Latvia Olympic Hockey Team 2014: Full 25-Man Roster, Projected Lines, Pairings

Brad Kurtzberg@@sealshockeyContributor IJanuary 7, 2014

Latvia Olympic Hockey Team 2014: Full 25-Man Roster, Projected Lines, Pairings

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    Latvia may not be a world hockey powerhouse, but the Baltic Republic has a proud recent history of qualifying for the Olympics.

    In 2010, Latvia was in Group B and was the only team in the group that failed to win a game in the preliminary round.

    The Latvian team features only a handful of names that NHL fans will be familiar with, but there is talent on this team.

    Latvia may be a long shot to earn a medal or to even win a game, but the hockey program continues to grow and improve.

    Here is a look at Team Latvia for the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi.

Complete 25-Man Roster

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    Coach:  Ted Nolan

    Goaltenders: Kristers Gudlevskis, Edgars Masalskis, Ervins Mustukovs.

    Defence: Oskars Bartulis, Ralfs Freibergs, Arturs Kulda, Sandis Ozolinsh, Georgijs Pujacs, Krisjanis Redlihs, Arvids Rekis, Kristaps Sotnieks.

    Forwards: Armands Berzins, Martins Cipulis, Lauris Darzins, Kaspars Daugavins, Zemgus Girgensons, Miks Indrasis, Koba Jass, Martins Karsums, Ronalds Kenins, Vitalijs Pavlovs, Mikelis Redlihs, Janis Sprukts, Juris Stals, Herberts Vasiljevs.

Projected Forward Lines

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    Projected Forward Lines

    Line 1: (LW) Martins Cipulis   (C) Zemgus Girgensons   (RW) Miks Indrasis

    This line has an interesting mix of youth and experience. Girgensons is arguably the most familiar name to NHL fans. The 19-year-old has four goals and 14 points in 41 games with the Buffalo Sabres this season. He has the potential to become an offensive star in the NHL but hasn't reached it yet. He will benefit from the extra room available on international rinks. Cipulis is an experienced veteran who has been a consistent scorer in Latvia's pro league over the years. Indrasis is a steady presence who showed great goal-scoring promise as a teenager.


    Line 2: (LW) Lauris Darzins   (C) Kaspars Daugavins   (RW) Martins Karsums

    Daugavins has NHL experience, having played for the Ottawa Senators and Boston Bruins last season. Karsums has been a consistent goal scorer in the KHL, including a 20-goal season in 2011-12. Darzins is a KHL veteran who has struggled with injuries in recent seasons but has been a consistent offensive player in the past. If all goes well, this line will provide steady secondary scoring.


    Line 3: (LW) Ronalds Kenins   (C) Armands Berzins   (RW) Vitalijs Pavlovs

    This will be the checking line for Latvia. Kenins is a defensive-minded veteran of the Swiss League. Berzins was drafted by the Minnesota Wild but never made it further than the ECHL in North America. He has since become an effective checking center in various European leagues. Pavlovs should also play a steady checking role for Latvia.


    Line 4: (LW) Koba Jass   (C) Janis Sprukts   (RW) Juris Stals

    Jass is playing in the Czech League this year, and at 23, he could be a fixture for Latvia in international play for years to come. Sprukts is 31 and actually played one NHL game with the Florida Panthers in 2008-09. He has been a steady player in the KHL since, but his offensive production fell off last season and he will be playing more of a checking role now. Stals is a North American minor league veteran who has played recently in the KHL and Slovak league.

Projected Defensive Pairings

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    The Latvians lack size on defense, but they have more speed and skill. Traditionally, they have struggled to keep top-rated international teams from scoring.


    First Pair: Arturs Kulda and Krisjanis Redlihs

    Kulda was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2006 and played 15 NHL games. At 6'2", he has some badly needed size. Redlihs has fine passing skills and should quarterback the power play.


    Second Pair: Kristaps Sotnieks and Arvids Rekis

    Sotnieks is the more offensive-minded member of this pair. He is sound positionally, and at 26, he is in the prime of his career. Rekis adds veteran savvy at 35 and has been a steady defensive defenseman in the KHL over the past four seasons.


    Third Pair:  Sandis Ozolinsh   Georgijs Pujacs

    Ozolinsh is a familiar name to NHL fans, having played 875 career games between 1992-2008. He is 41 but has a lot of international experience and should be almost like an assistant coach on the ice. Pujacs is more of a stay-at-home defenseman and KHL veteran. The former Bruins draft pick adds a little size to the lineup.


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    Starter: Edgars Masalskis

    Masalskis is the best option to start in net for Latvia. He has already represented his country at the last two Olympics and is used to the world stage. At 33, he is still in his prime. Last season, he played well in the KHL, finishing with a 17-11-3 record and a 2.94 goals-against average. At 5'8", he has to use his quickness and play his angles well to make up for his lack of size.


    Backups: Kristers Gudlevskis, Ervins Mustukovs

    Gudlevskis is just 21 and has split this season between the ECHL and AHL. At 6'3", he has the size that Masalskis lacks, but he's not quite ready to be the starter. Mustukovs is a 29-year-old journeyman who has played in the ECHL and in many European pro leagues.


Stars to Watch

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    All eyes will be on Zemgus Girgensons and Kaspars Daugavins in this tournament.

    Girgensons, 20, was a first-round pick of the Sabres in 2012 and figures to be the centerpiece of Latvia's Olympic teams for the next decade or more if NHL players continue to participate in the Olympics. His raw offensive ability is awe-inspiring, and this will be a big chance for him to shine on the international stage and whet the appetite of hockey fans in Buffalo who want a glimpse of the future.

    Daugavins played in the Stanley Cup Final last season with Boston before leaving this year for Switzerland. In 29 games this season, he has nine goals and 25 points, impressive numbers for a European league.

    These two players are familiar to North American hockey fans and will be counted on to help produce offense for Latvia in Sochi.

Other Names to Know

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    Martins Cipulis should be on Latvia's top forward line and has a lot of international experience. He is not a household name in North America, but he will be counted on to produce offense for Latvia. If he is playing well, the top line should be effective.

    Starting goalie Edgars Masalskis will need to stand on his head to give his team a chance to compete. He has a lot of Olympic experience and won't be intimidated, but he is also playing behind a defense that is going to be overwhelmed talent-wise. Masalskis will be trying to keep his team in games despite the fact that they will likely be outshot in almost every contest.