A Quick & Dirty Guide to the Best Olympic Hockey Players at Sochi

The key players you should know about while watching the world’s fastest sport.

As we all know, the Olympics are happening! Winter hats are in style, it’s not considered xenophobic to sport USA-branded everything, and if you’re up at 1AM you can flip on the TV and catch a bunch of Norwegians shooting rifles while cross-country skiing. Best time of the year. But there’s only one true reason why we love the Winter Olympics, and that’s ice hockey. But since this is America and not Canada, you probably don’t know jack shit about hockey. Lucky for you, we’re here to help with a cheat sheet to the best players who will face-off this week.

Team U.S.A.

Phil Kessel

Kessel started his NHL career with the Boston Bruins in 2006 and was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2009. In 60 games this season he’s got 31 goals (second in the NHL) and 65 points (fourth in the NHL). He seems to be hitting his stride this year, and is on pace to break his season-high record of 37 goals from 2011-2012.

Patrick Kane

Right now, Patrick Kane has 63 points, fifth most in the NHL. He’s only five points away from the second place Ryan Getzlaf (and Sydney Crosby is too far ahead of the pack at this point to even be part of the conversation). In the last Winter Olympics, Kane finished six games with three goals and two assists. Since then, he’s won two Stanley Cup Championships and the Conn Smythe Trophy (the Stanley Cup MVP for you n00bs) in 2013. As long as Kane can stay out of trouble in the athletes’ village, he should make a difference for Team U.S.A.

Other Americans you should know: Keep a lookout for John Carlson, T.J. Oshie, Kevin Shattenkirk, Cam Fowler, and James van Riemsdyk. We think these young guys are going to make some big plays this year.

Team Canada

(Photo: Frederick Breedon / Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014)

Disclaimer: We are not including Sidney Crosby here for two reasons: 1) He is the face of the NHL, and 2) We’re still bitter about his 2010 overtime goal to defeat America in the gold medal round.

Ryan Getzlaf

Getzlaf is a seasoned veteran. He’s been in the NHL since 2006, and has been a captain for the Anaheim Ducks since 2008. He also led the Ducks in scoring during the franchise’s first Stanley Cup win in 2007. This season he’s racked up 67 points (second in the NHL) and 29 goals (fourth in the NHL). It looks like Getzlaf will be playing alongside fellow veterans Patrick Marleau and Corey Perry in Sochi. Getzlaf and Perry have played together on the Ducks for years and will surely use that chemistry to net a few goals in the upcoming weeks.

Corey Perry

Corey Perry led the league in scoring in 2010-2011 with 50 goals. That year he also won the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is given to the MVP of the NHL for the regular season. His career hasn’t tailed off since then either. He’s got 30 goals and 30 assists, making him third overall in total goals and sixth overall in points. He’s got a Stanley Cup under his belt and a whole lot of chemistry with his Canadian brethren, who won the Gold in 2010. Perry is definitely a name you should remember if you’re trying to pick up that girl in the Canada jersey.

Other Canadians you should know: Drew Doughty and Shea Weber are two of the best defensemen in the NHL today, and we anticipate John Tavares, Jeff Carter, and Patrick Sharp will also make some noise on offense.

Team Russia

(Photo: G Fiume / Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014)

Alexander Ovechkin

It had to be done. He’s a household name, but not without good reason. While some called him a flop in recent years for his dwindling performances, Ovechkin still leads the NHL in scoring with 40 goals – that’s nine more than the next highest scorer. He’s yet to win Lord Stanley’s Cup or Olympic Gold, but he’s definitely more accustomed to the Russian way of doing the Olympics, which gives him some major home field advantage.

Pavel Datsyuk

In the words of his infallible coach Mike Babcock, Datsyuk is the “best two-way player in the world,” meaning he’s a forward who is just as good at helping out on defense. He’s won two Stanley Cups with the Red Wings, four Lady Bing Trophies (goes to the most sportsmanlike player), and wears the captain patch for Russia. He’s missed a month’s worth of games this year due to a knee injury, but is expected to play in Russia’s Olympic opener.

Other Russians you should know:IlyaKovalchuk retired from the NHL but not from hockey. Andrei Markov, EvgeniMalkin, and Alexander Semin will all surely try to put on a show on their home turf.

Team Sweden

(Photo: G Fiume / Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014)

Henrik Zetterberg

You don’t become the top dog of one of the winningest NHL programs ever by being a slouch. Red Wings Captain HenrikZetterberg has all of the components to lead Sweden to Olympic gold, including one of the world’s best goaltenders backing him up; HenrikLundqvist.

Daniel Sedin

The Sedin brothers have consistently been two of the NHL’s best forwards for the last decade. However, only Daniel is playing in Sochi this year, as Henrik is still nursing a rib injury sustained last month against the Phoenix Coyotes. While the brothers have incredible chemistry and are known for playing off each other, there is no doubt that Daniel Sedin will have an impact on every game, even without his brother.

Other Swedes you should know: Daniel Alfredsson, Carl Hagelin, and Alex Steen form a potent offense for the Swedes. Erik Karlsson, NiklasKronwall, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson will be pivotal for their defensive game.

Team Finland

(Photo: Drew Hallowell / Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014)

Kimmo Timonen

Timonen is another veteran who will be a huge factor for Finland both on and off the ice. He’s been an NHL All Star five times and knows how to get assists from the blue line. He’s got 442 career assists and 113 career goals. Standing at 5’10”, 194 lbs, Timonen isn’t going to be the biggest defender out there, but you wouldn’t know it from his physical play.

Jussi Jokinen

Jokinen is an average goal scorer and average passer, but we think he’ll be a standout for Finland this year. He has bounced around the NHL a bit, but has found a solid niche in Pittsburgh. Last week he said that he feels he’s playing his best hockey, and we agree.

Other Fins you should know: Sami Salo and Teemu Selanne are two other veterans that will be crucial for Finland. They’ve also got an interesting goaltending dynamic, having three of the best in the league (Kari Lehtonen, Antti Niemi, and Tuukka Rask) on their roster.

Check out Your Guide to the Winter Olympic Sports You’ll Randomly Watch at 5am or Girls of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Photos by Scott Audette / NHLI via Getty Images | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2014