Projected Stats for Each Washington Capital in Sochi
Initially, the Washington Capitals were only going to be sending three players to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Olympics, as just Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson were named to their respective national team rosters.
However, due to injuries up front to guys previously selected to play for Sweden and the Czech Republic, Marcus Johansson and Martin Erat each got unexpected invitations to Russia in the days leading up to the Olympic break.
Obviously, seeing as two of the five Washington Olympians made the cut as injury replacements, the expectations that each Capital faces in Sochi will be vastly different.
Heading into what could be the greatest international hockey tournament ever held, here's a look at projected stats for each member of the Capitals that will be competing in Sochi.
It's been a tumultuous season for Erat, who has gone from being a first-liner in Nashville to somewhat of an afterthought at times with the Caps.
Yes, he's back playing with Ovechkin and Backstrom for now while Mikhail Grabovski remains sidelined, but nobody in Washington's forgotten about the public trade request he made earlier in the year.
The 32-year-old, who will be playing in his third Olympics, was solid with two points in eight games while helping the Czechs to the bronze in 2006, but he disappointed with a lone assist in five games four years ago in Vancouver.
This time around, don't expect Erat to play a big role, especially given that he's scored just two goals since arriving in Washington last spring. If he gets points, they'll come against inferior competition.
Projected Stats: Five games, no goals, two assists.
Since the beginning of the lockout-shortened 2013 campaign, Carlson has gradually established himself as one of the top young blueliners in the game.
Though he originally projected to be an offensive rearguard with size and speed, he's actually become just as dependable in his own end, even if that's caused his numbers to drop slightly.
However, the improvement of his play on the defensive side of the puck, combined with his elite mobility and poise, earned him a spot on a loaded American defense.
He won't be counted upon to provide offense the same way he is in D.C., where he quarterbacks the power play, but he should be able to contribute at both ends of the ice, assuming he earns top-six minutes.
Projected Stats: Six games, no goals, three assists.
When the Swedish team was named, it became immediately obvious that Backstrom would be relied upon heavily for offensive production on what appears to be arguably the second deepest team in the field.
But after Henrik Sedin pulled out of the tourney due to injury (and Johansson was subsequently named), the pressure on Backstrom has only intensified.
Now, as a former 100-point scorer and setup man for the game's most dynamic sniper, Backstrom simply has to be one of the Games' most prolific playmakers if Sweden has any hope of knocking off Canada, Russia or the United States to steal the gold.
He's an offensive catalyst with the ability and the creativity to fool even the smartest and the stingiest defenses, and four years ago, he was arguably Sweden's top offensive weapon with a goal and five assists in four games.
Projected Stats: Six games, one goal, six assists.
After being snubbed by the Swedish management team during the original selection process, Johansson, a former Capitals first-round pick, secured a spot on the squad following injuries to Johan Franzen and Henrik Sedin.
Given that Johansson currently sits seventh among all Swedish forwards (and sixth if you exclude the aforementioned Sedin), it was a bit of a surprise to see the speedy forward left off, and it'll be interesting to see where he's slotted in Par Marts' lineup.
Especially on the larger Olympic ice surface, he's got the speed, the hands and the vision to receive a top-nine spot, but he'll have to earn it or be relegated to the press box.
Anyone who has watched the Capitals consistently over the last four seasons knows that Johansson isn't generally the most consistent scorer, but when playing with confidence, he often finds himself skating alongside Ovechkin and Backstrom on the top line.
Projected Stats: Four games, one goal, one assist.
For a team that will also feature all-world talents in Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk, it seems a bit ludicrous to suggest that Russia's Olympic fate will depend on the play of Ovechkin, but that will absolutely be the case in Sochi.
That's because Ovechkin is the face of the entire 2014 Olympic Games, and he's certainly looked like a man possessed over the last year, so Russia has to hope that continues for the next two weeks.
He leads the NHL by a country mile, as his 40 goals are nine more than his closest competitor in Phil Kessel, so Ovechkin appears to be at the height of his powers just in time for what will be the most pressure-packed situation of his decorated career.
Four years ago, Ovechkin and Co. flamed out in the quarters after getting dismantled by Canada, so there'll be no shortage of motivation for the three-time league MVP in his quest for redemption on home soil.
In 2006, Ovechkin tore the field apart by scoring a tournament-high five goals as a 20-year-old in Turin, and if he continues to dominate offensively as he has for the last 12 months, he could do so again in Sochi.
Projected Stats: Six games, five goals, two assists.
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