Nail Yakupov was a star last year, but this year could be his real coming out party on the international stage, in his home country. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

WJHC Preview: Russia

Last Year – Russia held on to defeat Canada in a wild semi-final, but were outlasted by Sweden in the Gold Medal game by a score of 1-0.  Russia lost only 2 games in the tournament, both to the Swedes.

 

# Returnees – 9 (expected) – Andrei Makarov, Andrei Vasilevski, Mikhail Naumenkov, Nikita Nesterov, Artyom Sergeyev, Mikhail Grigorengo, Alexander Khokhlachev, Yaroslav Kosov, Nail Yakupov,

 

Key Players – Yakupov and Grigorenko will be forces up front, while both goaltenders will be returning.  Both netminders had flashes of brilliance at different times, and their presence will be a distinct advantage for the Russians.

 

Watch For – The top 3 draft-eligible forwards (Vlaeri Nichushkin, Bogdan Yakimov and Anton Slepyshev) will be on the roster.  All are well over 6 feet tall and close to 200 lbs.  They will provide excellent support for the big guns.

 

Prediction – Boosted by the home-country fans for the first time since 2001, the Russians will be looking to improve on the silver medal they took home last year.  They are a deep squad, and the odds of them winning the gold will increase if they can beat Canada in the round robin game and get the bye to the semi-finals and the extra day of rest.  Definitely a medal threat, and if all things were equal, it should be a Canada-Russia showdown for Gold.

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