Published On: Wed, Feb 14th, 2018

5 under-the-radar men's hockey players to watch at PyeongChang 2018

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When the NHL made its decision not to let its players participate at PyeongChang 2018, it was met by immediate trepidation among those who were eagerly anticipating watching the world’s best battle for a gold medal.

With no Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, Patrik Laine, and Erik Karlsson, among many, Olympic and hockey fans will turn to their replacements; a vast group of former NHLers and highly regarded prospects.

With action officially underway Saturday morning, here are five under-the-radar players to keep an eye on at PyeongChang 2018.

Ilya Sorokin, Russian athlete

Age: 22 | Position: Goalie | Team: CSKA Moscow (New York Islanders)

Sorokin enters the competition as one of the tournament’s most talented goalies. The Islanders drafted the youngster in the third round in 2014, as seven other goalies went before him. Only time will tell, but the talented Russian netminder could prove to be quite the steal for New York.

Sorokin, fully committed to the KHL, has put up video-game-like numbers for CSKA Moscow. Since hearing his name called by the Islanders, he’s put up a 1.41 goals-against average, 23 shutouts, a .937 save percentage, and a 66-14 record in 103 games. If he gets the starting job, which he should, his performance will be monitored very closely.

Gilbert Brule, Canada

Age: 31 | Position: Center | Team: Kunlun Red Star (KHL)

As Crosby, Connor McDavid, Steven Stamkos, and John Tavares watch from home, the veteran Brule will help to guide a Canadian team to back-to-back-to-back Olympic gold medals. No easy task.

While Chris Kelly, Wojtek Wolski, and Maxim Lapierre all have extensive NHL experience, Brule – drafted sixth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2005 – should be a key contributor. Brule failed to live up to the hype he generated as a prospect, topping out at 37 points with the Edmonton Oilers in 2009.

Now playing in his fifth season in the KHL, Brule is in the midst of a breakout campaign with 35 points (17 goals) in 47 games. As Canada shoots for a medal, it’s Brule’s time to shine on the big stage.

Troy Terry, United States

Age: 20 | Position: Center | Team: University of Denver (Anaheim Ducks)

Similiar to Sorokin, the 20-year-old Terry is one of the tournament’s most intriguing young players.

Terry, a fifth-round pick of the Ducks in 2015, has been dominant playing for the University of Denver over the past two seasons. After compiling 45 points and 22 goals in 35 games in 2016-17, he’s been equally effective this year with 32 points (11 goals) in 28 contests.

He made waves with his performance at the 2017 World Junior Championship, scoring three shootout goals to help the U.S. advance past Russia. He’d go on to score the lone shootout goal in the gold-medal game against Canada, sealing the win.

Jiri Sekac, Czech Republic

Age: 25 | Position: Right Wing | Team: Kazan Ak-Bars (KHL)

Montreal Canadiens fans are most familiar with Sekac, a once-highly touted prospect out of the KHL. Signed by the Habs in 2014 after a solid 28-point campaign with Prague Lev, Sekac failed to produce in North America and struggled to earn an expanded role under former head coach Michel Terrien, whom Sekac criticized following a trade to the Ducks in 2015.

Now comfortably back in the KHL, Sekac has been a steady contributor with Kazan. In 48 games this season, he has 15 goals and a team-high 40 points. On a Czech squad lacking high-end skill, the 25-year-old will need to be an offensive catalyst.

Linus Omark, Sweden

Age: 31 | Position: Left Wing | Team: Ufa Salavat Yulayev (KHL)

Few rookies have the confidence to pull out a shootout move like Omark’s from 2010, but it worked, and the goal became a talking point at the time it was executed.

Omark managed to impress in 51 games on a young Oilers team, putting up 27 points and leading many to believe he would be part of the new wave of talent in Edmonton. The good times were short-lived, as Omark was later traded to Buffalo and would last only 13 games before leaving for Sweden.

Much like other European-born hockey players who failed to stick in the NHL, Omark has since been incredibly consistent in the KHL. He compiled over 50 points in each of the past two years and has surpassed that mark again this season, with a team-high 51 points in 53 contests. Whether or not Omark breaks out an epic shootout move at the games remains to be seen.

(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)

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