Predicting Which Philadelphia Flyers Will Play in 2014 Winter Olympics
The XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi won't get underway for another two months, but questions are already circling the hockey universe as to which NHLers will be chosen to represent their respective countries.
Will an up-and-coming youngster be thrust into the spotlight on the game's greatest stage?
Will the savvy veteran be chosen for one last medal run?
And will a slow start to the 2013-14 campaign impact the chances of those previously considered to be roster locks?
Those questions and many more are swirling around just about every NHL clubhouse as we speak. And the Philadelphia Flyers are no different.
Here's a prediction as to which Flyers will have the opportunity to play in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Claude Giroux, Team Canada
Despite a slow start, Claude Giroux should still be a lock to play for Team Canada.
After stumbling out of the gates with just three points in his first nine games, Giroux has come alive as of late, recording 15 points in 19 outings since. What's more, after opening the season without a point in his first five games, the Hearst, Ontario native hadn't gone back-to-back contests without finding his way onto the score sheet until Philadelphia's two most recent outings.
He's a dynamic playmaker who can play in all situations, and it's that versatility—be it at even strength, on the power play or shorthanded—that will make Giroux a valuable component to Team Canada's approach.
The 25-year-old center was just starting to blossom during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver but should be a lock for an appearance in Sochi this time around.
Jake Voracek, Team Czech Republic
One of the Czech Republic's brightest young stars, Jake Voracek, will be all but guaranteed a spot on the team's final roster.
Like most of Philadelphia's forward, Voracek is off to a slow start in 2013 having compiled just a dozen points through his first 27 games, but that shouldn't hurt the versatile winger's chances of making the final cut.
Entering this season, the 24-year-old forward had already compiled four straight seasons of at least 46 points and was coming off a career-best 22 goals despite the lockout-shortened campaign of a year ago.
Despite a paltry three goals this year, Voracek is still a sniper who can score on the rush as well as launch one-timers from the wing. His above-average foot speed makes him an asset in every situation and he can even man the point on the power play if needed.
With aging forwards like Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Martin Erat likely to make one more run, the Czech Republic will want to infuse some youth to balance its roster. That's where Voracek fits in.
Kimmo Timonen, Team Finland
At 38 years old, Kimmo Timonen is certainly in the twilight of his playing career, and yet his inclusion on Team Finland's Olympic roster seems as certain as any player in the NHL.
A veteran of four different Winter Olympics and 24 Olympic matches, Timonen is one of the most seasoned international competitors in the game today.
And not only has Timonen participated, he's had success at the international level.
With three goals and 11 points on his international resume, Timonen was a key defensive cog to Finnish teams that claimed the bronze medal in Nagano in 1998 and in Vancouver the last time around. He also had his most productive Olympics (goal, four assists) in 2006 when Team Finland captured the silver medal in Turin.
An above-average skating defenseman with incredible hockey sense, Timonen can play in all situations and won't be phased by the larger international ice surface and the enhanced spotlight.
Nicklas Grossmann, Team Sweden
A 6'4", 230-pound defenseman, Nicklas Grossmann would provide a much-needed physical presence to a Swedish Olympic roster that's often loaded with playmakers.
The 28-year-old Grossmann wouldn't contribute much offensively (he's managed just 57 points in his seven-year NHL career) but would bring a hard-hitting, shot-blocking defensive mindset.
Team Sweden will have plenty of playmakers at the back end with blueliners like Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alexander Edler and Niklas Hjalmarsson, but who will be back there to physically intimidate the opposition and clear away the traffic in front of the Swedish net?
The answer should be Grossmann.
He's presently tied for fourth among all NHLers in blocked shots (71) and is ninth among defensemen in hits (74). Those aren't overly sexy statistics, but they win hockey games—and Olympic medals.
Mark Streit, Team Switzerland
Mark Streit was one of just two NHL talents on Switzerland's roster during the Vancouver games and will be a lock to compete again this time around in Sochi.
A 35-year-old blueliner, Streit already has two Winter Olympics under his belt after competing the last time around and in 2006 in Turin. An above-average skater, he's comfortable on the larger international ice surface and will be comfortable logging plenty of minutes for a predominantly inexperienced Swiss group.
In just 11 prior Olympic outings, Streit has already compiled two goals and six points on a team that struggles to compete with the upper-echelon squads at the international level.