Russia, which will play as ROC in Beijing due to on-going doping sanctions, unveiled its 25-strong party on Sunday evening. Alexei Zhamnov’s team includes several players who won gold in PyeongChang four years ago, including defensemen Slava Voynov, Yegor Yakovlev, plus forwards Sergei Andronov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Gusev and Vadim Shipachyov. Russia’s rising stars also get their chance, with Spartak’s Alexander Nikishin (20) and Traktor’s Sergei Telegin (21) selected on defense and forwards Kirill Marchenko (21), Arseny Gritsyuk (20) and Dmitry Voronkov (21) also on the list. The full line-up looks like this:
Goalkeepers: Alexander Samonov (SKA), Timur Bilyalov (Ak Bars), Ivan Fedotov (CSKA).
Defensemen: Alexander Nikishin (Spartak), Vyacheslav Voynov (Dynamo Moscow), Alexander Yelesin (Lokomotiv), Artyom Minulin, Yegor Yakovlev (both Metallurg), Nikita Nesterov (CSKA), Sergei Telegin (Traktor), Damir Sharipzyanov (Avangard).
Forwards: Sergei Andronov, Mikhail Grigorenko, Pavel Karnaukhov, Sergei Plotnikov, Anton Slepyshev (all CSKA), Artyom Anisimov, Artur Kayumov (both Lokomotiv), Nikita Gusev, Kirill Marchenko (both SKA), Dmitry Voronkov (Ak Bars), Vadim Shipachyov (Dynamo Moscow), Arseniy Gritsyuk, Kirill Semyonov (both Avangard), Andrei Chibisov (Metallurg).
Reserve: Dmitry Shugayev (Severstal), Semyon Chistyakov (Avangard), Andrei Kuzmenko (SKA), Stanislav Galiyev (Dynamo Moscow), Vladimir Tkachyov (Traktor), Alexander Kadeikin (Salavat Yulaev) Head coach: Alexei Zhamnov
With Jokerit riding high in the Western Conference, not to mention a wealth of Finnish talent elsewhere in the league, it’s no surprise that the Leijonat selection has a strong KHL accent. With 18 of Jukka Jalonen’s 25-strong party currently employed by our clubs, it’s likely that only Russia and China will boast a bigger KHL contingent.
All three Finnish goalies — Juho Olkinuora, Harri Sateri and Frans Tuohimaa — play in the KHL. On defense, Jokerit Niklas Friman and Petteri Lindbohm are joined by Valterri Kemilainen (Vityaz), Ville Pokka (Avangard) and Mikko Lehtonen (SKA). Up front, Salavat Yulaev’s renowned trio of Teemu Hartikainen, Markus Granlund and Sakari Manninen are likely to lead the way. Vityaz duo Niko Ojamaki and Miro Aaltonen are on the team, as are Jokerit’s Marko Anttila, Hannes Bjorninen and Iiro Pakarinen. SKA duo Joonas Kemppainen and Leo Komarov complete the KHL party.
Sweden’s roster was something of a surprise to many, with Johan Garpenlov’s team under intense scrutiny back home. The Tre Kronor will have eight KHL players in China, but many have queried why the likes of Klas Dahlbeck, Oscar Lindberg or Malte Stromwall are missing from the Olympic party. Sweden’s selection includes three KHL goalies — Lars Johansson (SKA), Adam Reideborn (CSKA) and Magnus Hellberg (Sochi). There are also D-men Lukas Bengtsson (Dinamo Minsk), Oscar Fantenberg (SKA) and Linus Hultstrom (Metallurg). CSKA forwards Lucas Wallmark and Joakim Nordstrom complete the KHL contingent.
Team Slovakia is gambling on youth, with three players promoted from the World Junior roster that briefly played in Canada last month. However, Craig Ramsay’s team — which handed Russia surprise defeat in the opening group game four years ago — also brings plenty of experience. Six KHL players are included: Dinamo Minsk goalie Patrik Rybar, defenseman Michal Cajkovsky (Sibir), plus forwards Peter Cehlarik (Avangard), Marek Hrivik (Torpedo), Libor Hudacek (Dinamo Minsk) and Tomas Jurco (Barys).
Team Denmark is looking forward to its first ever Olympic appearance, 75 years after the Scandinavian country began playing international hockey. The Viking roster includes Jokerit’s Nicklas Jensen, a long-serving leader on Hans Ehlers’ team. Two former Jokerit players, Jesper Jensen and Peter Regin, are also in their country’s historic line-up.
As Olympic host, China is making its first appearance in the men’s tournament at the Games. The KHL has played an integral role in helping the Dragons get ready for their greatest international challenge, working with Kunlun Red Star to give Chinese players an opportunity to gain top-level hockey experience. The pandemic has made that process even more difficult and it’s fair to say that Team China goes to Beijing as a massive outsider. However, head coach Ivano Zanatta, who has worked behind the Red Star bench this season, believes his team can prove the doubters wrong with a respectable performance on home ice.
“Our main goal is to gain worldwide respect,” the coach told KHL.ru. “We just want to show that we belong there. It’s a big opportunity for us but, let’s face it, we’re ranked number 32 in the world and when we go into the top 12 we have to be realistic in our objectives and our goals. If we can try and upset someone, why not, but realistically we’re there to show that we belong and we want to get the respect of the hockey world.”
Jokerit center Hannes Bjorninen is looking forward to making his Olympic debut next month — but stepping up to the biggest international stage is nothing daunting for the youngest player on Finland’s roster. He’s confident that he can renew his successful partnership from last year’s World Championship — and believes that Finland’s natural unity can make the difference for his team in Beijing.
“The strength of Finland’s national team, and even the Finns as a nation, is that we know each very well,” he told KHL.ru. “The way we work together is something we all have in common. It’s simple and clear for all of us, especially in a short tournament like the Olympics.”