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Bubble Watch for Team USA's 2014 Winter Olympic Roster

Jonathan WillisNHL National ColumnistDecember 26, 2013

Bubble Watch for Team USA's 2014 Winter Olympic Roster

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    Which players are vying for the final spots on Team USA's roster in Sochi? With the official roster announcement less than a week away, whatever decisions still need to be made will be made quickly, and players are virtually out of chances to improve their standing with the American management team.

    The following is our look at those players fighting for the last few spots on the roster. Read on to see who we think makes the cut and just misses it.

     

    Statistics courtesy of NHL.com and current through December 26.

Jack Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Stats line: 37 GP, 2 G, 7 A, 9 PTS, minus-10

    The skinny: Jack Johnson is a tremendously gifted athlete, but for all his raw physical ability, the results have been consistently lacking. He is the only NHL player since the 2004-05 lockout to be a triple-digit minus (minus-100 in that span).

    Projected outcome: Misses the team. 

Jason Pominville, Minnesota Wild

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    Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Stats line: 39 GP, 17 G, 9 A, 26 PTS, plus-two

    The skinny: A frequent linemate of Team USA lock Zach Parise in Minnesota, Pominville would bring instant chemistry and a long track record as a competent offensive player to Sochi. His scoring isn't exceptional by Olympic standards, though, and it's not clear the rest of his game is dominant enough to make up the gap.

    Projected outcome: Misses the team.

Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    Stats line: 39 GP, 4 G, 17 A, 21 PTS, plus-four

    The skinny: Cam Fowler is quietly enjoying a breakout campaign, playing more than 24 minutes per game for the NHL's top team and driving not just offence (something he's always done) but providing strong defensive play, too. He deserves to be seriously considered. 

    Projected outcome: Misses the team. 

Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins

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    Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Stats line: 31 GP, 1 G, 6 A, 7 PTS, plus-one

    The skinny: Brooks Orpik is, inexplicably, still considered a lock in some quarters. The No. 3 defenceman on the Pittsburgh Penguins brings experience, a defensive conscience and a physical game to the American blue line, but he really only should have been a bubble player even prior to injury. After suffering a serious concussion at the hands of Shawn Thornton, he's a prime candidate to be replaced by someone else. 

    Projected outcome: Misses the team. 

Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets

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    Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images

    Stats line: 36 GP, 6 G, 21 A, 27 PTS, minus-15

    The skinny: Dustin Byfuglien drives shot differential, routinely making the Jets a far superior team when he's on the ice than other players do when he's on the bench; this despite the fact that he faces extremely difficult matchups. His ability to move (and keep) the puck forward is what makes him an effective rearguard despite occasional defensive errors, but those mistakes are likely going to cost him a trip to the Olympics. 

    Projected outcome: Final defenceman cut.

Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks

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    Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Stats line: 39 GP, 12 G, 16 A, 28 PTS, plus-17

    The skinny: Brandon Saad is one of Team USA's top young guns, and his stats line is all but impossible to ignore. He has some problems, though—chief among them that he primarily plays on the wing, and the Americans are stronger there than they are up the middle. Additionally, it's hard to forget that he was cruising along with impressive numbers last year, but once separated from Chicago's established stars in the postseason, he generated very little. 

    Projected outcome: Final forward cut.

Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes

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    Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport

    Stats line: 36 GP, 4 G, 18 A, 22 PTS, minus-six

    The skinny: Fast, aggressive and offensively gifted, Keith Yandle brings a skill set that should shine on the big ice at Sochi. He has a long record of offensive production and logs heavy minutes for the buttoned-down Phoenix Coyotes. 

    Projected outcome: Eighth defenceman. 

Derek Stepan, New York Rangers

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Stats line: 38 GP, 7 G, 16 A, 23 PTS, minus-four

    The skinny: Derek Stepan's saving grace may be that he plays centre, and Team USA will almost certainly want one of its spare forwards to be a pivot. He marries solid offensive skills to a conscientious defensive game and would be an excellent choice as a utility player given his ability to play any role.   

    Projected outcome: 14th forward. 

Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Stats line: 36 GP, 6 G, 9 A, 15 PTS, plus-17

    The skinny: Erik Johnson is the ice-time leader on a green Colorado blue line, playing nearly 20 minutes per game at even strength alone. He's big, fast, skilled and mean.  

    Projected outcome: Seventh defenceman. 

Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Stats line: 24 GP, 7 G, 6 A, 13 PTS, minus-six

    The skinny: New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan was considered something very close to a lock in the summer, but he's opened himself to a roster-spot challenge with a weak start to 2013-14. A fiery competitor and diligent two-way player, he's still likely to go to Sochi as a bottom-six role player for Team USA.

    Projected outcome: 13th forward.

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