Team Russia in the modern day has a ton of skill up front and has had good hockey teams.Russia won gold at the 2012 and 2014 IIHF World Championships.It is a known fact that most of the top players from the best hockey countries are competing for the Stanley Cup during the World Championships. However, it is still impressive to win the tournament no matter who is playing.
As a result of World Championship success, Team Russia is currently ranked 2nd by the IIHF. However, at the Winter Olympics, when the stage is the highest, the team has struggled. Russia was eliminated by Canada in the 2010 Vancouver quarterfinals and 2014 Sochi quarterfinals by Finland. Will the 2016 World Cup of Hockey be a better tournament for the Russians?
Despite not reaching expectations at the past two Olympics, Russia is going to be a contender at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. The emergence of Vladimir Tarasenko and Nikita Kucherov will add to the already stacked and potent offense. Goaltending is as strong as it has ever been with two top goalies in net. The question for Team Russia will be on defense. Here is a list of the current top 10 Russians playing in the NHL.
10) Fedor Tyutin
Fedor Tyutin has really improved his game in recent years. The last three seasons, he has been a plus defenseman and a solid defender on the back-end for Columbus. Tyutin has also contributed offensively. This past year, he had 15 points in 67 games and was a plus 8.
He is a good body checker as well and is positionally sound. The veteran averaged just under 20:00 of ice time this past season for Columbus. He will likely be relied upon from the blueline on the 2nd or 3rd defense pairing for Team Russia in the Fall of 2016.
9) Evgeny Kuznetsov
The former 2010 first-round draft pick made a name for himself during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. He followed up his best year as a pro by scoring clutch goals and establishing himself in Washington’s top 6 forward group.
His speed and skill was on full display in the playoffs as the 23-year-old was very impressive. In his first full season with the Caps, Kuznetsov scored 11 goals, 26 assists, 37 points, was a plus 10 and added 4 goals on the power-play in 80 games.
In the playoffs, Kuznetsov continued to gain the trust of Head Coach Barry Trotz and saw increased ice time which led to more production offensively. He tallied 7 points in 14 playoff games for Washington. Look for Kuznetsov to have a big year next season for the Capitals.
8) Semyon Varlamov
Semyon Varlamov was a huge factor during the Colorado Avalanche’s surprising playoff berth in 2013-2014. He was spectacular.
He finished the season with a 41-14-6 record with a 2.41GAA and .927 save %. The Russian netminder is a big goalie at 6’2 and was not the reason the Avs took a step back this past season. Varlamov was solid despite his average record. He posted a 28-20-8 record with a 2.56 GAA and .921 save %.
If the Avalanche are going to get back to the post season in the tough Western Conference, Varlamov has to play at a very high level next year.
7) Andrei Markov
The 36-year-old two-time All-Star still has it. Markov is a puck-mover that is still capable of being an effective power-play defenseman. Markov had a very good season this past year. In 81 games, Markov had 10 goals, 40 assists, 50 points and was a plus 22. Markov also played a ton of ice time for the Habs. The career-long Montreal Canadien signed a three-year extension with Montreal in the Summer of 2014.
6) Nikita Kucherov
Where do I start with the rising star of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Triplets Line? As a rookie in 2013-2014, Kucherov was on the fast track to the NHL. Earlier in the year coach Cooper talked about how Kucherov did a lot of maturing and growing to his game at the NHL level.
He played one year in the QJMJHL (2012-2013) and dominated, averaging close to two points per game. The following season after just 17 games in the AHL he was called up to the Lightning. He started to learn how he has to play at the NHL level that year and had a respectable 18 points in 52 games as a 20-year-old.
This past season Kucherov started the year on the 3rd line playing with fellow Russian Vladislav Namestnikov. Early in the year after an Alex Killorn injury, Kucherov was given a chance to play with Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat on the Tampa 2nd line. Kucherov found instant chemistry with the two and never looked back. What followed was the emergence of the best line in the NHL last year.
Kucherov had some very impressive numbers. The young Russian scored 29 goals, 36 assists, 65 points and was a plus 38. In his first deep playoff run he was just as good. Kucherov netted a highly impressive 22 points in 26 playoff games and had 3-game-winning-goals. Look for Kucherov to continue his rise to superstardom next season for the Bolts.
5) Sergei Bobrovsky
Bobrovsky won the Vezina Trophy in his first season with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013. The 26-year-old Russian posted a 21-11-6 record with a 2.00 GAA and a .932 save %. Bobrovsky is a goalie that has great composure and has good size and vision in the crease. He has been the Blue Jackets MVP since his arrival a few years ago. Columbus is a strong candidate to return to the playoffs next season and Bobrovsky will be a key player for them.
4) Vladimir Tarasenko
This past season Tarasenko went from rising star to superstar for the Blues. Tarasenko possesses tremendous skill, stickhandling ability and is a sniper. The 23-year-old scored 37 goals, 36 assists, 73 points, and was a plus 27 this past year. The emergence of Tarasenko with the addition of Paul Stastny seemed to be reasons why the Blues were to make a deep playoff run. They were eliminated in 6 games to the Wild in Round 1. However, it was not at all because of lack of production from their star. Tarasenko scored 6 goals in the 6-game-series and will look to reach the 40-goal mark next year and lead the Blues to a much needed deeper playoff run.
3) Pavel Datsyuk
The key for Datsyuk is staying healthy. Even as he is entering his age 37 season, he is as dangerous with the puck on his stick as anyone in the game. The “Magic Man” is truly a magician with the puck on his stick. He can make plays and dangles that only Pavel Datsyuk can. Datsyuk also is a strong backchecker and excellent defensive forward. He can take the puck away from an opposing player out of nowhere. Datsyuk has two Stanley Cups, three Selke Trophies, and four Lady Byng Trophies to his great career. His best offensive seasons were in 2008 and 2009 when he scored 97 points in each season. This past season, Datsyuk appeared in 63 games for the Red Wings and scored 65 points.
2) Evgeni Malkin
Evgeni Malkin is an elite talent in hockey today. His skating, skill, and great shot sets him apart from many. Malkin has won the Calder, Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe, two Art Ross Trophies and the Hart Trophy. It was shocking that he was held without a point in the playoffs this year against the New York Rangers. Malkin is usually at his best in the playoffs and has incredible playoff stats. In 101 playoff games, Malkin has 111 points and nine game-winning goals. In nine seasons in Pittsburgh, Malkin has scored 100 plus points in three seasons. Changes may be on the way in Pittsburgh as a result of recent seasons. Look for Malkin to play very determined hockey next year for the Penguins along with Sidney Crosby as the two will be heavily relied on in a tough Metropolitan Division.
1) Alexander Ovechkin
As Alexander Ovechkin enters his age 30 season, there is no doubt that a Stanley Cup Championship is the only thing on his mind. The guy has so much passion for the game of hockey and not many enjoy scoring goals more than number 8. Ovechkin is simply the best goal scorer in the world and is a force whenever he steps on the ice. His great skating ability, goal-scoring, and heavy hitting truly makes him a unique talent.
Ovechkin is a 3-time league MVP and 5-time Maurice Rocket Richard Winner as the NHL’s leader in goals. Last year may have been Ovechkin’s best year in the NHL. He scored 53 goals, 28 assists, and 81 points. “The Great 8” was a plus 10 and really started to play a two-way game and team first concept.
Ovechkin has bought into the system of his new head coach Barry Trotz and the two seemed to develop a good relationship on and off the ice. The Caps are a team that is very dangerous right now in the Eastern Conference. Ovechkin will look to lead the Caps to the Eastern Conference Final and Stanley Cup Final next season. With the rise of Braden Holtby and improved Caps defense, Ovechkin and the Caps have a very good chance next year to reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Will Voynov Return to The NHL Next Year?
A very good defenseman that was not included on this top 10 list until he plays hockey again in an NHL game is Slava Voynov, 2-time Stanley Cup Champion with the LA Kings. I believe if Voynov can get his game back to top form than he will be the x-factor for Russia at the World Cup of Hockey.Russia is weakest on defense and if Voynov is back next year in the NHL and can play at a high level, Russia could be highly competitive.