Predicting Which Chicago Blackhawks Will Play in 2014 Winter Olympics

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistDecember 4, 2013

Predicting Which Chicago Blackhawks Will Play in 2014 Winter Olympics

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    Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    In just a few short months, the world's sporting focus will be on ice hockey when the best players in the world compete for their countries in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

    The Chicago Blackhawks will be well represented in Sochi, with Patrick Kane taking on a starring role for Team USA, while Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith will do the same for Canada. Marian Hossa will be a major factor for Slovakia and could be a difference maker in the tournament.

    Here's a look at 10 Blackhawks who have a chance to be impact players in Sochi. There's a chance that one or two of these players won't make their nation's teams, but they all have the ability to make a contribution if they are selected.

RW Patrick Kane, USA

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    Previous Olympic Stats: 2010—Six games, three goals, two assists, plus-four


    Patrick Kane should be one of Team USA's most dangerous and important players. He will play right wing on the team's first line, most likely with Zach Parise and Ryan Kesler. Kane is a proven big-game player, and after winning the Conn Smythe trophy last season, he is capable of dominating on the biggest stage in the world.

    Kane's offensive talent is remarkably high and his stick-handling ability is second-to-none. If the U.S. is going to win gold in this tournament, the Buffalo, New York, native must have a spectacular showing.

C Jonathan Toews, Canada

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    Previous Olympic Stats: 2010—Seven games, one goal, seven assists, plus-nine


    He's known as Captain Serious for a reason. Toews is the best all-around player on the Chicago Blackhawks and he may take on the same role for Team Canada, with Sidney Crosby probably serving as his top competition for that honor. 

    Toews is perhaps the most responsible player in the NHL.

    When the Blackhawks trailed the Boston Bruins 2-1 after three games in last year's Stanley Cup Final, it was Toews who decided to challenge Zdeno Chara. Once Toews took it to the 6'9" defenseman, the Blackhawks won the final three games of the series and Chara was minus-six for the remainder of the series.

    The point is that Toews will do whatever it takes for his team to win. His presence is huge for Canada.

D Duncan Keith, Canada

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Olympic Stats: 2010—Seven games, no goals, six assists, plus-six


    Duncan Keith is a huge presence on the blue line. This year, he is showing the same kind of form that allowed him to take the Norris Trophy in 2009-10.

    Keith is a spectacular athlete on the blue line. He can play the shutdown game with any defenseman in the league because of his speed, strength and instincts. His offensive game has never been better. Keith has scored 25 points in his first 29 games this year and he had an eight-game scoring streak as of Dec. 3.

    Keith could be paired with current defense partner Brent Seabrook, or the Team Canada coaching braintrust could play him with Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings.

RW Marian Hossa, Slovakia

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    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Olympic Stats: 2002—two games, four goals, two assists, plus-five; 2006—six games, five goals, five assists, plus-nine; 2010—seven games, three goals, six assists, even plus-minus


    Marian Hossa has been one of Slovakia's best all-around players in three previous Olympic competitions.

    Hossa, 34, has a unique skill set that can allow him to be the best player on the ice in a given game. He is a brilliant skater and strong as a horse. When he is on his game and playing with full determination, he can wear a defender on his back and still make a series of moves to score highlight-film goals.

    Hossa has great vision and a sense of timing that allows him to set up teammates with picture-perfect passes. Nagging injuries have slowed him down at various points in his career, but he has been at his best in previous Olympics.

RW Patrick Sharp, Canada

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    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Olympic Stats: No previous Olympic experience


    Patrick Sharp has an excellent chance to earn his first spot on the Canadian Olympic team because he is a superior skater who has the instincts to go to the most dangerous offensive areas and put the puck in the net. Sharp has scored 30 goals or more three times in his career.

    Sharp was one of the final candidates considered for the 2010 Olympic team, and he will be given strong consideration once again.

    Sharp scored 11 points in 17 games when playing for Canada in the World Championships. That showing on the international stage should work in his favor for this event.

G Corey Crawford, Canada

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    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Olympic Stats: No previous Olympic experience


    Many observers look at Corey Crawford as an outsider who may or may not make the Canadian Olympic team; however, he appears to be a more accomplished goalie and better clutch performer than front-runners Carey Price, Roberto Luongo and Mike Smith.

    While Crawford may not have the pedigree of Price or Luongo, he has won a Stanley Cup and those two have not.

    Additionally, Crawford has a tremendous mental makeup that allows him to immediately put bad games behind him. When he gave up five goals to the Boston Bruins in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final, he was beaten consistently high to the glove side. 

    After this weakness was exposed, Crawford gave up three goals in the next two games and the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup. It's hard to imagine any other goalie not named Ken Dryden, Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur rebounding in a similar manner.

    If Crawford does not make the Canadian Olympic team, that nation's fatal flaw could be its goaltenders.

D Niklas Hjalmarsson, Sweden

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    Previous Olympic Stats: No previous Olympic experience


    Niklas Hjalmarsson is not a superstar, but he is a smart defenseman who understands positional hockey and will not make mistakes when the game is on the line.

    He does not figure to be a top-four defenseman for Sweden, but he can fill a role and do a solid job defending or carrying the puck. Hjalmarsson is smart and he plays his best in the games that matter most. He had five assists in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs, and he also had a plus-10 rating.

D Johnny Oduya, Sweden

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    Previous Olympic Stats: 2010—Four games, no goals, no assists, even plus-minus


    There's a chance that Johnny Oduya and regular defense partner Niklas Hjalmarsson could be paired together on Team Sweden.

    Oduya is a smart, athletic defenseman who skates well. He can also play the physical game, win the puck battle in the corner and then start the attack up the ice.

    Oduya is not a great offensive threat—he has never scored more than seven goals in a season—but he understands how and when to jump into the attack and leave his position on the blue line.

    He plays with courage and could provide the X-factor that allows Sweden to get over the top against the best opponents.

D Brent Seabrook, Canada

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    Previous Olympic Stats: 2010—Seven games, no goals, one assist, plus-two


    While Brent Seabrook scored the goal that eliminated the Detroit Red Wings in overtime of the seventh game in the conference semifinal round and he also scored the overtime goal in Game Four against the Boston Bruins, Seabrook had a somewhat rocky go of it in last year's playoffs.

    Seabrook is regularly paired with Duncan Keith, and he has excellent all-around talent. He is a fine skater who has a brilliant shot and he obviously knows how to come through in the clutch; however, he was minus-one in the postseason and had several lapses.

    Seabrook has a high ceiling for Team Canada, but his mistakes could be costly and there's no guarantee that he will make the final roster.

C Marcus Kruger, Sweden

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    Previous Olympic Stats: No previous Olympic experience


    Marcus Kruger is under consideration to play for the Swedish Olympic team as a role-playing center.

    Kruger has played in two previous World Championships for Sweden and he can handle the roles of fourth-line center and penalty killer. 

    If the Swedes were merely interested in putting together a team of superstars, Kruger would not receive consideration; however, he is a tough, skilled and smart player who will take on any role he is asked to help his team win. That may allow him to corral one of the final spots on the Swedish Olympic team.