Russia is currently banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) for funding a state-sponsored doping program that saw over 1,000 Russian athletes who either benefited or were involved. As a result, Russia was banned from the 2020 and 2022 Olympic Games. The work-around to allow athletes from Russia who had no involvement was to create the Russian Olympic Committee, better known as the ROC. The rules are that athletes cannot display the Russian flag, and if an athlete represented under the ROC wins a gold medal, they will not hear the Russian National Anthem.
With the ROC controversy explained, the delegation has qualified as the second-best Nation heading into the Olympic Games. The Lightning roster contains three players who are native to Russia, and without a shadow of a doubt, will be representing the ROC in Beijing.
Nikita Kucherov, RW
The heart and soul of the Lightning, Nikita Kucherov, is a shoo-in to be on the ROC team and will be part of the most imposing line in the entire Olympics with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. These are all assumptions, albeit fairly safe ones. A four-time all-star, two-time Stanley Cup winner who has accumulated 66 points (15 goals, 51 assists) in the Bolts back-to-back stretch in the playoffs, if Kucherov isn’t selected to be on the ROC team, we could only assume it’s because of his infamous catchphrase; and you know what that is.
Mikhail Sergachev, D
When you look for a prototype defenseman, you don’t have to look much farther than Mikhail Sergachev. The 6’3″ 215lbs Russian has developed into a sound two-way player over the last few seasons. Just as Sergachev can rip the puck from the blue line, he’s the enforcer you want in front of your own goal. Sergachev has only been in the NHL for five seasons and is still improving on both sides of the ice. He’s been reliable for the Lightning coming in right behind Victor Hedman’s 25:03 average time on ice, with 21:58, and has no problem with contact as he’s accumulated 121 hits the last two seasons- just in the playoffs.
Andrei Vasilevski, G
The list can go on and on about the Lightning’s goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and why he will be a member of the ROC in the Olympics. Vasilevskiy was snubbed last year in favor of Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. However, he became a two-time cup winner, and he also was awarded the Conn Smythe for being the most valuable player in the NHL. Also, he’s running away with the NHL’s futures odds of being the best goalie in the league…again. We put out a visual on Twitter that broke the hockey internet comparing the trajectory of Vasilevskiy’s career against one of the all-time greats, Patrick Roy.
Simply put, you don’t bring a team to the grandest stage of world competition and not bring the best goalie in the world.