International Ice Hockey Federation

Russia looks to the future

Russia looks to the future

Znarok brings young roster to Cologne

Published 05.05.2017 09:57 GMT+2 | Author Andy Potts
Russia looks to the future
Artemi Panarin will be one of the offensive stars for Russia at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Russia’s roster might have just three 30-somethings as Oleg Znarok tries out the rising stars of the KHL in a championship situation for the first time.

With the 2018 Winter Olympics looming on the horizon, Russia has boldly cut many of its NHL stars and rested several veterans. Throughout the Euro Hockey Tour season, Oleg Znarok’s team has taken a long look at the young talent emerging from the KHL, and that process has continued into the World Championship. It’s true that the likes of SKA St.Petersburg stars Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and Vyacheslav Voynov are unavailable due to injury, but it’s also likely that the two forwards, at least, would be given some time off from a roster which could boast just three players over the age of 30.


Andrei Vasilevski is the man in charge here. The Tampa Bay goalie shot to prominence in Minsk in 2014 when he allowed just one goal in two appearances, making 66 saves in wins over the USA and Germany. Since then, the 22-year-old has established himself in Florida and agreed to join the national team in the expectation that he will be the first-choice goalie. Two KHL youngsters, Ilya Sorokin of CSKA Moscow and Igor Shestyorkin of SKA St. Petersburg will hope for some ice time and a chance to stake a claim for an Olympic call-up.


No place for the injured Vyacheslav Voynov, no place for Nikita Zaitsev after a long season in Toronto. Instead, Ivan Provorov looks like the intriguing call-up this time out. The Philadelphia youngster isn’t all that familiar to many fans in Russia: the Yaroslavl native’s career thus far has been played entirely across the Atlantic and he made his first senior appearances for Russia last weekend in the Czech Hockey Games. Now, the 20-year-old is set to be a key D-man at the Worlds after a breakout season for the Flyers. There’s plenty of scope for more young talent: Magnitogorsk’s Alexei Bereglazov and Viktor Antipin should play a big role, while Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s Vladislav Gavrikov is another coming off a good KHL campaign. Anton Belov, SKA’s former Edmonton Oiler, adds some valuable experience to a young blue line.


After a season of smashing individual scoring records, team captain Sergei Mozyakin would normally be the stand-out star on offence. However, the pulsating play of SKA’s Vadim Shipachyov, Yevgeni Dadonov and Nikita Gusev makes them the line to watch. The chemistry between those three in the KHL was a joy to behold and if that translates onto the international stage, they could provide some of the big memories from Cologne.

Elsewhere, 20-year-old Kirill Kaprizov could be the breakout star of the tournament. After scoring heavily for an inconsistent Salavat Yulaev team in the KHL and impressing again at the World Juniors, he began May by signing a contract with CSKA Moscow and getting the call for his first senior Worlds. A strong showing in Cologne could make him a lock for an Olympic role.

NHL representation could be limited to a single line: Tampa Bay duo Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov will likely form a partnership with either Artemi Panarin (Chicago) or Roman Lyubimov (Philadelphia). Panarin has the World Championship props, having featured on an effective line with Dadonov and Shipachyov in the past; Lyubimov featured in Moscow last season and was part of the most recent Euro Tour roster.

Among Russia’s more renowned NHLers, Alexander Radulov has cried off while he arranges his contract for next season. Space is likely to be left on the roster for Alexander Ovechkin or Yevgeni Malkin to join the team at the end of the on-going Caps – Pens series. 


Oleg Znarok has combined club coaching at SKA St. Petersburg with his role on the national team – and so far, it’s been a success. SKA powered to the Gagarin Cup, Russia dominated the Euro Hockey Tour, and the signs are encouraging for more glory to come. The current season has seen something of a change in Znarok’s style as well. His SKA team was a goal-hungry machine, smashing scoring records in the regular season, and the key Shipachyov-Dadonov-Gusev line is likely to be a key part of a potentially gung-ho Russian offence here.

Projected results

As usual, Russian fans are not discussing whether the team will win hardware; they’re debating the colour of medal that their heroes will bring home. Despite calling up fewer big-name players with NHL experience, the expectation is that this young roster can dominate its group. Progress to the final four feels like a minimum requirement; the prospect of claiming gold will depend on how well Oleg Znarok’s team overcomes its nemeses in previous championships – Finland and Canada, both of which start the tournament in Paris.


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