Slovenia, Latvia, and Austria will all get to participate in the men’s hockey tournament of the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi after winning their respective qualifying brackets, according to TSN and the NHL.com.
Assuming the NHL participates in the games, that means Buffalo Sabres forward and current NHL scoring leader Thomas Vanek will get to represent his native Austria. He’ll likely be joined by New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner.
Slovenia is equally thin when it comes to NHL talent, but they’re also projected to be led by a superstar. Anze Kopitar played a big role in the Los Angeles Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup run and he now should have the opportunity to represent his country on the biggest international stage.
Unfortunately, Latvia doesn’t have an NHL star to rally around. 24-year-old forward Kaspars Daugavins is the only Latvian on an NHL active roster. Daugavins has an assist in five games with the Ottawa Senators this season.
Latvia will join Group C and play against Switzerland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic.
Group B will feature Canada, Finland, Norway, and Austria.
Finally, Slovenia and Kopitar will have their work cut out for them in a group that contains the United States, Slovakia, and Russia.