The Russell Report: Preds At The Olympics
On Friday morning, the NHL and NHLPA announced they will allow the participation of NHL players in the upcoming 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. With the agreement, NHL players from the 12 participating IIHF Member Nations will be available for the men's Olympic Ice Hockey Tournament (February 12-23, 2014).
The 2014 Sochi games mark the fifth consecutive time dating back to Nagano 1998 that NHL players have participated in the Olympics. More than 120 NHL players are expected to compete for their respective nations in Sochi.
After six Preds took the ice for the 2010 Vancouver Games, we take a look at the current Preds who may don their country’s colors in February.
Hornqvist has donned Tre Kronor six times in his career, including the 2010 Olympics, three World Championships, one World Juniors and one World Under-18 Championships.
In his most recent stint with home country at the 2012 World Championships, the Sollentuna, Sweden native was held scoreless in three outings. At the 2010 Winter Games, Hornqvist tallied one goal for Sweden on a play set up by his childhood idol and former Pred, Peter Forsberg.
In 32 international games since 2006-07, Hornqivst has recorded nine goals and six assists for the Swedes. He led Sweden and tied for second overall with six goals at the 2008 World Championships.
Some may consider Hornqvist to be an outside chance for Sochi, but with his ability to stir-up trouble in front of the net, the Swedes would be mistaken to leave him at home in February.
At the 2013 World Championships, Josi lead all defenseman in scoring with nine points (4g-5a) in 10 games. His performance earned him tournament Most Valuable Player honors, Best Defenseman and a 2013 World Championship All Star team nomination. The Bern, Switzerland native also became the first Swiss player to earn MVP honors at an IIHF tournament.
While Josi was held out of the 2010 Vancouver Games due to injury, he has taken to the ice for Switzerland in several international competitions since the 2007 World Junior Championships. Since being draft by Nashville in the third round of the 2008 Entry Draft, Josi has posted 27 points (10g-17a) in 47 games for the Swiss.
Coming off the best performance by a Swiss player in an international tournament, Josi is a lock for Sochi as the Swiss look to build off this summer’s success.
Rinne hasn’t joined Finland in international competition since the 2010 World Championships when he backstopped Suomi to a 2-2-0 record, with a 1.68 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. In 2009, Rinne posted a 4-2-0 record, with a 1.93 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage for Finland.
The Finns may field the best crop of goalies at the Sochi games and competition will be tight with emergence of San Jose’s Antti Niemi and Boston’s Tuukka Rask, but Rinne has proven that he can handle the travel and workload required of an Olympic goaltender.
Weber and Canada claimed Gold at the 2010 games after defeating the U.S. in overtime, and the Canadians will once again be the favorites heading into Sochi.
The 2010 Games were the last time Weber donned the Maple Leaf, where he was named to the tournament’s All-Star Team after tying for second among blueliners in points (2g-4a). One of the memorable moments from Weber’s 2010 Olympics came when he put a shot through the net against the Germans in preliminary round play.
Prior to the 2010 Olympics, the Sicamous, B.C., native played in both the 2007 and 2009 World Championships and the 2005 World Juniors. At the 2009 World Championships, Weber earned a silver medal and was named the tournament’s best defenseman after posting 12 points (4g-8a) in nine games. In 28 international games for the Canadians, Weber has tallied 20 points (7g-13a).
Nashville’s captain should be regarded as one of Canada’s best defenseman heading into the Sochi games. Look for him to form the Canadian’s top D-pairing in February alongside the likes of Chicago’s Duncan Keith or Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty.
Preds with a chance: