Ovechkin, Malkin highlight Russia’s initial World Cup roster

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Russia became the first team to unveil its preliminary 16-man roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey on Wednesday and, to nobody’s surprise, Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are two of the players on it.

The rest of the makeup is a bit interesting.

The Russians only named three defensemen: Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov, Montreal’s Andrei Markov and Washington’s Dmitry Orlov. That those three made it isn’t a huge surprise — they’re the leading Russian d-men scorers in the NHL this season — but it is curious to note the likes of Philly’s Evgeny Medvedev, Detroit’s Alexey Marchenko, Montreal’s Alexei Emelin and Columbus’ Fedor Tyutin all failed to make the initial cut.

Up front, things were a little more straightforward.

Joining Malkin and Ovechkin are Pavel Datsyuk (Detroit), Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis), Evgeny Kuznetsov (Washington), Artem Anisimov (Chicago), Artemi Panarin (Chicago), Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay), Vladislav Namestnikov (Tampa Bay) and Nikolay Kulemin (New York Islanders).

Among the more notable snubs at forward? Dallas’ Valeri Nichushkin, Colorado’s Mikhail Grigorenko, Edmonton’s Nail Yakupov and Winnipeg’s Alexander Burmistrov.

In goal, there were no big surprises. Colorado’s Semyon Varlamov, Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy all made the cut, and were the only real candidates in the mix.

It should be noted that, by the time the World Cup rolls around in September, the Russian roster could have a decidedly different look. Per Sportsnet, the Russian Hockey Federation made the decision not to name any KHL players to the initial roster.

“Right now we’re going to put 16 players from NHL,” Russian head scout Alexei Zhamnov explained. “(For the remaining) seven spots, we’ll discuss. Maybe some players from KHL, too. Right now it’s most important for us to make the list of 16 players.”