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Projected Roles for Each Toronto Maple Leaf Going to Sochi

James OnuskoContributor IIIJanuary 9, 2014

Projected Roles for Each Toronto Maple Leaf Going to Sochi

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics get underway in less than one month and three Toronto Maple Leafs will be traveling to Russia.

    All rosters have been set for the hockey competition. Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk will be playing for the powerful United States. The talented Russian team will have winger Nikolai Kulemin joining them.

    The good news for the Leafs is that the bulk of the team will get some necessary rest during the Olympic break. With the team in a true dogfight for a playoff spot, the final weeks of the season will be critical.

    Let's take a look at the three Leafs heading to Sochi and their projected roles with their respective teams.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all stats can be found on NHL.com.

Phil Kessel, United States

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    This will be Phil Kessel's second trip to the Olympics. The native of Madison, Wis. will have an expanded role in Sochi. 

    Kessel is second in goal scoring to Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane among American skaters. He's scored 20 goals this year.

    Because they play the same position, it is likely that the talented Kane will see first-line duty, at least to begin the tournament.

    Coaches will need to be flexible, and inevitably, they will have to go with the hot hand. Don't be surprised to see Kane and Kessel used interchangeably.

    Also, both are likely to see time on the first power-play unit and may even play together at times.

    There are some very creative players on the United States team. This should see them be an attacking squad. Kessel will flourish in this environment with his lightning quickness and great shot.

Nikolai Kulemin, Russia

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    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    The 6'1" native of Magnitogorsk, Russia was somewhat of a surprise to be named to the Russian team. This will be his first Olympics, but he has represented Russia at the World Championships.

    Russia is loaded with offensive talent so Kulemin will not see top-six duty. Expect him to play on one of the depth lines.

    Kulemin has just five goals this season but three of them have been game-winners. He could match up well against other bottom-six players if he sees much ice time.

    He may also do some penalty-killing for Team Russia.

James van Riemsdyk, United States

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    Noah Graham/Getty Images

    James van Riemsdyk, a product of Middletown, N.J., is the highest-scoring left winger on the United States roster.

    While some players will play out of position for the United States, expect JVR to play at his natural position on either the first or second line. 

    The 6'3" winger is not overly physical, but he'll be expected to lean on opponents, particularly on the forecheck. Van Riemsdyk is very good on the boards, and his hands are exceptional for a player of his size.

    Expect him to get some significant power-play time in Sochi. If the Americans end up with the gold medal, JVR could play a pivotal role in earning it for the 2010 silver medallists.

     

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