By Allan Muir
It won’t be the first time that a host nation has used the Olympics to make a point, but it’s clear the Russians want the world to know that many of its best players skate in their own Kontinental Hockey League.
Nearly half of the 35 players invited today to attend Team Russia’s orientation camp, 17 in total, currently play in the league.
It remains to be seen how many of them will make the final cut, of course, but barring injury, it’s a lock that Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Radulov and Evgeny Kuznetsov will be in Sochi to contend for the gold medal that will be most coveted by the home crowd.
The club, to be coached by 1987 Canada Cup team member Zinetula Bilyaletdinov, will still have an NHL flavor, with Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Sergei Bobrovsky among the headliners. The team also is giving youngsters Nail Yakupov, Vladimir Tarasenko and Slava Voynov a chance to make an impression.
Here’s a list of those invited to camp, which is scheduled to be held in Sochi from Aug. 23-24:
Konstantin Barulin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov, Vasily Koshechkin, Evgeni Nabokov
Evgeny Biryukov, Vyacheslav Voynov, Anton Volchenkov, Sergei Gonchar, Denis Denisov, Alexei Emelin, Andrei Markov, Evgeny Medvedev, Nikita Nikitin, Ilya Nikulin, Eugene Ryasensky, Fedor Tyutin
Artem Anisimov, Michael Varnakov, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, Denis Kokarev, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nikolai Kulemin, Evgeni Malkin, Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Perezhogin, Alexander Popov, Alexander Radulov, Alexander Semin, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alexei Tereshchenko, Viktor Tikhonov, Vadim Shipachev, Nail Yakupov
There weren’t any shocking omissions, although some might be surprised to not see Ilya Bryzgalov, Dmitri Kulikov and Anton Belov on the list.
The defense looks pretty soft and the goaltending comes down to whether Bobrovsky is as good as he looked in his short Vezina Trophy-winning season with Columbus, but there’s an awful lot of firepower up front. Could see the Russians involved in a lot of 6-5 games.
The Blue Jackets were heavily represented, with four current players earning invites. Nikita Nikitin, Artem Anisimov and Fedor Tyutin will join Bobrovsky at camp.