Stephen Whyno and the Assosciated Press today report that Bill Daly, Deputy Commissioner of the NHL, has said that no NHL-contracted player can be released to play in the Olympics. Not even players in the minors.
This means players signed to two-way NHL contracts or who are loaned to minor league affiliates by their clubs won’t be available to the United States, Canada or other national teams. The AHL said earlier this summer that general managers could decide to allow players on AHL contracts to play in South Korea.
This comes as Team Canada was wrapping up their participation in the Sochi Cup with a 3-2 loss to Russia-B. Who? What?
Russia-B is the second string Russian Natioanal Team, also known as the Russian Olympic team. Most of the time, they use the team as a U25 squad to have a chance to get the young prospects together, play and train as a group and participate in some of the friendlies that make up the KHL preseason.
The Sochi Cup is one such event. It’s usually a few KHL teams and Russia-B. The KHL clubs sometimes send a roster heavy with youth, and they all play in the Olympic venue in the summer resort town of Sochi.
This year, Canada sent a team of most of their Olympic prospects to get some game time together. Today, in front of a resort crowd still in their summer clothes as if they’d come straight from the beach, the Russian squad beat the Canadians at their own game: truculence, nastiness and pushing and shoving were well displayed, and the Russian youth are not shy about starting it.
Yegor Korshkov was there to represent the Blue Maple Leaf, the colour that matters, and he had a quiet game today. His line, his usual crew from Lokomotiv, saw low ice time, but Korshkov was prominent on the first power play unit.
He did get into it in one of the big almost-brawls. He’s the one on the bottom of the pile, and the two Canadians who took him down are two of the smaller players on the team.
In an earlier match, his line were prominent (He’s #64 in this event):
Выход 1 в 1 от Коршкова - это без шансов! Вот так сделали 2:0 в матче с "Сочи": pic.twitter.com/npz7q4tsKn— Хоккей России (@russiahockey) August 5, 2017
Brandon Kozun, also of Lokomotiv, had two assists for Canada today, and he should be one of the top players on the team. Canada had Kevin Poulin in net, a goalie of minor AHL quality, who played a few KHL games last year and doesn’t seem to have a contract for this year. He’s not of the calibre of the Russian prospects, so while the Russians won it, it was Canada who had the tighter system on the ice, and they played very evenly against a good team with some recent NHL and AHL level players.
Canada also beat Sochi HC 1-0 in an earlier game on a goal by Jesse Blacker.
You can see the full team Canada roster here for an idea of who will form the nucleus of the team that goes to the Olympics with no NHL players included. While it sure looks like Russia could send three teams and win all three medals, Team Canada is better on the ice than they are on paper. Add a better goalie, and they might just have something.
The best part of this game for me, by far, was when I realized #25 wasn’t Max Talbot as I’d expected, but was in fact, Wojtek Wolski, who was very effective in the game, speeding around and providing chippy offence. Wolski suffered a terrible injury in the KHL last October, and most assumed his playing days were over. They very much aren’t, and that was a good sight to see.
Meanwhile, the only nagging question left is: What about players on NHL ELCs but on loan to European teams or to junior hockey?