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Thrashers 2010 Olympics Hockey Preview

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The Olympic Games do not get underway until the last two weeks of February, but SB Nation is counting off each potential Olympian playing in the NHL over the next two weeks. Here's a look at which Atlanta Thrashers may be headed to Vancouver in the spring.

Pack Your Bags

Ilya Kovalchuk is a first line player for the Russian Team. The only thing keeping him from Vancouver would be an injury. He won gold at the most recent World Championships and would certainly love to repeat that performance with fellow countrymen Ovechkin and Malkin.

Christoph Schubert will attend given the paucity of German born NHL players. To be honest I don't know anything about German players playing in Europe, but looking at their list of Olympic candidates, I would expect him to be in their top four defenseman.

Nearly A Lock

Ondrej Pavelec is unlikely to displace Vokoun as the starter for Czech team, but I would consider him the favorite to win the #2 job.

Pavel Kubina is another near lock to represent his team in the spring. He may have lost a step but he still plays big minutes and key situations in the NHL against elite level opponents.

Fairly Safe Bet

Tobias Enstrom should qualify as one of the top 7 defensemen from Sweden. I would rank Lidstrom, Kronwall and Ohlund ahead of him, but Enstrom should be the next four along with Victor Hedman, Oduja, and Tallinder. The tiny defender has proven very adept at playing in small North America rinks against large NHL players.

Ilya Nikulin--OK he's not a Thrasher at the moment, but the team did draft him way back in 2000. Each summer Thrashers fans are treated to rumors he might sign and come to Atlanta. But Nikulin is a big star in the KHL (a starter in their All-Star Game) and has represented his nation at the World Championships. Thrasher fans will get a look at what they have been missing all these years.

In A Battle

Ron Hainsey was invited to the American Olympic Camp, but when I look at the roster I would rank 4 players as a lock at defense (Rafalski, Martin, Suter, Komisarek) and a bunch of guys fighting for the last three slots: Whitney, Gleason, Hainsey, E. Johnson, Goligoski, and Gilbert. Hainsey is probably in the mix, but personally I'd take American Zach Bogosian over Hainsey.

Work To Do

Maxim Afinogenov was on Team Russia's list of potential players, but they have a very deep pool to chose from. Throw in traditional Russian hockey politics (half the team is supposed to come from the KHL) and I have a hard time seeing Max make the final cut.

Rich Peverley is in the top 20 in scoring in the NHL and will likely get almost no consideration for Team Canada. That's the nature of the beast when you're from north of the border. Many good hockey Canadian hockey players have no chance.

Moving Up

Zach Bogosian has been nothing short of spectacular this season. He's leading all NHL defensemen in goals and can also supply a good hit here and there. Thrashers GM Don Waddell is part of the selection committee and makes reports on prospective Team USA members. I would expect that Bogosian's name will be discussed at length.

Moving Down

Boris Valabik has just now returned to the ice after an injury. He did not look all that sharp in Training Camp.

Kari Lehtonen has not even begun to practice after two back surgeries. Not going to happen this year.