15 American Hockey Players Who Need to Be on Team USA for 2014 Olympics
The Olympics commands the world’s attention.
Now that the Summer Olympics have been completed, they will begin to fade from the memory, and thoughts of the upcoming Winter Olympics will creep into our minds.
After a stunning performance by Team USA in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, much will be expected from the 2014 team that will compete in Sochi, Russia
The NHL has not said that its players will compete yet—it is one of the subjects up for discussion during the current Collective Bargaining Association negotiations—but it would still be surprising if the NHL does not suspend its season and allow its players to compete.
While there’s a long way to go before a roster has to be set, here’s a look at 14 core players and one surprise who should be on the U.S. roster.
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
A complete no-brainer here.
Jonathan Quick led the Los Angeles Kings to the Stanley Cup championship, and he was the Conn Smythe winner as the Most Valuable Player in the postseason.
Quick has earned his spot as the No. 1 goalie for the United States. However, if this story was being written a year ago, this spot would have been taken by Tim Thomas of the Boston Bruins. Thomas has decided to take a year off, and his status for future seasons has not been determined.
But Quick is not a downgrade. He is also familiar with Team USA, having been the No. 3 goalie on the 2010 team. Quick had a 1.95 goals-against average, a .929 save percentage and 10 shutouts last season.
Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres
Miller has been a stellar goalie throughout his career with the Sabres.
However, he did his best work with Team USA in the 2010 Olympics. He led the American team to the gold-medal game against a star-studded Canadian team and nearly stole the top prize away with his sensational play before finally losing on Sidney Crosby's overtime goal.
Miller's play has slipped a bit since the Vancouver Olympics, as his GAA has been 2.59 and 2.55 the past two seasons. However, he still has the athleticism and quickness to dominate, and he will likely win a spot on the team.
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Suter was one of the two top prizes in free agency because he is such a dependable defenseman. He has good offensive skills, but he is at his best when he is shutting down opponents, taking the puck out of the zone and carrying it up the ice.
Suter can block shot and take responsibility for making sure the opponent’s attack never gets started. He had seven goals and 39 assists last year and finished plus-15 on the season.
Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets
Johnson will likely play with a bit of an edge all season for the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was a member of the eventual Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings until he was moved at the trade deadline last season. He could have been hoisting the Cup, but instead was traded to the worst team in hockey. He is likely to make opponents pay this season.
Johnson is a solid defenseman with solid offensive skills and consistent defensive ability. He has the size at 6’1” and 231 pounds to punish opponents.
Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers
McDonagh became a dominant player in head coach John Tortorella’s defensive game plan last season, averaging 24:44 of ice time. He will play with personal responsibility every time he is on the ice.
McDonagh is improving offensively, but his signature move is to get in front of the shooter and block the shot. That takes courage, and McDonagh has it in abundance.
Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes
Yandle has the ability to move the puck and carry it up the ice and make a play. He has scored 10 or more goals in each of the last three seasons.
Yandle is a smart player who will make the right play and the proper pass on a consistent basis. He averaged 22:20 of ice time for the Coyotes and he had nine points in 16 playoff games.
Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
If the United States had managed to slip an overtime goal past Roberto Luongo in 2010, chances are that Zach Parise would have been remembered as one of the primary heroes of the team. Parise scored the tying goal with 24 seconds remaining in the gold-medal game and was the best player for the American Olympic team.
Parise was the most sought-after free agent this summer, and he moved from the New Jersey Devils to the Minnesota Wild. He is quick, instinctive and athletic. He is probably the best American-born player in the NHL.
Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
If Zach Parise was the hero for team USA the last time around, it was Joe Pavelski who may have been the most unsung player on the team. Pavelski won the faceoff that led to Parise's tying goal.
He is a do-it-all aggressive player who can play defense, get the job done in the face-off circle and make big-time offensive plays. He is known for playing with consistent effort throughout the season.
Pavelski scored 31 goals and 61 points last season and appears to be improving offensively each season.
Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks
Ryan is a dynamic offensive player who figures to play a key role on the 2014 team. He is a skilled goal-scorer who has exceeded the 30-goal mark each of the last four seasons.
Ryan has a terrific shot, but he is most dangerous because he is big and strong,, and he can go to the front of the net and make plays.
There are few ways to defend Ryan when he gets set up in front of the net, and that’s why he will be an invaluable member of the U.S. Olympic hockey team.
Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings
Brown is the dominant force on the Kings' roster. He was one of the key players during the Stanley Cup run.
He is a tough, hard-nosed player who will go into the corner, win the battle and will come out with the puck.
Brown scored 28 goals in 2010-11 and followed that up by scoring 22 goals last year. He had eight goals and had 12 assists during the playoffs to lead all postseason performers.
Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens
Pacioretty, 23, came into his own last year, scoring 33 goals for the Canadiens in what was a terrible year for the most decorated franchise in NHL history.
Pacioretty is a solid offensive player who has size, excellent touch, a good shot and the ability to find the open spots in the defense.
He seems to be getting better each season, so he may be the kind of player who can take pressure off of Parise by scoring clutch goals at key moments.
David Backes, St. Louis Blues
David Backes would appear to be another solid selection for Team USA because of his solid all-around game, which includes the ability to score goals, set up teammates and assert himself with physical play whenever it is necessary. Opponents who go into the corner to battle Backes for the puck are going to come out second-best most of the time.
Backes scored 24 goals last year after scoring 31 goals in 2010-11. He has a good shot and can score on a one-timer, but he is most dangerous when going to the net. He has the size and strength at 6'3" and 225 pounds, as well as the determination, to cause havoc when he sets himself in front of the goalie.
Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks
Kesler is one of the mainstays of the Vancouver Canucks. He is also remembered as one of the best and most versatile players from the 2010 U.S. Olympic Hockey team.
Kesler has size and strength to win the battle, but more than those characteristics, he has the ability to battle for the puck away and the will to come away with it in crucial situation.
Kesler scored 41 goals in 2010-11 and 22 goals last year. He is a solid, all-around player who can play defense and score at crucial moments.
Kesler's spectacular empty-net goal against Canada in 2010 ensured a U.S. victory in pool play and is typical of his hard work and hustle.
Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers
When the Rangers were negotiating with the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to the Rick Nash trade, general manager Glen Sather held firm on a couple of requests from Scott Howson regarding what Columbus wanted in return.
Howson wanted to discuss Ryan Callahan, but Sather would have none of it.
The Rangers captain is just too valuable, and Sather was not going to part with him, even though Nash has spectacular scoring ability. Callahan has scored 20 or more goals in three of the last four years, including a career-high 29 goals last year.
There's no sacrifice Callahan won't make in order to help his team win. That's why he should be a key member of team USA.
Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
This pick is somewhat of a reach, because Kreider has not played a regular season NHL game.
However, he has played 18 postseason games, and Rangers fans saw his breathtaking speed and spectacular talent. The Rangers are counting on Kreider to become one of their best offensive players, and the guess is that he will get there.
If he becomes a 30-goal scorer this year, it will be the result of his much-needed playmaking ability. The USA roster is likely to be long on hard workers, but when there's a chance to put a game-breaker on the roster (via the New York Times), they are going to have to take it.