When looking over the hockey rosters of next month's Olympic tournament there are a few nondescript names that need a little more looking at.
To start with, Switzerland will have a few Canadian born players representing them one is Edmonton native Hnat Domenichelli. He was a fourth round pick of the Hartford Whalers in 1994 and helped Canada win a World Junior gold medal in 1996 and also represented Canada in the 2006 Spengler Cup.
Domenichelli scored 148 points for the 95/96 Kamloops Blazers including 59 goals in 62 games and was a big part of the Blazers back-to-back Memorial Cup winners in '94 and '95. He would be traded during his rookie year to Calgary and eventually total 267 NHL games also with Atlanta and Minnesota. Domenichelli tallied 15 goals for Atlants in 2000-01 and was over a point per game scorer in the AHL over 213 games. He went to Switzerland in 2003-04 to play for HC Ambri-Piotta, leading the league in goals in 2006. Currently he is with Lugano and second in league scoring with 53 points to team mate Randy Robitaille's 56.
Another under the radar Olympian is Russia's 29 year old Denis Zaripov. His one taste of North American hockey was with the Swift Current Broncos in 1999 scoring 23 goals, 31 points in 62 games. He has since played in the Russian National League (the last nine years with Kazan Ak-Bars), topping out last year with 65 points in 56 games good for fourth overall. He is joined on the Olympic squad by fellow Kazan-ites Alexei Morozov and defenseman Ilya Nikulin. Nikulin and Konstantin Korneyev of CSKA Moscow are the only two Russian olympic defensemen without NHL experience. Nikulin was a second round pick by Atlanta in 2000 and Korneyev a ninth rounder in 2002 by Montreal.
The last Russian that may be unfamiliar to North American fans is Sergei Zinovjev who played a mere ten games with Boston in 2003-04. The smallish centreman is currently with UFA Salavat in the KHL and has 42 points in 38 games.
Team Sweden is obviously full of familiar names, one that may not ring a bell is Mattias Weinhandl. He is a veteran of 182 NHL games, most recently with Minnesota in 2007. The last two years, he has played with Moscow Dynamo of the KHL and is sitting in fifth place in scoring with 45 points in 41 games. Weinhandl is joined on team Sweden by 35 year old Magnus Johansson, defensman for Linkoping who currently has 38 points in 36 games (sixth overall in the Swedish Elite League). Johansson was a free agent signing by Chicago in 2007 and was traded to Florida halfway through the year, finishing with 14 points in 45 NHL games.
The Czechs are also loaded with familiar names, perhaps the biggest unknown is 24 year old centreman Roman Cervenka (pictured at top). The smallish, undrafted Cervenka is currently running away with the scoring title in the Czech Extraleague. His 58 points in 36 games with Slavia Phraha is 15 points up on second place NHL veteran, Martin Straka. Cervenka may be a surprise centreman for two of the Czechs many talented wingers. Could we possibly see Cervenka playing on a line with Patrik Elias and Jaromir Jagr...
Norway may not have many big names, but ex-Oiler and Flyer Patrick Thoresen is at the moment sixth place in KHL scoring with 44 points in 41 games. His 24 points in 106 NHL games still make him one of the top Norweigan players. The one Finn that may not be recognizable is defenseman Janne Niskala. A fifth round pick by Nashville in 2004, he played 6 games last year for Tampa, notching 3 points. He has 16 points for Vastra Frolunda in the Swedish League this year.
The Olympics is still a showcase for the games top players, but as seen, there will be some names that are breaking through on the international stage for the first time.