The United States men's hockey team is set for Sochi.
The American squad in 2010 was relatively young and inexperienced but managed to surprise many and take home silver in Vancouver at the last Olympics. As expected, several names from that squad are on the roster in 2014.
But there was speculation about how the rest of the depth chart was going to be filled out, and we now have those answers. Let's take a look at the team, along with some players who will be forces in Russia.
Note: roster courtesy of USAHockey.com
- Forwards: David Backes, Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Paul Stastny, Derek Stepan, James van Riemsdyk and Blake Wheeler
- Defencemen: John Carlson, Justin Faulk, Cam Fowler, Paul Martin, Ryan McDonagh, Brooks Orpik, Kevin Shattenkirk and Ryan Suter
- Goaltenders: Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller
- Coaches: Dan Bylsma, Tony Granato, Peter Laviolette and Todd Richards
- Management: David Poile, Ray Shero, Brian Burke and Jim Johansson
- Advisory Group: Stan Bowman, Paul Holmgren, Dean Lombardi, Dale Tallon and Don Waddell
Ryan Miller, G
It's still unclear who will start between Ryan Miller and Jonathan Quick, but as the Los Angeles Kings goaltender continues to work back from a groin injury, we'll assume, at least for now, that Miller is the choice.
And he should be.
The Buffalo Sabres star was unbelievable in Vancouver, allowing just eight goals in six games and serving as a major reason why the Americans were able to make it to the podium. Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch called it "one of the best stretches for a goalie [he had] ever seen":
I watched Ryan Miller live in Vancouver four years ago, one of the best stretches for a goalie I've ever seen. Hope he is named again today.— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) January 1, 2014
And really, it's difficult to argue against that.
Buffalo is in the midst of a forgettable season, but it hasn't been because of Miller, who is 10th in the NHL in save percentage (.927) and second in saves (948) as of Wednesday, Jan. 1.
Miller is likely going to have to be transcendent once again in Sochi, but with some Olympic experience under his belt, he's certainly capable of an encore of his 2010 performance.
Patrick Kane, RW
It's hard to believe, but the three-time All-Star, two-time Stanley Cup champion and 2013 Conn Smythe winner may be playing the best hockey of his seven-year career.
At the very least, Patrick Kane, who is making a very convincing case as the best active American player, is playing the most productive hockey of his career.
In 42 games for the Chicago Blackhawks, the 25-year-old has tallied 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists). He's first among Americans—a solid 13 points ahead of snub Kyle Okposo—and second in the NHL behind Sidney Crosby.
According to Mark Lazerus at the Chicago Sun-Times, Kris Versteeg had this to say of his Blackhawks teammate:
I think he’s a bigger goalscorer because his physical maturity has come a long way. He’s turning into a man—he’s not a little boy anymore. He definitely has always been the best player I’ve ever seen in my life on edges and the way he can get away from guys and get away from checks and create room for himself. Now, when you get older and stronger, that’s just going to create more for him.
And as the weather outside has cooled, he has burst into flames. In 14 December games, he put up a silly 23 points (seven goals, 16 assists) and a plus/minus of plus 14.
This team may end up riding on the shoulders of Kane, and that's not such a bad thought, considering his otherworldly play as of late.
Ryan Suter, D
The Americans have loads of talent up front. They have three very good goaltenders. They have speed, which should be beneficial on the large Sochi ice (200-by-100 feet, opposed to the NHL's 100-by-85, per ESPN).
If there's a weakness, though, it's on the blue line.
As such, the play of Ryan Suter, arguably America's best defenseman, will be key. But rest assured: He'll be up to the task. As the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Michael Russo points out, the 28-year-old star is the USA's most experienced international player:
Of the Olympians, #mnwild's Ryan Suter has played the most games in international competition at 64— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) January 1, 2014
Moreover, he's been tremendous this season, following up last year's campaign as a Norris Trophy finalist with more rock-solid defense for the Wild, 24 points in 42 games and an NHL-leading 29-plus minutes on the ice per contest.
Suter is going to anchor the American defense.