For a team whose primary NHL representatives were defensive standouts like Semyon Varlamov, Nikita Nikitin and Alexei Yemelin, Russia just got a serious infusion of offensive firepower.
The IIHF confirmed Thursday that Team Russia's roster for the 2012 IIHF World Championship will include Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin, the odds-on favorite to take home the Hart Trophy.
Other than Varlamov, Nikitin and Yemelin, the only current NHL players previously listed on Russia's World Championship roster were forwards Nikolai Kulemin and Alexander Burmistrov, who last season established new career highs with 13 goals and 28 points with Winnipeg. For now, the roster consists of players drawn from the Kontinental Hockey League, some of whom have NHL experience, including Nikolay Zherdev, Dmitri Kalinin, and Alexander Svitov.
Also on display will be 19-year-old Evgeny Kuznetsov, a 2010 first-round pick of the Washington Capitals considered one of the NHL's top young prospects who in January was named most valuable player at the 2012 World Junior Championship.
One player who will not be leading Russia at the tournament, to be held in Helsinki and Stockholm, is forward Alexander Radulov, whose Nashville Predators face the Phoenix Coyotes in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Radulov had been a mainstay on the Russian national team since 2007, a run that included back-to-back World Championship gold medals in 2008 and 2009.
While the Russia just added some world-class offensive talent, Canada built up their blue line. Added to the roster were Chicago's Duncan Keith, Toronto's Luke Schenn and San Jose's Marc-Edouard Vlasic, along with Chicago forward Patrick Sharp. The additions give Canada seven defensemen, a corps bolstered by the presence of Ryan Murray. NHL Central Scouting's top-rated defenseman for the 2012 NHL Draft was one of two non-NHL camp invitees who will participate in Canada's pre-tournament exhibition in Switzerland. The other is Adam Mitchell, a Colgate University graduate who this past season played for Mannheim Eagles in Germany.
Sweden added a pair of Blackhawks to its roster -- forward Viktor Stalberg and defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. It will be the first World Championship for both players.