Projected Roles for Each New York Ranger Going to Sochi
Three New York Rangers are definitely going to Sochi to play in the Olympics—Ryan Callahan, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh. The American team was announced on New Year's Day.
No other team has been announced just yet, but we can guarantee Henrik Lundqvist will represent Sweden and Mats Zuccarello will represent Norway.
Because Rick Nash (Canada), Marc Staal (Canada) and Anton Stralman (Sweden) are not guaranteed to play in Sochi, we will focus solely on the Americans, Lundqvist and Zuccarello.
What are the projected roles for each of the Rangers headed to Sochi?
Read on to find out.
Ryan Callahan is part of a leadership group for the Americans that could see him named captain. If not, he will almost certainly wear an "A" on his sweater.
In addition to serving in a leadership capacity, Callahan will play key roles on the penalty kill and will be used when the team has a lead late in the game.
Callahan, though, could play an offensive role. It's possible he skates on the second line, which was noted in an excellent article by Scott Burnside of ESPN:
As was the case in Toronto, Poile bypassed discussion on the blue line in favor of the forwards. The coaches noted, as the GMs had earlier, that Ryan Callahan had turned up his game and had moved up the depth chart to a second-line role, with T.J. Oshie dropping to a fourth-line role on the right side.
Callahan is a prototypical energy forward and will be relied upon often. He'll play major, important minutes.
Derek Stepan is the fifth forward on the team, meaning he probably won't play unless there is an injury or a shakeup.
So Stepan's main role is to be competitive in practice, encouraging and ready at a moment's notice.
It has not been Stepan's best year, so it's not surprising that he wasn't able to beat out Paul Stastny. Stepan has seven goals and 19 assists in 43 games. Last year, Stepan had 18 goals and 26 assists in 48 games.
Still, this will be a good experience for Stepan, who will likely be on the Olympic radar for some time.
Ryan McDonagh had better be ready, because he's about to play major minutes in Sochi.
The 24-year-old averages a little under 25 minutes a game. He could easily play 30 minutes a game in Sochi.
Outside of Ryan Suter, McDonagh is probably the American team's best defenseman. He is an incredible skater, which will help him out on the larger ice, and he is developing a burgeoning offensive game. This year, he's recorded 25 points.
Suter and McDonagh could quickly become the go-to pair for Dan Bylsma. If the Americans make a deep run, as expected, the pair will be relied heavily upon.
Look for McDonagh to play in every situation and make a major impact in every game.
Henrik Lundqvist loves to play on the big stage.
In his Olympic career, Lundqvist has a 2.00 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.
He backstopped Tre Kronor to gold in 2006, and expectations will be high this year, especially after not medaling in 2010.
But this has been a really rough year for Lundqvist. He has only a 12-16-2 record, with a .905 save percentage and a 2.78 GAA.
He's shown flashes of brilliance, but it hasn't been consistent.
Lundqvist will be ridden hard in Sochi. If he plays at his best, Sweden has an excellent chance of winning gold. If he plays like he has all season, it could be a quick exit.
He'll be the man for Sweden. Can he live up to the pressure? That remains to be seen.
Zuccarello is probably the best player in Norwegian history. Expect him to be the go-to guy on offense.
Luckily, Zuccarello is having the best season of his NHL career. The winger has 10 goals and 20 assists. He's been dynamic on offense and is by far the Rangers' best passer.
Zuccarello first gained the notice of NHL teams in the Vancouver Olympics, where he put up three points in four games.
Now, Zuccarello will enter the tournament playing the best hockey of his career. Norway doesn't have much of a chance to advance past the group stage, but he will put up big numbers and impress the international hockey community.
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