Team USA Hockey: Position-by-Position Breakdown of Preliminary Roster
The United States will face high expectations at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi after coming so close to winning the gold medal in Vancouver.
The memory of the heartbreaking overtime loss in the gold medal game in 2010 is going to be a powerful motivator for Team USA, as it embarks on its journey to take home ice hockey's top Olympic prize for the first time since the Miracle on Ice team in 1980.
On Monday, USA Hockey unveiled its Olympic camp roster. The 2010 team was constructed as a gritty, physical team that would outwork opponents and score timely goals. This was a successful strategy, and it will be interesting to see if the same approach is taken when determining the 2014 roster.
Let's look at a position-by-position breakdown of Team USA's camp roster and make predictions on which players will make the final team.
Camp Invites: Craig Anderson (OTT), Cory Schneider (NJD), Jimmy Howard (DET), Ryan Miller (BUF), John Gibson (ANA), Jonathan Quick (LAK)
Notable Omissions: Tim Thomas (Free Agent), Jack Campbell (DAL)
Projected Group: Quick (starter), Miller, Howard
Position Breakdown: The Americans have great depth at the goaltender position, which was the strength of their team in 2010. Quick is the likely starter given his remarkable NHL success since the last Olympics, which includes a Stanley Cup title and a Conn Smythe Trophy.
Miller was the star of the 2010 squad and the tournament's best player, and unless he has an awful start to the 2013-14 season, he is a near-lock to make the team.
The decision on the third goalie will be a difficult one, but given Howard's experience and playoff success at the NHL level, he is the better option than Anderson or Schneider. Gibson is a top prospect and was the star of the 2013 World Junior Championships, but he has no NHL experience.
Camp Invites: Ryan McDonagh (NYR), Zach Bogosian (WPG), Dustin Byfuglien (WPG), John Carlson (WSH), Dan DeKeyser (DET), Cam Fowler (ANA), Justin Faulk (CAR), Jake Gardiner (TOR), Erik Johnson (COL), Jack Johnson (CBJ), Seth Jones (NSH), Nick Leddy (CHI), Paul Martin (PIT), Brooks Orpik (PIT), Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), Ryan Suter (MIN), Jacob Trouba (WPG), Keith Yandle (PHX)
Notable Omissions: Alex Goligoski (DAL), Torey Krug (BOS), Rob Scuderi (PIT), Tim Gleason (CAR)
Projected Group: Yandle, Suter, McDonagh, Jack Johnson, Shattenkirk, Orpik, Bogosian
Position Breakdown: The United States chose to invite a few top prospects with no NHL experience to the rookie camp, including Jones and Trouba. These players aren't likely to make the roster, but there are a few young blueliners with a good chance, including Bogosian, Gardiner, DeKeyser and Faulk.
One player to watch is DeKeyser, who could earn a spot on the final roster with a strong start to the 2013-14 NHL season. He has the talent needed to be an elite player for the Red Wings.
There are three locks to make the squad, and they are McDonagh, Suter and Yandle. These three defensemen have exceptional two-way skills, and will bring plenty of leadership and experience to the blue line. Jack Johnson is another player with a phenomenal chance to make the team after playing a role on the 2010 roster.
It also wouldn't be surprising if Orpik and/or Martin make the team for veteran experience, imposing size and shutdown ability.
Camp Invites: Max Pacioretty (MTL), Justin Abdelkader (DET), Zach Parise (MIN), Bobby Ryan (OTT), Brandon Saad (CHI), James Van Riemsdyk (TOR)
Notable Omissions: Nick Foligno (CBJ)
Projected Group: Parise, Pacioretty, Ryan, Van Riemsdyk
Position Breakdown: Parise was one of the stars of the 2010 team and he's a lock to make this roster, along with Ryan and Van Riemsdyk. Pacioretty, if healthy, should also be a near-lock. Don't be surprised if Saad makes the team following his fine rookie campaign with the Blackhawks last season.
The two-way ability of the American left wingers is quite impressive. Ryan and Van Riemsdyk are power forwards who impact games with their physical play and ability to score 20-30 goals every season. Parise is a fantastic offensive player who is responsible defensively and provides incredible leadership.
Team USA will have the strongest group of natural left wingers of any team at the 2014 Olympics.
Camp Invites: Beau Bennett (PIT), Dustin Brown (LAK), Ryan Callahan (NYR), Patrick Kane (CHI), Phil Kessel (TOR), Kyle Okposo (NYI), T.J. Oshie (STL), Kyle Palmieri (ANA), Blake Wheeler (WPG)
Notable Omissions: Drew Stafford (BUF), Jason Pominville (MIN)
Projected Group: Callahan, Kane, Kessel, Brown, Okposo
Position Breakdown: The group of right wingers for Team USA is headlined by Kane, who is the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner and arguably the face of American hockey. He's one of the best offensive players in the world and capable of creating a quality scoring chance every time he touches the puck.
Kessel is also a lock to make the final roster as an elite goal scorer, while Callahan and Brown are also near-locks to make the team as veteran leaders who will provide valuable scoring depth, toughness and defensive ability.
In the event that one of the team's extra forwards comes from the deep pool of right wing candidates, Okposo would be the best choice. He brings impressive size and goal scoring skill to the ice for the Islanders. With that said, don't be surprised if Bennett makes the team because his head coach in Pittsburgh, Dan Bylsma, will be the bench boss for Team USA at the Sochi Olympics.
The Americans will rely a lot on their right wingers, specifically Kane and Kessel, to shoulder a lot of the offensive burden at the Olympics.
Camp Invites: David Backes (STL), Nick Bjugstad (FLA), Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), Ryan Kesler (VAN), Trevor Lewis (LAK), Joe Pavelski (SJS), Craig Smith (NSH), Paul Stastny (COL), Derek Stepan (NYR)
Notable Omissions: Brandon Dubinsky (CBJ),
Projected Group: Kesler, Stepan, Pavelski, Backes, Galchenyuk
Position Breakdown: The group of centers for Team USA doesn't have the same amount of elite offensive skill as Canada's, but it does include remarkable grit, defensive ability and leadership.
Kesler is the best of the bunch, but his recent injury concerns with the Canucks could be an issue. He missed 31 games last season, and without him, the Americans don't have a legitimate No. 1 center for the top line.
Pavelski is the next best option for that role in the event that Kesler is injured. The Sharks star is a quality goal scorer and has an impressive record of playoff success in the NHL.
In addition to Kesler and Pavelski, Stepan is a near-lock to make the squad after leading the Rangers in scoring last season as a 23-year-old. Expect the United States to take five centers to the Olympics so the team has enough depth at the position, and a player or two who could play a role on the wing if a major star suffers an injury.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He was also a credentialed writer at the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup Final, as well as the 2013 NHL draft.