On February 13, 2014 Hockey Canada‘s men will step onto the ice for their first preliminary round match of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games as the defending gold-medal champions. Eleven other countries will be looking to dethrone the Canadians from their perch atop the international hockey world.
However, neither Team Canada nor the rival Americans, who faced each other in the gold-medal match at Vancouver 2010, have ever won a medal outside of North America ice since NHL players have been allowed to compete at the Olympics. The Czech Republic have won two Olympic medals outside of North America with NHLers (Gold in 1998 and Bronze in 2006) and so have the Finns (Bronze in 1998 and Silver in 2006).
So even though Team Canada enters the Sochi 2014 hockey tournament as the defending champs, should they still be considered the favourite to bring home gold? Let’s take a look at how Canada stacks up to the other Top 8 nations: USA, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Switzerland.
CURRENT NHL PLAYERS
The Canadians and Americans will be the only two teams in the Sochi 2014 tournament whose 25-man rosters are made up entirely of NHLers. Sweden is not far behind though, sending 24 NHLers (Jimmi Ericsson is the only non-NHLer). Russia, Finland and the Czech Republic are each going to have 16 NHLers on their teams, while Switzerland will be sending only 8 NHL players to represent them in Sochi.
Canada: 25 NHLers
USA: 25 NHLers
Sweden: 24 NHLers
Russia: 16 NHLers
Finland: 16 NHLers
Czech Republic: 16 NHLers
Slovakia: 13 NHLers
Switzerland: 8 NHLers
2014 GOALS SCORING LEADERS (as of Jan 29)
Russia’s Alexander Ovechkin has been on fire this season and leads the NHL in goals scored with 38. Canada’s Corey Perry and America’s Joe Pavelski are second to Ovi in the goal-scoring race with 28 goals each.
Russia: Alexander Ovechkin – 38 goals
Canada: Corey Perry – 28 goals
USA: Joe Pavelski – 28 goals
Sweden: Alexander Steen – 27 goals
Slovakia: Marian Hossa – 22 goals
Finland: Valtteri Filppula – 19 goals
Czech Republic: Jaromir Jagr – 16 goals
Switzerland: Damian Brunner & Nino Niederreiter – 9 goals
2014 POINTS SCORING LEADERS (as of Jan 29)
Four out of the current top-five points-scoring leaders in the NHL will be Canadian Olympians at Sochi 2014 (1. Sidney Crosby; 2. John Tavares; 3. Ryan Getzlaf; 5. Corey Perry). American Patrick Kane’s 60 points put him at 4th in the NHL’s scoring race. Sweden’s Erik Karlsson has 50 points this season, which ties him with Nicklas Backstrom as the country’s leading scorer.
Canada: Sidney Crosby – 74 points
USA: Patrick Kane – 60 points
Russia: Alexander Ovechkin – 55 points
Sweden: Erik Karlsson & Nicklas Backstrom – 50 points
Czech Republic: David Krejci – 45 points
Slovakia: Marian Hossa – 44 points
Finland: Valtteri Filppula – 40 points
Switzerland: Nino Niederrieter – 26 points
2014 WINS LEADERS (as of Jan 29)
The goalie with the most wins so far in the 2013-14 NHL season is a Canadian Olympian, but he will not be going to Sochi 2014 (Marc-Andre Fleury – 29 wins). Finland’s Antti Niemi’s 27 wins are the most of any goalie that will be attending Sochi 2014. American goalie Jonathan Quick leads his team with only 15 wins, even though he has missed a long stretch of this season with a lower-body injury.
Finland: Antti Niemi – 27 wins
Russia: Semyon Varlamov – 26 wins
Canada: Carey Price – 23 wins
Slovakia: Jaroslav Halak – 24 wins
Switzerland: Jonas Hiller – 24 wins
Sweden: Henrik Lundqvist – 18 wins
Czech Republic: Ondrej Pavelec – 16 wins
USA: Jonathan Quick – 15 wins
STANLEY CUP WINNERS
Team Canada will also feature the most Stanley Cup champions of any team at Sochi 2014. Canada will have 10 Stanley Cup winners, four of whom have won two Cups each. Team Sweden and the Czech Republic will each include six Cup Champs, while Team USA and Team Slovakia will each feature four. Team Switzerland will be the only Top 8 team without a single Stanley Cup Champion on their roster at Sochi 2014.
Canada: 10 - Patrice Bergeron, Jeff Carter, Sidney Crosby, Drew Doughty, Ryan Getzlaf, Duncan Keith (2), Chris Kunitz (2), Corey Perry Patrick Sharp (2), Jonathan Toews (2)
Czech Republic: 6 – Patrick Elias (2), Michael Frolik, Jaromir Jagr (2), Tomas Kaberle, David Krejci, Michal Roszival
Sweden: 6 – Niklas Hjalmarsson, Niklas Kronwall, Johnny Oduya, Johan Franzen, Marcus Kruger, Henrik Zetterberg
Slovakia: 4 – Zdeno Chara, Michal Handzus, Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky (2)
USA: 4 – Dustin Brown, Patrick Kane (2), Brooks Orpik, Jonathan Quick
Finland: 3 – Valtteri Filppula, Tuukka Rask, Teemu Selanne
Russia: 3 – Pavel Datsyuk (2), Evgeni Malkin, Slava Voynov
CURRENT NHL TEAM CAPTAINS
Team Canada should have no issues finding team leaders at Sochi 2014, with six players who currently captain their NHL squads. The Americans and Swedes will each have three current NHL captains on their team, while the Czech and Swiss are the only two Top 8 teams that won’t feature any current NHL captains.
Canada: 6 – Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars), Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh Penguins), Ryan Getzlaf (Anaheim Ducks), John Tavares (New York Islanders), Jonathan Toews (Chicago Blackhawks), Shea Weber (Nashville Predators)
USA: 3 – David Backes (St. Louis Blues), Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings), Ryan Callahan (New York Rangers)
Sweden: 3 – Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado Avalanche), Henrik Sedin (Vancouver Canucks), Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit Red Wings)
Finland: 1 – Miko Koivu (Minnesota Wild)
Russia: 1 – Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)
Slovakia: 1 – Zdeno Chara (Boston Bruins)
Czech Republic: None
FORMER NHL TEAM CAPTAINS
There are three other players on Team Canada that are not currently captains, but were at one point in the past: Roberto Luongo, Patrick Marleau, and Rick Nash. Team Finland’s Kimmo Timonen and Olli Jokinen were also captains of NHL teams during the course of their careers. The Czechs don’t have any current NHL captains, but both Patrick Elias and Jaromir Jagr have captained NHL teams before. The Swiss even have a former captain, as Mark Streit used to lead the New York Islanders.
Canada: 3 – Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks), Patrick Marleau (San Jose Sharks) and Rick Nash (Columbus Blue Jackets)
Czech Republic: 2 – Patrick Elias (New Jersey Devils), Jaromir Jagr (Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers)
Finland: 2 - Kimmo Timonen (Predators), Olli Jokinen (Florida Panthers)
Russia: 1 – Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta Thrashers)
Slovakia: 1 – Marian Gaborik (Minnesota Wild)
Sweden: 1 – Daniel Alfredsson (Ottawa Senators)
Switzerland: 1 – Mark Streit (New York Islanders)
While only Finland have a five-time Olympian in Teemu Selanne, every team at Sochi 2014 will be full of Olympic veterans. Team USA leads the way with 14 Olympic veterans on their squad, while Russia is the least experienced team with only 9 of their players having played at an Olympic Games before. Canada is one of three countries that will feature 12 Olympic veterans. The Czech Republic leads all teams with eight players that have been to more than one Olympics.
USA: 14 – David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Paul Martin (2), Ryan Miller, Brooks Orpik, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Jonathan Quick, Paul Stastny, Ryan Suter
Slovakia: 13 – Ivan Baranka, Peter Budaj (2), Zdeno Chara (2), Marian Gaborik (2), Jaroslav Halak, Michal Handzus (2), Marcel Hossa (2), Marian Hossa (3), Tomas Kopecky, Andrej Meszaros (2), Andrej Sekera, Tomas Surovy, Lubomir Visnovsky (4)
Canada: 12 - Patrice Bergeron, Jay Bouwmeester, Sidney Crosby, Drew Doughty, Ryan Getzlaf, Duncan Keith, Roberto Luongo (2), Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash (2), Corey Perry, Jonathan Toews, Shea Weber
Sweden: 12 – Daniel Alfredsson (4), Nicklas Backstrom, Loui Eriksson, Johan Franzen, Jonas Gustavsson, Henrik Lundqvist (2), Niklas Kronwall (2), Johnny Oduya, Daniel Sedin (2), Henrik Sedin (2), Henrik Tallinder, Henrik Zetterberg (3)
Switzerland: 12 – Andres Ambuhl (2), Severin Blindenbacher (2), Raphael Diaz, Philippe Furrer, Jonas Hiller, Martin Pluss (3), Mathias Seger (3), Tobias Stephen, Mark Streit (3), Julien Vauclair (2), Yannick Weber, Roman Wick
Czech Republic: 11 – Roman Cervenka, Patrik Elias (3), Ales Hemsky, Jaromir Jagr (4), Tomas Kaberle (3), David Krejci, Milan Michalek, Zbynek Michalek, Petr Nedved (represented Canada), Ondrej Pavelec, Tomas Plekanec
Finland: 11 – Valtteri Filppula, Jussi Jokinen, Olli Jokinen (3), Mikko Koivu (2), Lasse Kukkonen (2), Sami Lepisto, Tuomo Ruttu, Sami Salo, Teemu Selanne (5), Kimmo Timonen (3), Ossi Vaananen (2)
Russia: 9 – Pavel Datsyuk (3), Ilya Kovalchuk (3), Evgeni Malkin (2), Andrei Markov (2), Ilya Nikulin, Alexander Ovechkin (2), Alexander Radulov, Fedor Tyutin (2), Semyon Varlamov
Teemu Selanne and Kimmo Timonen lead all players in the Sochi 2014 tournament with three Olympic medals each. Team USA leads all Sochi 2014 teams with 14 players on their squad who have won an Olympic medal. Team Canada and Team Finland will each include 11 Olympic medallists, while Slovakia and Switzerland are the only Top 8 countries without an Olympic medallist on their team.
USA: 14 (all 2010 Silver) – David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Paul Martin, Ryan Miller, Brooks Orpik, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Jonathan Quick, Paul Stastny, Ryan Suter
Canada: 11 (all 2010 Gold) - Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Drew Doughty, Ryan Getzlaf, Duncan Keith, Roberto Luongo, Patrick Marleau, Rick Nash, Corey Perry, Jonathan Toews, Shea Weber
Finland: 11 – Valtteri Filppula (2010 Bronze), Jussi Jokinen (2006 Silver), Olli Jokinen (2006 Silver, 2010 Bronze), Mikko Koivu (2006 Silver, 2010 Bronze), Lasse Kukkonen (2006 Silver, 2010 Bronze), Sami Lepisto (2010 Bronze), Tuomo Ruutu (2010 Bronze), Sami Salo (2006 Silver, 2010 Bronze), Teemu Selanne (1998 Bronze, 2006 Silver, 2010 Bronze), Kimmo Timonen (1998 Bronze, 2006 Silver, 2010 Bronze), Ossi Vaananen (2006 Silver)
Sweden: 6 (all 2006 Gold) - Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Lundqvist, Niklas Kronwall, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg
Czech Republic: 5 - Patrik Elias (2006 Bronze), Ales Hemsky (2006 Bronze), Jaromir Jagr (1998 Gold, 2006 Bronze), Tomas Kaberle (2006 Bronze), Petr Nedved (1994 Silver representing Canada)
Russia: 2 (both 2002 Bronze) - Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk