Vancouver in 2010 was bittersweet for the USA Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey team. However their accomplishments should not be ignored. Gold was the goal but they fell just short. The Americans’ claimed Silver as the Canadians claimed the final game on an overtime goal from perhaps the best player in the world Sidney Crosby.
Heading into the 2014 Team USA GM David Poile and his staff will have some tough decisions to make. USA Hockey has re-stocked the shelves after the 1980’s US glory days of Modano, Roenick, Tkachuk, Leetch and friends.
The 2014 team that will head to the Russian tourist mecca of Sochi will be again a contender for Gold. The Americans have star-power and depth to go along with size and experience. Let’s take a look at what that team may look like come February.
In goal, Team USA will be in good hands. Assuming Jonathan Quick is healthy, he will most certainly be the starter in net. He’s a Stanley Cup winner and is regarded as an elite NHL goalie. On the bench but ready is veteran and 2010 Silver Medal winner Ryan Miller. His NHL Sabres’ club is wallowing in the standings yet Miller could get red-hot. Should Quick not be ready Miller may be wearing stars and stripes in the US crease. A 3rd goalie may cause controversy but I would go with the Senators’ Craig Anderson.
On defense the Americans are looking for Minnesota’s Ryan Suter to lead their platoon US blueliners. Big Dustin Byfuglien of the Jets has size and skill and should be a mainstay. Kevin Shattenkirk of the Blues is a great skater and puck mover. He should feel at home at 5 on 5, on the powerplay and penalty kill. Justin Braun of the Sharks is ready for primetime. His size, speed and skating ability should be a Team USA asset for years to come. Erik Johnson of the Av’s was a first overall draft selection who failed to live up to the hype early in his career with St Louis. Now in his 6th season Johnson is a reliable mobile defender. Some might think Seth Jones of Nashville is too young to make the National Team on defense but I would argue that the experience can only help his game. The rookie Predator should be a rock on USA defense for years to come. Filling out the US defense could be the Rangers Ryan McDonagh is a leader whose game continues to evolve.
Up front there is no shortage of firepower. Zach Parise is an all-world forward who could be seen as hockey’s answer to baseball’s 5-tool player. He’s got speed, skill, leadership, shooting ability and can be a force on both sides of the puck. The 2-time Stanley Cup winner, Patrick Kane is an offensive magic man. His quickness and mobility make him hard to shut down. Next up is the Canuck’s Ryan Kesler. A huge part of 2010’s Silver medal team, he will be an impact guy in Sochi. Phil Kessel of the Leafs is another offensive forward who knows his way around the net. Expect much from Kessel especially on the powerplay.
The Sharks Joe Pavelski will do what Sharks fans see him do game in and game out. He’s a clutch guy especially on the PP and PK. He’s also one of the top faceoff men in hockey. Look for Joe to take those important draws late in a game. The LA Kings captain Dustin Brown will prove a thorn in the side of every team he plays against. Brown is a hard-hitting, sandpaper guy who is a powerful leader on and off the ice.
Two St. Louis players who will be in Russia this February are certain to be David Backes and TJ Oshie. Both have size, skill and are very comfortable in the physical part of the game. USA Head Coach Dan Bylsma will most likely want to pair them up on the same line. They are money guys who play the game the way it’s meant to be played.
Toronto’s James Van Reimsdyk is a highly skilled guy whose game gets better each year. The 24-year old has 25 points in 30 games for Toronto and at 6’3 200lbs is tough to defend. Another veteran leader is Colorado’s Paul Stastny. The 5-time NHL 20-goal scorer is ready to show a world stage he’s ready to lead the Americans to another medal, perhaps a Gold one.
The former Duck and current Senator Bobby Ryan could be a huge part of the exciting American squad. Speed is his game and he is deadly from the circles down. The New York Rangers Captain, Ryan Callahan is a gritty 2-way player. Mentally strong and a natural leader, Callahan will be a big part of the US efforts. 21-year old Brandon Saad of the Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks is an emerging star in the NHL. He has big game success under his belt and will be part of US Hockey for years to come. Another forward who is having an excellent season is Minnesota’s Jason Pominville who sniped 15 goals in just 33 games.
Likely filling out the American forwards are Montreal’s left-winger Max Pacioretty. He has 11 goals in 23 games while the Islanders Kyle Okposo is a leader and solid offensive producer.
A Medal should be expected but competition will be stiff with strong teams from Canada, Sweden, Finland, and Russia among others. This is an American team that if they hard and together, could bring home Gold for the first time since 1980.