Borovsky’s injury issues this season — he’s missed games three times for a groin injury this season — it’s possible that Sorokin plays his way onto this roster.
More World Cup Roster Projections:
Team Canada World Cup Roster Projection
Team Czech Republic Roster Projection
Team Europe World Cup Roster Projection
Team Finland World Cup Roster Projection
Team North America World Cup Roster Projection
Team Sweden World Cup Roster Projection
Team USA World Cup Roster Projection
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.