2014 IIHF World Championship: Group B Primer

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

A brief roster overview of Group B teams competing at this years Worlds.

The 16-team tournament is broken into two groups: A and B (Canada features in Group A). Here is a roster overview for Group B teams.

Group B

Belarus

2014 World Ranking: 15
2014 Olympic Final Standing: N/A

Coached by former NHL goalie and Washington Capitals Head Coach Glen Hanlon, Belarus is made up of a collection of players from the KHL, AHL, and college hockey. Belarus has just one NHLer, Maple Leaf castoff and current Washington Capital Mikhail Grabovski.

Player to Watch

Mikhail Grabovski

Latvia

2014 World Ranking: 10
2014 Olympic Final Standing: 8

Latvia, one of the surprise teams at the recent Winter Olympics, will once again be coached by Buffalo's Ted Nolan. The majority of Latvia's players play in their home country, and the team has just two, relatively inexperienced, NHLers. Forward Zemgus Girgensons (Buffalo Sabres) and Kristers Gudlevskis (Tampa Bay Lightning) both represented Latvia in Sochi. While Girgensons had a goal and an assist in five games, it was Gudlevskis, then of Tampa's AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch, who stole the show, saving 55 of 57 shots against Canada. Gudlevskis is also the first player to play in the ECHL, AHL, NHL, and Olympic Games in one season.

Player to Watch

Kristers Gudlevskis

Finland

2014 World Ranking: 2
2014 Olympic Final Standing: 3

Finland will look to improve on a bronze medal finish at the Olympics with an even better tournament at the Worlds; however, some of the nation's best players (Teemu Selanne, Tuukka Rask) are still occupied with the NHL playoffs. As a result, Finland's team is composed of players from the Finnish Elite League (Liiga) and the KHL. One of the more interesting names on Team Finland is former Leaf and current Dynamo Moscow centre Leo Komarov. Komarov spent one season in the NHL and is believed to be looking to North America. He made waves as a pest at the Olympics and the Worlds could provide another opportunity for the 27-year-old to enhance his resume. Finland's NHL talent begins and ends with veterans Pekka Rinne and Olli Jokinen. Rinne had an injury-plagued season, but gives Finland an edge in net.

Player to Watch

Leo Komarov

Russia

2014 World Ranking: 4
2014 Olympic Final Standing: 5

Team Russia was a massive disappointment on home soil at the Sochi Games in February. Finishing fifth, Alex Ovechkin and company have re-upped for another shot at gold in Belarus. Of note, this is Ovechkin's 10th World Championship. While I'd rather see him compete deep into the NHL Playoffs, it's the kind of commitment that would be celebrated if it came from a Canadian winger with a mullet playing in Edmonton, but is never cited when Ovechkin's character is lampooned. Still, he managed just one goal and one assist in five games at Sochi, and will be looking to improve in Minsk. Russia might have the best 1-2 punch in net with Columbus's Sergei Bobrovski and Carolina's Anton Khudobin. Bobrovski's teammate, Artem Anisimov (who broke the 20 goal mark for the first time in his career this season), winger Nikolai Kulemin, centre Andrei Loktionov, and defenseman Dmitri Orlov, round out the NHL contingent of Team Russia. There are some familiar names among the KHLers, Alexander Burmistrov of Ak Bars Kazan, is perhaps the most interesting.

Player to Watch

Alex Ovechkin

Germany

2014 World Ranking: 11
2014 Olympic Final Standing: N/A

The Germans are also without any active NHLers. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer of the Hershey Bears and forward Tobias Rieder of the Portland Pirates are current AHLers. With a strong tournament, Grubauer might be able to earn a spot with the Capitals next season as a backup. Germany is also going with youth, as forwards Leon Draisaitl (Prince Albert Raiders) and Dominik Kahun (Sudbury Wolves) currently play junior hockey. Draisaitl was captain for Germany at the World Juniors in 2014, and was suspended for one game for a hit against the Americans. Eligible for the 2014 NHL Draft, he's currently ranked as the fourth-best North American skater.

Player to Watch

Leon Draisaitl

Switzerland

2014 World Ranking: 7
2014 Olympic Final Standing: 9

Switzerland's entry is primarily composed of players active in the Swiss League. Colorado deadline acquisition Reto Berra will be in net for the Swiss and he'll be joined by Robert Mayer, a prospect with the Hamilton Bulldogs. Switzerland also has the services of NHLers Roman Josi, Yannick Weber, and Damien Brunner. Draft-eligible winger Kevin Fiala hopes to increase his value by contributing offensively. Perhaps the most interesting name in the mix is current AHLer and Calgary Flames prospect Sven Bartschi. The winger was an elite point producer in junior and after two seasons split between the AHL and NHL is looking to take the next step.

Player to Watch

Sven Bartschi

Kazakhstan

2014 World Ranking: 17
2014 Olympic Final Standing: N/A

There are no NHLers in the lineup for long shot Kazakhstan. The team is comprised almost exclusively of KHLers, including 18 members of Barys Astana, a KHL team based in Astana, Kazakhstan. The most familiar name in the group is that of former NHLer Nikolai Antropov, now of Barys Astana.

Player to Watch

Player? You get to watch almost an entire club team play as a national team! Go Barys Astana!

United States

2014 World Ranking: 6
2014 Olympic Final Standing: 4

The United States is also icing a youthful team with a sprinkling of veteran presence. The newest Nashville Predator, Peter Laviolette, will be coaching a team of collegiate players, young NHLers, and a few veterans, now in the KHL. The always fun Tim Thomas, is the most experienced of Team USA's three tenders, and is twice the age of back-up Connor Hellebuyck, of UMass Lowell. The forward group is the weakness of the team. A collection of bottom-six NHLers and inexperienced skill players, the group includes Tampa's rookie standout Tyler Johnson and recent college superstar Johnny Gaudreau. Team USA's depth is on the blueline. The young, mobile, and offensively gifted group includes Danny DeKeyser (Detroit Red Wings), Jake Gardner (Toronto Maple Leafs), Seth Jones (Nashville Predators), and Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg Jets).

Player to Watch

Defense (DeKeyser, Gardiner, Jones, Trouba)

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