We wrap up our three-part series on Team Russia’s roster tomorrow ahead of the World Cup of Hockey, so today I’m running through the three best Russian players to wear teal. Note that I’m only looking at the player’s time while with the team — so this is looking at the Russians whose careers in teal were most impressive.
Let’s hit the list.
3. Alexander Korolyuk (1997-2004)
The Russian leader in games played for the Sharks (296), Korolyuk also scored the most points (142) and tops the list in power-play goals (13). There have been better Russian scorers on the Sharks in the past (Sergei Makarov and Igor Larionov come to mind), but neither of those players had as lengthy a tenure in teal as Korolyuk.
2. Sandis Ozolinsh (1992-2008)
Ozolinsh played in a couple stints with the Sharks and is widely thought to be one of (if not the) best defender to ever wear teal. He scored 132 points in 212 games as a defender and was the first great blue-liner to suit up for San Jose. He was an incredibly gifted player — if you haven’t seen some highlights of him in action, it’s time to change that.
1. Evgeni Nabokov (1999-2010)
Nabby still holds almost every major franchise goaltending record and he brought insurmountable joy to the Shark Tank over his long career with San Jose. Nabokov played in 563 games with the Sharks and posted a .912 save percentage while racking up 293 wins. He was my first favorite player and I can still hear the Tank chanting “Nab-by, Nab-by” after he made a spectacular save.
I know I already mentioned them in passing, but this list just doesn’t feel complete without Sergei Makarov and Igor Larionov. While their tenures in teal were brief, the two remain a pair of the best players to ever play for the franchise. Both are more famous for their exploits with other teams, but they provided an incredible boost to a franchise on the rise and left an indelible impact.