With the NHL season underway, the anticipation for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics grows larger. NHL players will suit up for their countries in the Olympics for the first time since 2014. This series will dive deeper into my projected roster and why I chose certain players and left others out.
The Beijing Olympics will take place February 4th to February 20th, 2022. Team Russia will be out for redemption after finishing sixth in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, which was the last time NHL players participated in the Games.
Russia’s 2022 Olympic roster may be absent of Russian legends like Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, but there are enough familiar faces and exciting new talent to have fans excited for the tournament.
Here’s my projected Olympic roster for Team Russia:
Projected Team Russia Olympic Roster
|Alex Ovechkin||Evgeni Malkin||Nikita Kucherov|
|Artemi Panarin||Vladislav Namestnikov||Andrei Svechnikov|
|Kirill Kaprizov||Ivan Barbashev||Vladimir Tarasenko|
|Pavel Buchnevich||Mikhail Grigorenko||Denis Gurianov|
|Evgeni Dadonov||Alexander Radulov|
|Ivan Provorov||Mikhail Sergachev||Andrei Vasilevskiy|
|Dmitry Orlov||Nikita Zadorov||Igor Shesterkin|
|Alex Romanov||Nikita Zaitsev||Semyon Varlamov|
|Vladislav Gavrikov||Artyom Zub|
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeni Malkin – Nikita Kucherov
Although Team Canada may have the Olympics’ fastest line, the Russians may possess the best goal-scoring line. Alex Ovechkin, a nine time Rocket Richard trophy winner, will lead the Russians at the 2022 Olympics. Ovechkin is the best all-time pure goal scorer and an elite scoring threat at 5v5 and on the powerplay. He’ll get a chance to play with Evgeni Malkin, who is third all-time on the Penguins in assists and points. Nikita Kucherov, who possess a similar threat to Ovechkin on the opposite wing, rounds out the top line. Ovi and Malkin certainly aren’t lacking size either and will add a physical dimension to this lethal line.
Artemi Panarin – Vladislav Namestnikov – Andrei Svechnikov
Outside of a thin blueline, Russia’s biggest weakness going into the Olympics will be center depth. This starts to show immediately after the first-line. Namestnikov isn’t bad, but teams like Canada and USA have players like Crosby, Point, Larkin etc centering their second and third lines. Despite the weak center depth, the Russians certainly don’t lack talent on their wings throughout their forward group. Former Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin headlines what should be a quality second-line for Russia with youngster Andrei Svechnikov on the right side. Svechnikov’s bigger style of play and ability to play both down-low and in-front makes him an ideal winger alongside Panarin, who plays a much stronger perimeter game.
Kirill Kaprizov – Ivan Barbashev – Vladimir Tarasenko
Although inconsistent at times, Ivan Barbashev could become a valuable third-line center with this combination of forwards. At his best, Barbashev is a solid forechecker who generates chances in the offensive zone for his linemates. Kaprizos profiles as both a playmaker and goal-scorer, making him a dual threat. That should open up a bit more space for Tarasenko, who was once a 40-goal-scorer. Its a third-line with big upside if Barbashev and Tarasenko can play up to their potential.
Pavel Buchnevich – Mikhail Grigorenko – Denis Gurianov
At first glance, it may not look like much of a fourth-line since Buchnevich, Grigorenko, or Guiranov aren’t incredibly well-known. This line, however, would have the ability to stir things up quite a bit. Both Buchnevich and Gurianov are coming off career seasons and continue to develop their games at the NHL level. Gurianov, a former first-round pick, is finally showing off the reasons he was drafted top-15 back in 2015. Meanwhile, Grigorenko should serve as a solid enough fourth-line center.
BACKHAND BEAUTY ✅
— NHL (@NHL) October 23, 2021
Evgeni Dadonov, Alexander Radulov
The wing position proves to be the Russians biggest strength at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. Radulov can contribute offensively while playing a pesky and more physical game. Dadonov, meanwhile, can add some speed and skill if needed.
Ivan Provorov – Mikhail Sergachev
Luckily for the Russians, Ivan Provorov and Mikhail Sergachev love to eat minutes. Also luckily, both players are adept at contributing on both sides of the ice. Provorov and Sergachev should each expect 20-plus minutes a game with Russia’s lackluster defense. It’s certainly the Russians most vulnerable position at Beijing. Whether the Russians decide to stack up on their first defense pairing remains to be seen, but considering these two are going to receive loads of ice time, why not make the most of it and play them together?
Dmitry Orlov- Nikita Zadorov
Orlov has been a steady contributor for the Capitals over the years and has enough experience to be the team’s number three defensemen. Orlov is also accustomed to handling a good workload when it comes to TOI, which will prove valuable to Russia. Zadorov, on the other hand, has his blemishes. Zadorov’s huge size, physical play, and range are all qualities the Russians certainly won’t hate to have. It’s the mistakes (and lack of footspeed), particularly, in his own zone that causes concern for a second-pairing defensemen.
What a shot! pic.twitter.com/7MnnWmez5U
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 12, 2021
Alex Romanov – Nikita Zaitsev
Romanov has proved he can dominate for the Russians on the world stage once before; however, that was juniors. The Olympic competition is much better, more experienced, and more skilled than before. Furthermore, Romanov hasn’t quite had the NHL success many Canadian fans were hoping for. He’s at least become an NHL regular and can log heavy minutes. Zaitsev will play an important role on this Russian blueline, as he is the only Russian defensemen who is right-handed. He’ll add versatility in that way and has proved with the Senators he can play at the NHL level.
Vladislav Gavrikov – Artyom Zub
An injury to any starting defenseman would severely hurt the Russians, as they are already brutally thin at the position. The extras aren’t super tantalizing either, but can probably carve out a role as the sixth guy on the blueline.
If there’s anyone who can bail out a subpar defense, it’s the best goalie in the world. Having Vasilevskiy is a major boost for the Russians, as he figures to cover up some defensive blemishes. He’s arguably the most important piece to this team and the no-brainer choice to start in net.
Most teams traveling to the Olympics won’t fall short in the depth department when it comes to goaltending. The Russians have always had strong netminders, which holds true in this case. Shestyorkin burst onto the scene in New York and earned himself a handsome contract as a result. He is just as suitable as starter as he is a backup for this Russian squad.
There are so many layers of excellence to this Shesterkin save you could write your goalie thesis on it. The rotation and reloading for the second push is physical poetry. pic.twitter.com/p84tZYdqpb
— Paul Campbell (@WayToGoPaul) October 22, 2021
Playing for Russia instead of a Barry Trotz coached Islanders team is going to be a big transition for Varlamov. Although he’s had to bail out his Islander teammates many times before, Russia’s defense is a different animal. It’s unlikely this Russian team will be as talented and/or committed to a defensive structure like the Isles. Regardless, Varlamov has proved his worth over the years and as a result gets the third spot in net.
PP1: Alexander Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Radulov, Mikhail Sergachev
PP2: Artemi Panarin, Andrei Svechnikov, Vladimir Tarasenko, Kirill Kaprizov, Ivan Provorov
Pavel Datsyuk, Dmitry Kulikov, Ilya Mikheyev, Sergei Bobrovsky, Valeri Nichushkin, Vasili Podkolzin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Slava Voynov, Nikita Nesterov.
Undoubtedly, the three biggest names left off of this Russian team are Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Sergei Bobrovsky. I wouldn’t be shocked however, to see any of the aforementioned names in Beijing come February. Personally, Datsyuk and Kovalchuk lack the speed that players like Buchnevich, Gurianov, and Kaprizov bring to the lineup. When considering the high-end speed and talent on teams like USA and Canada, the Russians are much better suited with younger skaters. They have better legs despite the creativity and goal scoring prowess of Datsyuk and Kovalchuk, respectively.
When it comes to Bobrovsky, his lack of consistency over the last few years has put him out of favor compared to Varlamov. The Isles’ netminder has been the more steady and reliable goalie. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bobrovsky make the squad, however, as he has more potential to be the show-stopping netminder.