Projected Roles for Each Tampa Bay Lightning Player Going to Sochi
Despite a large snub on the United States Olympic Team, the Tampa Bay Lightning roster is full of Olympic talent preparing for the Sochi games. The Bolts have a few question marks left in limbo until the official announcements are made. Assuming the Lightning players are on the rosters, there are some big roles that these Bolts could play in the Olympics.
The exclusion of goaltender Ben Bishop brought out some heated opinions. Players like Martin St. Louis and even Steven Stamkos could also miss the Olympics for various reasons, which would cut into the Bolts' showing.
Assuming best case for all of the Lightning players in the mix, Tampa Bay could become a focal point of the hockey world come mid-February. Here is a list of the players in the mix for the Olympics and the roles they could possibly play for their respective nations.
Most final rosters will be announced on Jan. 7, including Team Canada.
Steven Stamkos has been on a blistering recovery from his leg injury suffered less than two months ago. He is skating with a non-contact jersey in hopes of returning for the 2014 Olympics. If he is healthy, Stamkos is a lock for the Canadian team and will be a top-six forward.
With the vast amount of talent at center, Stamkos could be moved to a wing in order to provide more firepower and chemistry with other stars like Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and John Tavares.
Expect Stamkos to be eased into competition during group play, but if he looks good, he could be a top-line forward for the medal rounds.
Martin St. Louis
Martin St. Louis isn't a lock for Team Canada. His decorated career surprisingly has included just one Olympic selection on the active roster. He was selected as a reserve player for the 2010 games and has played in multiple World Championships.
This could be his last opportunity to crack the loaded roster and add to his already illustrious career. If he does make the roster, expect Marty to be a lower-line winger. His passing skills would be welcomed by the snipers on the squad.
Victor Hedman joins a dangerous Sweden team at the Sochi Games. Hedman will be a second- or third-pair defenseman in front of Henrik Lundqvist. His offensive game will provide the Swedes with another highly skilled offensive defensemen that already includes Erik Karlsson and possibly Oliver Ekman-Larsson.
He will play a very similar role for the Swedes as he does with the Bolts. He may be a part of the power play and penalty kills as well, thanks to his impressive puck-moving skills.
Sami Salo and Kimmo Timonen will provide a significant amount of experience for Finland on the blue line. Salo will be making his fourth appearance in the Olympics for Finland. With a few medals already to his name, this will just be another go-around for Salo.
His sturdy defensive play will be a nice help in front of goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Antti Niemi. His stay-at-home style fits well into the Finnish game.
Expect Salo to be a top-pair defenseman in Sochi.
Valtteri Filppula is the second lock for the Lightning on the Finland squad. His style of play is perfect for the international game and should help Finland to compete in the medal rounds.
He was selected to the Finland team in 2010, which ended up with a bronze medal. The two-way center will be a solid second-line man for the Fins—much like his role in Tampa Bay.
Richard Panik has been one of the best young players for the Bolts this season. His offensive skill will be relied on heavily by the Slovakian team whose strengths will be defense and goaltending. Panik has 11 points in 34 games for the Lightning this year, but he could be a top-six forward for Slovakia.
He played in the 2010 World Championships, but this will be his first Olympic selection. Jaroslav Halak, Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa and Andrej Meszaros headline this roster that will need Panik to step up on offense.
Ondrej Palat could take his game to the world stage for the first time next month. He is currently a bubble guy for the Czech Republic team that includes players like David Krejci, Jaromir Jagr, Patrick Elias and Ondrej Pavelec.
The team has an interesting blend of experience and youth, which places Palat heavily in the mix. He would be a second- or third-line forward for the Czech team, but he could gain some great experience playing with the crafty vets.
Radko Gudas could be another Lightning player in the mix for the Czech team. He would be a lower-pair defenseman, but he is getting some heavy consideration for a spot.
Other defenseman on the team include Marek Zidlicky and Zbynek Michalek to provide some experience. Gudas would be one of the younger members of the squad at 23, but his physical play is welcomed in any arena—especially on the larger Olympic ice.