When Team Russia faces Slovenia in its Olympic opener on Thursday, Dallas Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin won’t be a part of it. The Russians have decided to scratch him along with KHL forward Alexander Svitov, according to Puck Daddy and TSN’s Dmitry Chesnokov.
For Nichushkin, the fact that he was even named to the team is a huge accomplishment. He’s having a solid rookie campaign in the NHL, but he’s also just 18 years old.
When they named him to the squad, it was likely with the intention of having him soak up the experience and learn from the best Russia has to offer, so that he’s better prepared when they call upon him in the future.
At the same time, if Russia was going to give him some playing time in this tournament, Thursday’s contest would have been an ideal opportunity. Russia is heavily favored to beat Slovenia, but they will follow that up with considerably more challenging matches against the United States and Slovakia.
To put it another way, if Russia doesn’t feel comfortable using Nichushkin against Slovenia, then there’s a good chance that he won’t play at all in the Olympics unless there’s an injury.
Update: Russia made a last-minute change and will use Nichushkin after all. Viktor Tikhonov, 25, is a healthy scratch instead.