-- Brian Burke
doesn't expect much mention for Team USA when the prognosticators begin choosing their contenders in men's ice hockey for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
And Burke, the American general manager, is perfectly fine with that.
"There's not going to be a dime bet on this team in Las Vegas -- not a penny," Burke said on the opening day of the men's Olympic orientation camp at Seven Bridges Ice Arena.
"We're going to be a dramatic underdog and most of the focus will be on the other teams," Burke continued. "But USA Hockey has given us the best talent pool that we've ever been able to draw from, thanks mostly to the Under-18 Team in Ann Arbor (Mich.), which has been cranking out players who are great and have given us better options and more choices."
In Burke's eyes, Team Canada and Russia appear to be the frontrunners.
"I think Russia is going to have an awesome team in this tournament, but the rivalry that our guys focus on is with Canada," Burke said. "If you ask our players who our rival is, they'd all say it's Canada."
Besides there being stiff competition, another reason the United States will enter the ’10 Games as an underdog is the fact 70 percent of the invitees to this week's camp are 24-or-younger. Only five players -- Chris Drury
, Scott Gomez
, Jamie Langenbrunner
, Mike Modano
and Brian Rafalski
-- have Olympic experience and there's no guarantee any will even survive the Dec. 31 final cutdown.
Burke, Team USA Associate GM David Poile and four other NHL GM's were the architects behind selecting the 34 players at orientation camp this week. The list will ultimately increase at the quarter-poll of the NHL season as new American players begin to impress.
"We're going to have to be skills-specific," Burke said. "We're going to have to look for people to do certain jobs on our hockey team and do them well and we're going to have to be ready when we get (to Vancouver)."
Poile stressed that just because USA Hockey invited young players doesn't necessarily mean Team USA is already looking ahead to 2014.
"This is not an exercise to prepare for 2014," Poile said. "We're here to win now, but changes have to be made. We are young and do lack a lot of experience, but just because we're an underdog shouldn't change our goals or what we're trying to accomplish. We happen to think the guys we have invited (to camp) are very good.
"There's maybe half the players here I believe we'd all say we're 100 percent sure will make the team and just monitor them," he continued. "With the other guys, I wouldn't say it's wide open, but there's room for improvement. There's room for discussion on how they'd fit into the team."
Tampa Bay Lightning
forward Ryan Malone
said the players are thinking gold medal all the way.
"Some people think we brought a lot of young guys here for later on, but the mindset is that you want to win the gold medal," Malone told NHL.com. "You're here and have that chance to do it; it would definitely be an honor."
Contact Mike Morreale at firstname.lastname@example.org.