[ The Bolshoy ice dome ]
There is just something about the Olympic games in Sochi that has us excited. The first step was getting all of the rosters announced. That process was completed on Tuesday, so we wanted to take a quick look at the rosters for all Olympic teams as well as the biggest surprises and omissions from all of the Olympic rosters.
Russia - [ Roster ]
Surprising player to make it - Denis Kokarev. I would much rather have Alexander Semin on my team (see omission) and the choice the the Russian hockey federation to have a split NHL/KHL roster forces some better players who are on NHL rosters off while including some lesser skilled KHL players.
Biggest omission — Alexander Semin. Even though he only has six goals and 18 points so far this season, he is still a dangerous weapon in the opponent’s zone. His omission is more than likely due to the fact that the Russian federation wanted the roster to be half NHL players and half KHL players and someone had to be a casualty. You could also make the argument here for Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Washington Capitals prospect who turned down an offer to join the NHL to stay in Russia and make the Olympic squad.
Slovakia – [ Roster ]
Surprising player to make it - Lubomir Visnovsky. Yes, he isn’t going to go to Sochi regardless due to injury and his inclusion is nothing more than a sign of respect but he’s 37 years old and has lost a step or two over the years. If he were to go to Sochi and play on a larger rink with rosters of all-star players it would be difficult to keep up.
What to watch for – The Slovaks finished fourth in the Vancouver Olympics, losing the Bronze Medal Game to Finland by a score of 5-3. It should be interesting to see if this iteration of the Slovakian team has enough to push them over the edge and take home a medal in Sochi. Also, is Marian Gaborik’s healthy enough to help lead the Slovakian charge?
USA - [ Roster ]
Surprising player to make it – Blake Wheeler. The guy has produced so far this season, leading the Jets in goals (16) and tied with Dustin Byfuglien for second on the team in points (32). I just don’t see how you include him and leave some other names off of the roster. You can also make a solid case for Brooks Orpik.
Biggest omission – You can sit here and argue any one of Keith Yandle, Bobby Ryan, and Kyle Okposo is the biggest American snub and you’d be right. How Poile and Company brought on Wheeler and left off Ryan or Okposo and brought on Orpik over Yandle will be talked about for the rest of the year and further on down the road.
Slovenia – [ Roster ]
Who you know on the roster - Anze Kopitar, an alternate captain for the Los Angeles Kings. His father, Matjaz, is the coach. He also has a brother, Gaspar, who barely missed making the squad.
What to watch for – Slovenia beat out Belarus, Ukraine, and Denmark to qualify for the Olympics and are considered a major underdog in the tournament, especially grouped with Russia, Slovakia, and the United States. Can Slovenia pull off an upset against the United States or Russia in the tournament and make a name for themselves?
Finland – [ Roster ]
Player to watch - Teemu Selanne, playing in his sixth (sixth!) and final Olympic games.
What to watch for – Finland took home the bronze in the 2010 games. It will be very interesting to see if they can knock off Canada, the United States, and Sweden and give Teemu Olympic gold in his final year of competitive hockey.
Canada – [ Roster ]
Surprising player to make it – Chris Kunitz.
Chris Kunitz has scored 46 points in the NHL this season. Sidney Crosby has been on the ice for all of them. Last year at this time it would have been hard to convince a canadian that Kunitz would be on the first line of the Canadian team.
Biggest omission – Claude Giroux
There are a handful of players that got snubbed, but Giroux not making the team is a shock. A few years ago Giroux was thought to be taking the torch from Sidney Crosby. Now, he is sitting at home watching.
Norway – [ Roster ]
Player to watch – Mats Zuccarello. Zuccarello has played well for the Rangers. Another guy that will be fun to watch on the international ice.
Biggest omission – Tore Vikingstad
Vikingstad has the best name in the 2010 Olympics, him not being on this team hurts no one but the people that thought his name was awesome.
Austria – [ Roster ]
Player to watch - Michael Grabner’s speed on International ice. Oh boy.
Biggest Question – Could Austria play the upset role? They have have two solid NHL players in Vanek and Grabner. Could some of that skill be leveraged into a possible upset in the opening round?
Sweden – [ Roster ]
Player to watch – Jimmie Ericsson. He plays for Skelleftea in Sweden and is the only non-NHL roster player to make the squad.
Biggest question - After winning the gold medal in the 2006 Olympics, Sweden was eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Vancouver games. Now reloaded with a stacked roster, they are the heavy favorites to win Group C. Can they make their way through the knockout rounds and get back to the top of the podium?
Czech Republic – [ Roster ]
Surprising player to make it - Petr Nedved. Holy crap, this guy still plays hockey?! Between him and Jagr what do they put in the water in that country?! He’s at least a silver medalist in the Olympics… when he played for Canada in 1994.
What to watch for – The Czechs should be able to get a bye into the second round but how many top-tier nations can they upset?
Switzerland – [ Roster ]
Player to watch – Jonas Hiller. Hiller damn near almost upset team Canada in the 2010 Olympics, he’ll give the Swiss a chance.
Biggest question – Can the Swiss win a game?
Brutal draw in what maybe the best group of the Olympics. The swiss have the goaltending, but when up against the Czech’s and team Sweden they may be outclassed
Latvia – [ Roster ]
Player to watch – Sandis Ozolinsh. The ageless Ozolinsh will have his last shot with team Latvia. He was always a fun player to watch in the NHL.
Biggest question – Will Latvia score? Poor Latvia comes in as one of the last teams to qualify, and they won’t likely be around for long. If they get more than 5 goals in the opening round it might be a win for the program.