Following a 3-2 Toronto Maples Leafs shootout win over the Detroit Red Wings in the 2014 Bridgestone Winter Classic on Wednesday, select members of the United States men's hockey team were introduced to the Big House crowd at Michigan Stadium.
An unproven USA team claimed the silver medal at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, with the 2014 Sochi roster featuring 13 returning players along with more young talent. The Americans have been placed in Group A along with Slovakia, Russia and Slovenia and will open against Slovakia on Feb. 13.
With the Olympics just a few weeks away, the United States is considered one of the favorites behind Russia, Canada and Sweden. Here's an entire look at the roster, followed by predictions for three stars who will shine on the Olympic stage in Sochi.
|Jimmy Howard||G||03/26/84||Detroit Red Wings|
|Ryan Miller||G||07/17/80||Buffalo Sabres|
|Jonathan Quick||G||01/21/86||Los Angeles Kings|
|John Carlson||D||01/10/90||Washington Capitals|
|Justin Faulk||D||03/20/92||Carolina Hurricanes|
|Cam Fowler||D||03/05/91||Anaheim Ducks|
|Paul Martin||D||03/05/81||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Ryan McDonagh||D||06/13/89||New York Rangers|
|Brooks Orpik||D||09/26/80||Pittsburgh Penguins|
|Kevin Shattenkirk||D||01/29/89||St. Louis Blues|
|Ryan Suter||D||01/21/85||Minnesota Wild|
|David Backes||F||05/01/84||St. Louis Blues|
|Dustin Brown||F||11/04/84||Los Angeles Kings|
|Ryan Callahan||F||03/21/85||New York Rangers|
|Patrick Kane||F||11/19/88||Chicago Blackhawks|
|Ryan Kesler||F||08/31/84||Vancouver Canucks|
|Phil Kessel||F||10/02/87||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|T.J. Oshie||F||12/23/86||St. Louis Blues|
|Max Pacioretty||F||11/20/88||Montreal Canadiens|
|Zach Parise||F||07/28/84||Minnesota Wild|
|Joe Pavelski||F||07/11/84||San Jose Sharks|
|Paul Stastny||F||12/27/85||Colorado Avalanche|
|Derek Stepan||F||06/18/90||New York Rangers|
|James van Riemsdyk||F||05/04/89||Toronto Maple Leafs|
|Blake Wheeler||F||08/31/86||Winnipeg Jets|
Patrick Kane, F
Whether he's scoring goals of his own or setting his teammates up with slick passing, Kane is America's most explosive offensive option on the ice heading into Sochi. For Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune, Kane has elevated his status to even greater heights this year, citing his improvement as a defensive player:
A sentence I didn't expect to write as recently as two seasons ago: Kane is the best American player. The RosenBlog: http://t.co/baYVdOt0NR— steve rosenbloom (@steverosenbloom) January 1, 2014
In his seventh season with the Chicago Blackhawks, the 25-year-old winger ranks second among NHL points leaders with 53, six off the pace of Sidney Crosby, while he also ranks third in the league with 23 goals scored.
How Far Will the U.S. Men's Hockey Team Go?
You could argue that Kane has become the face of American hockey. After playing a big role in the 2010 run that ended with a loss to Canada in the gold-medal game, Kane said he's looking forward to representing the United States once again.
“It was amazing to see people in the crowd after Canada won, crying and hugging each other, taking it all in. You look back, obviously wish you could’ve won gold, but it was still an amazing experience,” Kane said, via CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers. “It was great for the sport and the game. To be part of that game was awesome.”
Ryan Suter, D
There's no question who will anchor the USA defense with Ryan Suter on the roster.
He has been one of the NHL's best blueliners this year, leading the league with an average ice time of 29 minutes, 42 seconds per game. As Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune noted, Suter is also seasoned in international competition:
Of the Olympians, #mnwild's Ryan Suter has played the most games in international competition at 64— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) January 1, 2014
Suter's experience and reliability will be huge for a defensive unit that stands as the biggest question mark on a talented American squad. The nine-year NHL vet and current member of the Minnesota Wild will also be joined by his teammate Zach Parise on the national side:
Parise is just part of what's expected to be a very potent American attack, but Suter's role will be magnified against the world's top scorers. Suter is expected to be paired with Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Paul Martin on the first line.
Ryan Kesler, F
A 67-year-old Canadian man received quite the text message recently, one that was intended for Vancouver Canucks forward Ryan Kesler. Gord Miller of TSN shared the humorous story, which involves the U.S. men's Olympic hockey team:
Before announcing the roster for the Olympic Team, USA Hockey sent text messages to players in the mix saying they would be contacted...— Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) January 1, 2014
...but Ryan Kesler had changed his #. The guy who has it now said "I'm a 67 year old Canadian in Vancouver, I'd be happy to play for you."— Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) January 1, 2014
Funny anecdotes aside, Kesler's addition to the team gives the United States one of hockey's premier two-way players, according to Scott Burnside of ESPN.com:
In our estimation, Kesler is the single-most important forward for the American squad. He will occupy one of the top two center positions. At his best, he's one of the world's best two-way players, and Kane has been very good for the past couple of months. Look for him to get a look playing with Kane.
The center has recovered nicely from wrist, hip and shoulder surgeries to lead the Canucks with an average ice time of 22 minutes, 6 seconds. In all, he has 15 goals and 27 points in 41 contests for Vancouver this year.