As noted earlier today, Slovakia, Latvia and Norway have announced their provisional Olympic rosters. Let's take a better look:
Of the 23 Slovakian players, only 12 come from the NHL. They are headline by goaltender Jaroslav Halak, defenseman Zdeno Chara and snipers Marian Gaborik and Marian Hossa. Marek Svatos was a notable omission.
There were some interesting inclusions. Pavol Dimetra has yet to play a game this year due to injury. Miro Satan, pictured, has yet to play a game because he can't find a team to play with. He remains an unrestricted free agent and is obviously mulling his future. Ziggy Palffy's comeback is complete. His goal was to play at the 2010 Olympics.
The other 11 players come from mainly the KHL. European leagues take longer breaks around Christmas time than does the NHL, so Slovakia has been proactive in getting their non-NHLers together to practice and play exhibition games. Finding early chemistry will not be a problem for the Slovakians.
This could make the Slovakians dangerous. They are not expected to challenge for gold, but they have the high end talent to pull off a couple of upsets and make things really interesting.
As a Canadian I know I'm dreading the badly needed quick chemistry, something medaling teams will need in any Olympics. I'm still really not hearing a whole lot from Canada about how to develop that necessary cohesion, and it concerns me.
Latvia has obviously considered this factor, and have taken an interesting approach for these Olympics - 15 of 23 players play together all season long with Dynamo Riga of the KHL. They will parachute in NHLers Karlis Skrastins, pictured, and Oskars Bartulis.
By running with a team that is very familiar with one another, they are hoping to bridge the obvious talent gap between Latvia and the top countries. If they can get a goaltending performance of a lifetime on the right day, they may pull off an upset.
Interestingly, one of the few Dynamo Riga players not included on the Olympic team was former NHL standout Sandis Ozolinsh. He's really struggled with substance abuse problems in recent years, but has made a comeback to hockey in his homeland.
Good luck, Norway.
Norway finds itself in the same pool as Canada, USA and Slovakia, and will be the whipping boys for sure.
Ole-Kristian Tollefsson of the Philadelphia Flyers is the only NHL player on the roster, with former NHLer Peter Thoresen also included. Interestingly, former NHLer Anders Myrvold did not make the team.
Interestingly, Tommy Jakobsen (pictured below, #7) returns to the Olympics after a 16 year absence. He is the only player from the last Norwegian Olympic team from 1994.
Half of the Norwegian players do play in the Swedish Elite League, so there is some talent here. Hopefully they can put together a good showing.