Ranking the 5 Greatest Olympians in Philadelphia Flyers History

Dan Fremuth@@hometownphanContributor IIIFebruary 2, 2014

Ranking the 5 Greatest Olympians in Philadelphia Flyers History

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    The Philadelphia Flyers will send five representatives to the 2014 Winter Olympics, which commence in Sochi later this week.

    Forwards Jake Voracek and Michael Raffl will support the Czech Republic and Austria, respectively, while defensemen Kimmo Timonen, Mark Streit and Andrej Meszaros will suit up for Finland, Switzerland and Slovakia.

    It's the fifth Olympics that has seen the NHL suspend its regular season to afford the game's greatest talents the opportunity to represent their country, and it's an alteration that has made Olympic men's ice hockey can't-miss sports viewing.

    Philadelphia has sent its fair share of extraordinary talents to the Winter Games over the last two decades. Here's a look at the five greatest Olympians in Flyers history.

5. Antero Niittymaki, Finland

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    Antero Niittymaki was only named to two Olympic teams but earned medals with Team Finland in both outings.

    Philadelphia's goaltender from 2005 to 2009, Niittymaki was the star of the tournament in 2006 when the Fins claimed an improbable silver medal in Turin and then served as Miikka Kiprusoff and Niklas Backstrom's back up on Finland's bronze-medal squad in 2010 in Vancouver.

    But Niittymaki cracks the top five because of his efforts the first time around.

    Only named to Team Finland in 2006 after Kiprusoff and Kari Lehtonen pulled out to due injuries, Niittymaki put together a performance for the ages when he recorded three shutouts in six games in guiding Finland to a gold-medal matchup with Sweden. Despite falling 3-2 in the final game, Niittymaki was named tournament MVP after posting a 5-1 record, 1.34 goals-against average and .951 save percentage.

    His shutouts came against Canada and Germany in the group stage and then against favored Russia in the semifinals.

4. Jaromir Jagr, Czech Republic

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    One of a handful of players to have participated in each Olympics since 1998, Jaromir Jagr will bring his veteran scoring presence to the Czech Republic once again in 2014.

    Set to turn 42 in the midst of this year's Games, Jagr is now a five-time Olympian with two medals on his already impressive resume. In the first Olympics to feature NHL players, Jagr and the Czech Republic claimed the gold medal in 1998 in Nagano and followed that with a bronze-medal performance in 2006 in Turin.

    In 23 Olympic contests to date, Jagr has recorded seven goals, 13 assists and 20 points. After notching five points each in his first two Olympic tournaments, the veteran forward turned in his best performance in 2006 producing seven points in eight games en route to the bronze medal.

    Jagr was coming off of his least productive Olympic appearance when he registered just three points in five games as the Czechs finished seventh in 2010, but he still managed to find the back of the net in Vancouver, meaning he has recorded at least one goal in each of the last four Olympics.

    It's been feast or famine for the Czech Republic over the last two decades as Jagr and company have either medaled or finished seventh over the last four Olympic Games.

3. Kimmo Timonen, Finland

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    Like Jagr, Timonen is poised to represent his country in the Olympics for the fifth time since 1998.

    Not nearly as flashy as Jagr, Timonen gets a slight edge over his former teammate as the Finnish native has earned medals in three of four Olympic appearances to date.

    Timonen and his Finnish mates claimed bronze medals in Nagano in 1998 and Vancouver in 2010 and turned in a silver-medal winning performance in Turin in 2006.

    And while the 38-year-old defender hasn't been an offensive dynamo in international competition (three goals and 11 points in 24 Olympic Games), he's been a stalwart on Finland's blue line and has held the opposition in check on the larger international ice surface for nearly two decades.

    Timonen's superb offensive instincts and precise outlet passes have helped Finland quickly transition from defense to offense. What's more, he's rarely a liability in his own end having committed just one minor penalty in each of the last four Olympic Games.

2. Chris Pronger, Canada

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    A veteran of four Olympics, Chris Pronger claimed gold medals with Team Canada in both 2002 in Salt Lake City and again in Vancouver in 2010.

    After a disappointing fourth place finish in 1998 in Nagano, Pronger and his Canadian teammates responded four years later by capturing Canada's first Olympic gold medal in men's ice hockey in 50 years. Then a member of the St. Louis Blues, Pronger served as an alternate captain on that squad and chipped in an assist in six games in the tournament.

    Eight years later and now a member of the Flyers, Pronger and Team Canada were back atop the international hockey landscape after claiming gold in a thrilling 3-2 overtime triumph against the United States. Again, Pronger served as an alternate captain and turned in the most productive Olympics of his impressive career notching five assists in seven Games.

    All told, the 6'6", 220-pound blueliner produced one goal, eight assists, nine points and 24 penalty minutes in 25 career Olympic outings all while logging huge minutes each and every night and playing in every situation imaginable.

1. Peter Forsberg, Sweden

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    A veteran of four Olympics, Peter Forsberg has claimed gold medals both as an amateur and a professional.

    At just 21 years old, Foppa led Team Sweden to a gold medal in 1994 in Lillehammer with eight points in eight games and clinched the tournament with the shootout game-winner in which he executed a one-hand, slide in goal, which was subsequently immortalized on a Swedish postage stamp and has been emulated by hockey players across the globe over the last 20 years since.

    The next two Olympics proved uneventful for Forsberg as Sweden finished fifth in 1998 in Nagano, and injuries sidelined him for the entire 2001-02 regular season.

    But Forsberg, then a member of the Flyers, and his Swedish teammates got back on top in 2006 earning a 3-2 gold-medal victory over their bitter Finnish rivals. In six Games that year, Foppa recorded six assists including a helper on Nicklas Lidstrom's tournament-clinching conversion.

    All told, the dynamic Forsberg notched three goals, 17 assists and 20 points in just 22 career Olympic performances.