good news? We have an in-depth understanding of the team’s performance in the Olympic qualifiers. And reality? Latvia might surprise the people in Group C.
Latvia entered the Olympics as one of three teams that qualified for the Olympics.They did it soon after Tragic loss Matiss Kivlenieks commemorates their fallen friend in the best possible way. This is a great story, and now Latvia is back in the main event after missing the 2018 game.
So, how will Latvians stack up?
The good news is that the roster should remain relatively unchanged from the Olympic qualifications. Over the past ten years, Latvia has maintained a near-uniform appearance, bringing the same talents to each event and keeping many players in line with the KHL Riga plan. This familiarity is helpful and an important reason why they closed the NHL heavy Canadian team at the Latvia World Championships in 2021.
This is a team that won’t challenge the competition for medals, especially when the NHLers are back in the equation. However, they may pose a threat to some teams in Group C and may cause headaches for teams such as Slovakia and Finland in the process. This is what they did in 2014, almost beating Canada after a performance by the relatively unknown Kristers Gudlevskis. This time, Columbus’s Elvis Melzlikins will take on the starting responsibilities. Considering that he is already one of the best goalkeepers in the country, this should give Latvia a fighter to enter the playoffs.
Let’s see what this list will look like.
Each team allows 22 skaters (14 forwards, 8 defenders) and 3 goalkeepers.
Ronald Kennings-Rodrigue Abbles-Rudolf Balthus
Kaspars Daugavins-Teddy Blueger-Rihards Bukarts
Why Indrasis- Zemgs Gilgensen -Lauris Dazins
Martins Dzierkals-Andris drink -Rainus Krastenberg
Robert Bucharest, Dennis Smirnov
In the Olympic qualifiers, five players scored at least two goals in the three games, showing a good balance of offensive firepower. Balcers and Kenins tied for the lead with 6 points, while Indrasis, Abols, Blugers and Darzins each scored 4 points. This team will form the main core, with Bruggs and Valces-two Latvian NHL forwards-both playing vital roles in Riga last month. For non-NHLers holding fortresses, Abols and Kenins have been top dogs for some time and will continue to do so. Bukarts and Daugavins also added extra points.
Fortunately, the team also has a good closing depth. Buffalo Sabres forward Gigensens plays a strong defensive center role in the NHL. Although he looked a bit rusty after missing the entire season last season, he showed why he stayed in the NHL for so long. Krastenbergs and Dzierkals can bring some speed to the bottom six, Darzins and Indrasis have some skills to use, so why there is no real difference maker in this forward lineup, at least there is something to use.
Christian Rubens-Uvis Janis Balinskis
Artus Kurda-Janis Jaks
Oscar Sibulskis-Ralph Freiberg
Kristaps Sotnieks-Kristaps Zile
Latvia has no big-name players on the blue line, but they have shown a tendency to play close matches with strong teams. Rubens is a rookie for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is part of Latvia’s long-term future. Although he usually does not launch a large number of offenses, his 6-foot-5 big man has a steady pace. NHL fans will also be familiar with Kurda. He was an Olympian in Latvia in 2014 and the mainstay of the Latvian international team for most of his career. As a strong shot blocker, Kuda has performed well in many different projects in the past ten years. Although his performance is far from reaching its peak, he will bring experience and physical fitness to the suspended role.
The two defenders who performed well in the Olympic qualifiers are Jaks and Balinskis, 26 and 25 years old respectively. Neither should generate a lot of points, but can still move the puck well enough and help create offense. Latvia’s blue line will mainly focus on playing hockey, because, as the team demonstrated in the 2014 game against Canada, all they need to do is slow down the game, and they will find a way to make the game from a scoring perspective. Things become interesting.
Elvis Merzlikins, Ivars Ponnenovs, Artus Silovs
There is no doubt about the starting position: Mezlikins will be the man who will lead Latvia to the quarter-finals. The goalkeeper of the Blue Jackets had a wonderful rookie campaign two years ago. Although his performance has declined last year, the same is true for the entire Blue Jackets. Merzlikins has not worn the burgundy line worn by Latvia since he ventured to North America, but he has almost always been one of the best goalkeepers in the world when representing his country. The Blue Jackets will not perform well this season, but Mezlikins should give Latvia a chance to fight in a tight game.
Punnenovs’ mission was to become the main figure in the Olympic qualifiers, and it did not disappoint. He had two lockouts and only scored one goal in three games to help the Latvians advance. He is likely to start in the round robin, but it is Merzlikins’ goal difference that will lose. Silovs is a rookie from Canucks and should watch the game at the press conference for most of the game, and then may challenge several games in 2026. Janis Kalnins can also become a mature professional player, but I ranked Silovs third, because it probably won’t make any difference who occupies that position, but for those who value highly in Latvia, it might be a good time. Learning experience.