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Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov and Andrei Vasilevskiy named to Team Russia World Cup team

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

Team Russia announced an all-NHL team in naming the first 16 players to its 2016 World Cup of Hockey roster Wednesday.

Coach Oleg Znarok named all three goalies, three defenseman and 10 of the 13 forwards that will on the 23-man roster, which must be finalized by June 1.

Russia is loaded with superstars up front, including the League's top goal scorer in Alex Ovechkin, the League's top rookie point-getter in Artemi Panarin of the Chicago Blackhawks, as well as elite playmaker Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings, veteran forward Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins and younger sensation Evgeni Kuznetsov, also of the Capitals.

The Russians have struggled at recent Olympic tournaments; they haven't won a medal since 2002 when they took bronze at Salt Lake City. Since then, Russia has finished fourth (2006, Turin), sixth (2010, Vancouver) and fifth (2014, Sochi). The finish at Sochi was a hard pill to swallow, and eight of the players named Wednesday were on that team and will be looking for redemption.

The Russians used nine players from their domestic league, the Kontinental Hockey League, in the Sochi Olympics. It remains to be seen how many KHL players will make this roster; there are several high-profile NHL-based Russians that have not been named.

All three goalies, however, will be based in North America for the 2016 World Cup. Two years ago at the Olympics it was Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche, Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Alexander Yeryomenko of Dynamo Moscow. Andrei Vasilevskiy, the backup for the Tampa Bay Lightning, takes the third-goalie spot over Yeryomenko.

Biggest Strength: Offense. The Russians have the skill to score at will. Ovechkin has scored 40 goals in the NHL eight times, eclipsing that mark this season in February. The 10 forwards named have 204 goals combined this season.

Biggest Weakness: Defending. The Russians have two defenseman in the League that play more than 20 minutes per game this season: Andrei Markov of the Montreal Canadiens and Dmitry Kulikov of the Florida Panthers.

Biggest Surprise: Vladislav Namestnikov. The 23-year-old forward with the Lightning has never played for the men's senior national team and has 108 games of NHL experience.

Biggest Omission: Valeri Nichushkin. The Dallas Stars forward has 24 points this season in his comeback from an injury last season that limited him to eight games. If no KHL players are named in the next round, Russian-based forward Ilya Kovalchuk will take this honor.

Roster

Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets, G

Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche, G

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning, G

Dmitry Kulikov, Florida Panthers, D

Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens, D

Dmitry Orlov, Washington Capitals, D

Artem Anisimov, Chicago Blackhawks, F

Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings, F

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning, F

Nikolay Kulemin, New York Islanders, F

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals, F

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins, F

Vladislav Namestnikov, Tampa Bay Lightning, F

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals, F

Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks, F

Vladimir Tarasenko, St. Louis Blues, F

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