Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
James van Riemsdyk will need to show more consistency if he wants to crack the American roster.
Jake Gardiner - United States of America
The Americans boast a young, fast team, and Jake Gardiner fits that mold to a tee.
The smooth-skating defenseman from Minneapolis was one of 18 blueliners invited to the U.S. men's national team. The likely reason for so many invites on the back end is due to a lack of high-end talent. Beyond Keith Yandle and Ryan Suter, a case can be made for each of the other 16 invitees as to why they should make the team.
Gardiner's case begins and ends with his legs as the 23-year-old is already known as one of the best skaters in the NHL. Team USA would be remiss if it ignored the value of Gardiner's skating ability and breathtaking creativity on European ice.
His lack of experience, both at the pro and international level, may eventually hold him back this time around, but a strong first half to the 2013-14 season will garner him strong consideration.
Dion Phaneuf - Canada
Like Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf would have little trouble making any other Olympic roster, but Canada's defense is stacked top to bottom. Eighteen defensemen were invited to camp, making competition even stiffer.
Unfortunately for Phaneuf, the unique abilities he brings to the table—namely his booming shot and his physicality—are diminished by the European game. His leadership qualities, while admirable, are a dime a dozen on a squad loaded with NHL captains and assistants.
Where Phaneuf may have an edge his is handedness. Team Canada is loaded with right-handed shooters on the back end; executive director Steve Yzerman, though iterating it's not the end all and be all, has gone on record as saying he prefers a balance of right-handed and left-handed shooters.
Dan Boyle, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Brent Seabrook, P.K. Subban, Alex Pietrangelo and Kris Letang are all right-handed, while the only left-handed defenseman with a secured roster spot is Duncan Keith.
If Phaneuf can put 2013 behind him and return to form next season, we may see that left-handed shot in Russia next winter.
James van Riemsdyk - United States of America
James van Riemsdyk profiles as the kind of player who should thrive on European ice. The extra space on the ice should heighten his above-average speed, fearless net drive and playmaking abilities, taking his game to a whole new level.
The main complaint about van Riemsdyk's NHL career to date, however, is his lack of consistency. If van Riemsdyk is slumping around Christmas time, his lackluster defensive game won't allow USA Hockey to take the chance he'll get out of it in time for the tournament.