No doubt it will be a competitive field in the Olympic men’s hockey tournament, but four nations really stand out.
Canada, Russia, Sweden and the United States are all expected to contend for the gold, and Monday fans got their first taste of what the lineups for these squads might look like.
Line combos and defence pairings are subject to change as each coaching staff makes adjustments, but based on the first day of practice in Sochi, here’s what we’re expecting to see.
With all kinds of talent to work with, the biggest question for Team Canada up front is who will play on the right wing with Penguins Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. At Canada’s first practice, Kings sniper Jeff Carter was slotted in that role.
Not surprisingly Ducks Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were on a line together, as were Blackhawks Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. The odd men out at forward were Martin St. Louis and Matt Duchene, the oldest and youngest members of the team, respectively.
On the blue line, the pairs were as expected, with Canadiens star P.K. Subban and Canucks shutdown man Dan Hamhuis on the outside looking in.
Team Canada plays its first game Thursday against Norway.
Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Jeff Carter
John Tavares – Ryan Getzlaf – Corey Perry
Rick Nash – Jonathan Toews – Patrick Sharp
Jamie Benn – Patrice Bergeron – Patrick Marleau
Extras: Martin St. Louis, Matt Duchene
Duncan Keith – Shea Weber
Jay Bouwmeester – Alex Pietrangelo
Marc-Edouard Vlasic – Drew Doughty
Extras: Dan Hamhuis, P.K. Subban
The Americans have a roster based on balance, and their line combos on Monday displayed that.
Canucks talented two-way stud Ryan Kesler was lined up at centre on what should serve as the top line with Patrick Kane and Dustin Brown, while Leafs linemates Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk were paired with Sharks centre Joe Pavelski, whom Kessel played with in Vancouver in 2010.
One integral member of Team USA not at practice was GM David Poile, who will not join the team in Sochi. Poile suffered a fractured orbital bone after taking an errant puck to the face at a Nashville Predators pre-game skate last week.
Team USA plays its first game Thursday against Slovakia.
Dustin Brown – Ryan Kesler – Patrick Kane
Phil Kessel – Joe Pavelski – James van Riemsdyk
Zach Parise – David Backes – T.J. Oshie
Max Pacioretty – Paul Stastny – Ryan Callahan
Extras: Blake Wheeler, Derek Stepan
Cam Fowler – Ryan Suter
Ryan McDonagh – John Carlson
Paul Martin – Kevin Shattenkirk
Extras: Brooks Orpik, Justin Faulk
Despite injuries to key players like Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen, the Swedish lineup remains stacked. We’ll get to see how Daniel Sedin fares without his twin brother, as he skated on a line with Nicklas Backstrom and Loui Eriksson on Day One.
The top defensive unit featured two of the best young blueliners in the game as Oliver Ekman-Larsson teamed up with Erik Karlsson.
Team Sweden plays its first game Wednesday against Czech Republic.
Gabriel Landeskog – Henrik Zetterberg – Alex Steen
Daniel Sedin – Nicklas Backstrom – Loui Eriksson
Gustav Nyquist – Patrik Berglund – Daniel Alfredsson
Carl Hagelin – Marcus Kruger – Jimmie Ericsson
Extras: Marcus Johansson, Jakob Silfverberg
Oliver Ekman-Larsson – Erik Karlsson
Niklas Kronwall – Jonathan Ericsson
Johnny Oduya – Niklas Hjalmarsson
Extras: Henrik Tallinder, Alex Edler
Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk is nursing a groin injury and didn’t practice Monday, but the Red Wings dangler is expected to centre a line between ex-NHLers Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexander Radulov.
As if Russia didn’t have enough fire power, Alex Ovechkin was on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Semin.
An interesting note on the blue line was the fact Andrei Markov and Alexei Emelin weren’t paired together despite playing together for the Canadiens. Markov skated with Kings defenceman Slava, while Emelin worked with KHL standout Evgeny Medvedev.
Team Russia plays its first game Thursday against Slovenia.
Alex Ovechkin – Evgeni Malkin – Alexander Semin,
Ilya Kovalchuk – Pavel Datsyuk – Alexander Radulov
Vladimir Tarasenko – Artyom Anisimov – Nikolai Kulemin
Alexander Popov – Alexei Tereschenko – Viktor Tikhonov
Extras: Valeri Nichushkin, Alexander Svitov
Andrei Markov – Slava Voynov
Anton Belov – Nikita Nikitin
Alexei Emelin - Evgeny Medvedev
Extras: Ilya Nikulin, Fedor Tyutin