Here are answers to some of the questions regarding how the International Olympic Committee's ban of Russia for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games will impact the men’s hockey tournament.
What is expected to happen with the Russian players?
It’s not 100% settled, but federations are expecting that the Russian team will compete under the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” designation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has given his blessing for his country’s athletes to compete under that designation.
This situation can be compared to the 1992 Olympics, when players from the former Soviet Union, competing as the Unified Team, won the men’s hockey gold medal in Meribel, France.
More: What could have been: Team USA's potential Olympic roster if NHL players were participating
How strong is the Russian team?
With the NHL not allowing its players to go, the Russians are the favorites to win the tournament because the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League is the best league in Europe.
The Russians should have more depth because they lose a lower percentage of their most talented players to the NHL.
Only 30 Russian players are in the NHL this season. By contrast, 76 Swedish players are in the NHL. That suggests more Russian players opt to stay at home to play than players from other European countries.
Some Russians, including Andrei Markov, decided to sign in the KHL this summer because they wanted to play in the Olympics. Former NHLer Ilya Kovalchuk is playing in the KHL, and the league also includes several young Russian standouts who could be playing in the NHL.
What are the potential problems if the Russian players choose not to play?
It would only be a significant problem if the KHL refuses to allow players to play in the Games. Other countries are planning to use their players who are competing in the KHL.
It would particularly hurt Canada, which is projected to have a roster heavy with KHL players. Former NHLers Ben Scrivens, Andrew Ebbett and Matt Frattin are among the Canadian-born KHLers.
The Americans are only expected to use a handful of KHL players, including former NHLers Matt Gilroy and Brian O’Neill. The American roster will also include athletes playing in other European leagues, such as Swiss League star Mark Arcobello, and college players.
How likely is it that this would happen?
Not very. Even though it has generated buzz, the Russians love international competition, proved by how devoted Washington Capitals star Alex Ovechkin is to playing at the world championships. The International Ice Hockey Federation wants the KHL to release all of its players for the Olympics, and the Russians could risk sanctions from the IIHF in future tournaments if the KHL doesn't let all of its players go. The Russians likely wouldn’t want to risk the possibility of not being able to compete at the world championships.
The KHL has no games scheduled during the Olympics.
Which country would move up if Russian didn’t play in the Olympics?
Eleven countries have qualified, not including Russia. Belarus likely would be the selection as they're the next-ranked team based on the IIHF's rating system. By the way, the Russians are in the same preliminary-round pool as the Americans. Slovenia and Slovakia are also in that pool.