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World Cup

Youthful boost likely for Team Russia

Panarin, Kucherov, Kuznetsov expected to join Ovechkin, Malkin at World Cup

by Vassili Ossipov / Staff Writer

Team Russia World Cup Outlook

Pressure is off Team Russia for World Cup of Hockey senior writer Dan Rosen with his early outlook for Team Russia for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey

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At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Russia was eliminated before the medal round, losing 3-1 to Finland in the quarterfinals. The Russians played more as a collection of individuals than as a cohesive unit, and the high hopes as host were not met. The early exit caused much soul-searching on the part of everyone involved with the program. 

At the 2016 World Cup of Hockey in Toronto this September, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Vladimir Tarasenko and others will be looking to redeem themselves. 

The core of the Sochi team should be back at the World Cup. Artemi Panarin, Nikita Kucherov and Evgeny Kuznetsov, younger forwards who have matured into dominant players, could be among the additions.

Team Russia should be a strong, deep, hardworking squad that will stack up well against any competition and has a solid chance of winning the tournament. 

Here is what the Team Russia roster could look like in Toronto (alphabetically by position): 


Artem Anisimov, Chicago Blackhawks, C -- A solid two-way center who will give Team Russia depth in the middle, Anisimov is a bit prone to injury. When healthy, he can be helpful on either side of the ice; he has vastly improved his defensive skills. The 27-year-old Yaroslavl native is reliable, disciplined and very experienced in international play (two IIHF World Junior Championship appearances, three IIHF World Championship appearances, 2014 Sochi Olympics). 

Pavel Datsyuk, Detroit Red Wings, C -- With arguably the best hands in hockey over the past decade, the 37-year-old has battled injuries in recent years but continues to be a puck-handling magician who possesses outstanding defensive instincts. If healthy, he will be one of the key weapons in Russia's powerful offense. 

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals, C - The 23-year-old has drastically improved this season and can be absolutely dazzling at times with his elite puck-handling and playmaking ability. His dynamic skill set will make Team Russia dangerous offensively. He may be the key to helping Ovechkin, his Capitals teammate, excel on the international stage.

Video: WSH@DET: Kuznetsov uses speed and skill score in OT

Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins, C -- Despite being plagued by injuries the past few seasons, Malkin possesses the combination of intimidating size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds), dazzling puck-handling ability and elite vision of the ice. He is considered one of the best players in the NHL. Malkin, 29, will undoubtedly be Team Russia's go-to guy in Toronto. 

Ilya Kovalchuk, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL), LW -- Kovalchuk is a pure goal-scorer who can erupt at any time. A rare blend of skill, speed and strength, Kovalchuk, 32, has represented Russia at the Olympics three times, including the bronze medal-winning team at Salt Lake City in 2002, nine World Championships, one World Junior Championship and the 2004 World Cup. He will be looking to make an impact and erase bad memories from the 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi Olympics. 

Nikolay Kulemin, New York Islanders, LW -- A solid, versatile, defensive-minded forward, Kulemin, 29, is a very mobile skater with a sharp sense of anticipation. He makes responsible decisions with the puck, works hard in the corners, and possesses a strong work ethic. He will be given key defensive responsibilities against the best opponents. 

Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals, LW -- One of the NHL's most dominating players of the past decade and the most recent addition to its 500-goal club, Ovechkin has not been as successful on the international stage. The Capitals captain and the leading Russian goal-scorer in NHL history will have a lot to prove come September. It's up to Team Russia coach Oleg Znarok to figure out the best linemates for him to take advantage of his elite scoring ability. 

Artemi Panarin, Chicago Blackhawks, LW -- The rookie has adjusted to the NHL game quicker than expected and has become a big-time scoring threat. Panarin's passing, puck-handling and vision on the ice are phenomenal. He is a leading candidate to win the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. 

Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay Lightning, RW -- The 22-year-old wing from Moscow is an absolute dynamo with his speed, skill and hockey sense. Kucherov's continuing growth in the past year is nothing short of outstanding. He quickly became one of the top six forwards for the Lightning and often their go-to guy in crucial moments. 

Valeri Nichushkin, Dallas Stars, RW -- With great size (6-4, 210) and skill, Nichushkin, 20, draws comparisons to Ovechkin and Malkin. He is an excellent skater with quickness, agility, a dangerous shot and good playmaking ability. He played eight games in 2014-15 because of hip surgery, but he is regaining his skillful touch and has the potential to be a top-six forward. 

Alexander Radulov, CSKA Moscow (KHL), RW -- When it comes to professional hockey players outside the NHL, Radulov, 29, is among the best. He is a veteran of international play since the junior level, winning a silver medal at the 2005 and 2006 World Juniors. His explosive, physical style, combined with his speed and ability to score, makes him someone opponents will have to worry about. 

Vladimir Tarasenko, St Louis Blues, RW -- Tarasenko has an amazing, quick-release shot with superb accuracy. Since signing an eight-year contract with St. Louis in July, he has not succumbed to the pressure to perform and continues to produce. Tarasenko, 24, could emerge as one of the elite players at the World Cup 2016. 


Anton Belov, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL) -- The former Edmonton Oilers defenseman will bring size (6-4, 218) and toughness. Considered one of the top defensemen not playing in the NHL, he is capable of containing top forwards and can give Team Russia depth on the penalty kill. Last season, he helped his team win its first Gagarin Cup as champions of the Kontinental Hockey League. 

Alexei Emelin, Montreal Canadiens -- Emelin is known for his rugged style of play, which Team Russia certainly can use. He has established himself as a solid contributor on the Canadiens defense, often playing with countryman Andrei Markov. Emelin, 29, is prone to injuries because he sacrifices his body a lot delivering hits and blocking shots. If he stays healthy, he will be a valuable asset. 

Dmitry Kulikov, Florida Panthers - A big shot from the point is one of the key assets for Kulikov, 25. He is also an outstanding, well-rounded skater with excellent mobility. He likes to jump in and take part in the offensive side of things. He will bring depth and agility to the Team Russia blue line.

Video: FLA@NJD: Kulikov beats Schneider from the circle

Alexey Marchenko, Detroit Red Wings -- Marchenko is finally becoming a full-time Red Wings defenseman after dealing with serious injuries and showing a great deal of patience while being shuttled between the NHL and the American Hockey League. He plays with confidence, can make great first pass out of the defensive zone, and is good at getting in the shooting lanes to block shots. 

Andrei Markov, Montreal Canadiens -- One of the alternate captains for the Canadiens, Markov will be a key piece of Team Russia's power play; he often is in charge of playmaking responsibilities on the man-advantage. He has overcome multiple knee injuries, and at 37 continues to be one of Montreal's top two defensemen. 

Nikita Nesterov, Tampa Bay Lightning -- A quality puck-mover, Nesterov, 22, possesses very good hockey sense and can join the rush to provide offense. He can also be an asset on the power play and provide an aggressive, physical presence on the back end. His main flaw at this point is a lack of consistency, which should come with experience. 

Dmitry Orlov, Washington Capitals - Mobile and aggressive, Orlov displays all-around ability on the ice. Orlov can put up solid offensive numbers and also play a physical game from the back end. He will not hesitate to hit opponents in open ice. Orlov is capable of playing one of the key roles on the Team Russia defense. 


Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets -- The only Russian to win the Vezina Trophy, Bobrovsky, 27, has established himself as the country's No. 1 goaltender. He has struggled through an injury-plagued season but is known to quickly get back in shape. There is a chance Bobrovsky will be back on top of his game by the start of the tournament. 

Semyon Varlamov, Colorado Avalanche -- After a strong 2013-14 season, when he set an Avalanche record for wins (41), Varlamov, 27, struggled at times last season, and Colorado missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But he has bounced back and is having a strong season while trying to help the Avalanche get back into the playoff hunt. 

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay Lightning -- Russia's most talented young goaltender, the 21-year-old has a fair share of high-profile games on his international resume, mainly at World Juniors. This season, Vasilevskiy has served as a solid backup to Ben Bishop. He will be the third goalie in Toronto to help further his development.

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