The Russian team has been cut from the invited players, cleared by the IOC to play. While Russia is questioning some players left off that invite list — which should not be seen as the same as a ban, they haven’t been — they’ve also released a roster for the men’s tournament, with the women’s to come later today.
My speculation on the list of players Russia wanted, but are not allowed to come is that they were out of Russia, and out of doping control for some period of time, and it’s a lack of clean tests, not a lack of tests that were clean that’s at issue in many cases.
The team is largely similar to the one they sent to the last Euro Hockey Tour event, with a heavy emphasis on players from SKA St. Petersburg and Moscow CSKA, the two top KHL teams in the West.
Surprises include the lack of Vladimir Tkachyov, who was on the invite list. He is a centre, plays what would be a more depth role on some of the Western teams, but on Ak Bars, he’s in the top six and succeeding. He turned down the Leafs last summer and signed a deal in Russia, perhaps hoping he’d end up at the Olympics. Also missing is his teammate Andrei Markov, who couldn’t get a deal from the Canadiens this season and left for the KHL. He was not on the invite list.
The Russians are following through with adding some youth, most notably in Kirill Kaprizov, a Minnesota Wild draft pick. Recent NHL players include Nikita Nesterov, who couldn’t crack the Montréal defence corps, Alexei Marchenko, ditto with Toronto, Mikhail Grigorenko, part of the take for Ryan O’Reilly for the Avalanche, and Sergei Kalinin, who had a very brief career on the Marlies.
Without question, this is the deepest, most talented team at the Olympics. The few players they may have wanted and couldn’t have were easily replaced from the invite list, and the scoring punch with Gusev, Kovalchuk and Mozyakin is impressive, even before you get to the depth, which contains some excellent players.
Their goaltending is young and expert, and will be up to the task. Their defence is more unknown to North American fans, but it’s a good group, with most of the top team’s top guys.
This has to be the overwhelming favourite to win gold.
Edited to add, here’s the roster with team affiliation, if you want a visual of how heavily they drew from the two super teams in the KHL.