Zach Parise is the simplest pick on this US team destined to go to Vancouver for the Olympics. Who else will or should make up this team and how will they fare?
This is the strongest set of US goalies ever available for any US international team. This may be the first time since the 1996 World Cup with Mike Richter that the US is entering an international tournament with the best goaltending in the world.
Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres is looking like the starter on this team. Craig Anderson and last year's Vezina trophy winner Tim Thomas will back him up. That's depth in nets.
Last year Thomas lead all goalies who played at least a third of their team's games with a .933 save percentage. Craig Anderson was third and Ryan Miller was eighth. Nice grouping.
This year Miller is tied for first, Anderson is fourth, and Thomas is 12th—tied with Henrik Lundquist.
Goaltending should be an American strength at these Olympics.
Jonathon Quick would be the fourth US goalie and the first injury replacement, but he won't be needed.
Brian Rafalski will be the veteran leader on this defense. He still can skate and be the power play quarterback.
Brooks Orpik is the nasty edged shutdown guy crucial for playoff success. He should still be valuable in an Olympics being played on NHL-sized rinks.
Ryan Suter still looks great on a horrible Nashville team, +2 on that team is incredible.
Eric Johnson is another huge kid who can move the puck. Zach Bogosian the Atlanta rookie has yet to look out of place in the NHL. Here's his chance to excel at another level.
John Michael Lilles is a more mature defensemen who can move the puck and score. He's out with a bad shoulder until late November. If he's healthy he should be the other point man on the power play, otherwise Joe Corvo can fill his spot.
Ryan Whitney was a lock for this team when he was one of the best defensemen on a Pittsburgh team that lost to Detroit in the Stanley Cup.
Since then he's suffered a mysterious foot ailment and been traded at last year's deadline to Anaheim for Chris Kunitz. He was a goal scorer and a puck mover on the Pittsburgh defense as well as being a big strong kid on the blue line.
He's been a half-point per game scorer since the injury and his 12-14 goals a season are looking more like 4-6. Still, if he's skating well and seems healthy he'd be my seventh defenseman on the US Olympic team.
I'd keep seven defensemen on my Olympic roster, while the eighth guy or first injury replacement could be power play quarterback and veteran Joe Corvo or young Dallas defenseman Matt Niskanen. Keith Yandle is also an option as the eigth defenseman as is Rob Scuderi.
New Jersey veteran Paul Martin would be on my team but the 28 year old is out for 4-6 weeks with a fractured wrist. Alex Gologoski is having a breakout offensive year in Pittsburgh. His inexperience and poor performance last year kept him out of the mix this year and he's currently hurt.
Matt Carle is another offensive defenseman whose defensive liabilities are too glaring. Jack Johnson is another kid with a great international hockey resume, but his tendency to jump into the rush has lead to a five-point -10 season on a good LA team.
Tom Gilbert was another offensively skilled defenseman who didn't look quite as good as some of the alternatives. Mike Komisarek is hurt and too weak defensively.
Zach Parise is a nice, easy pick for first line LW. He's the best US born player in the league and lead the US to victory in the world junior tournament in Helsinki. Paul Stasny is another lock as a top line offensive center.
Sniper Phil Kessel is a player with above world-class speed and he puts the puck in the net. He's my first line right winger.
Scott Gomez at 30 is going to be one of the veterans on this team. The quick playmaker likes to hang on to the puck too long, but he's good with it and has had success at the international level.
Patrick Kane is another kid with world-class speed. He can play on any scoring line the US puts together. James Van Riemsdyk is having a point-a-game start to his season. The big kid has starred on a couple of good US world junior teams and led that tournament in scoring in 2008.
Tim Connolly is my third line center because he's got a world of talent and just needs to stay healthy until the Olympics. I'd put young power forward Bobby Ryan on this line. He's a sniper who other teams will struggle to handle physically. Los Angeles's Dustin Brown is a gritty must-have player on this team.
My last line would be the checking line with Ryan Kesler at center, Kyle Okposo on one wing, and Ryan Malone on the other. All three have offensive skills, Kesler is gritty, Malone has size, and Okposo has a world of talent.
My 13th forward would be Brian Gionta. He's another streak on skates that scores. He's had good experiences at the international level and worked with Scott Gomez before.
My first couple of injury replacements would be Joe Pavelski, Jamie Langenbrunner, Jason Pominville, and Dustin Byfuglien depending on who went down. Langenbrunner and Pavelski could just as easily have been on my fourth or third lines.
Injuries keep Brandon Dubinsky (broken wrist—6 weeks), Chris Drury (concussion—day-to-day), David Booth(concussion—indeterminate), and Mike Knuble (broken finger—a month) from being considered.
Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk and Bill Guerin are just too old for this tournament. They'd probably hurt the team's chances, though I'd like to see Mike get a shot as captain of the US Olympic team.
I would have expected Peter Mueller to be good enough for this team by now, but last year's horrible performance and this year's bad start have disqualified the swift youngster.
David Backes is another good player who's having a horrible season.
My Olympic Roster (Grade)
Goalies (A) : It's a good sign when the Vezina trophy winner is perhaps your third goalie.
1. Ryan Miller
2. Craig Anderson
3. Tim Thomas
Defense (B) : A lot of good, solid, physical players and tough skaters, but not as much offense from the defense as you'd like in this tournament. Eric Johnson and Zach Bogosian could surprise.
First Pair: Ryan Suter, Brian Rafalski
Second Pair: Brooks Orpik, Eric Johnson
Third Pair: John-Michael Lilles(i), Zach Bogosian
Fourth Pair: Ryan Whitney (Joe Corvo)
Extra: Matt Niskanen
Forwards (B-) : This team doesn't have the scoring that past US teams have boasted but there is plenty of speed and lots of youth. If the goaltending and defense holds up this group could score enough.
First Line: LW Zach Parise, C Paul Stasny, RW Patrick Kane
Second Line: LW Dustin Brown, C Scott Gomez, RW Phil Kessel
Third Line: LW James Van Riemsdyk, C Tim Connolly, RW Bobby Ryan
Fourth Line: LW Ryan Malone, C Ryan Kesler, RW Kyle Okposo
Extra: Brian Gionta
There's a lot of young skill and speed on this team. The defense is made up of young, big, rangy skaters and will be tough. The goaltending should be solid and could be the best in the tournament though Finland, the Czech's and Sweden should all have great goaltending.
The US has done well at the world junior hockey championships over the last decade. American players under 20 have competed consistently well against their international peers.
The last decade has produced a gold and bronze medal, and only (except for a ninth place finish in 1999) all fourth and fifth-place finishes. During those 10 years James Van Riemsdyk, Eric Johnson, Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, and Brian Gionta have lead the tournament or tied for the lead in scoring.
It's these players who will star for the US now and they should certainly finish higher than the eighth place managed in Turin.
The format for this Olympic tournament has the 12 teams divided into three four-team divisions. The US is in a division with Canada, Norway, and Switzerland.
The teams play a round-robin within their own division to get seeded. The four teams with the best records in the first round will get a bye to the quarterfinals. The US will need to beat or tie Canada in the first round to ensure a top-four finish.
The bottom eight teams play each other in a fifth vs. 12th and sixth vs. 11th format. The winner of the fifth vs. 12th matchup will play the fourth overall team in the quarterfinals.
The first overall team gets to play against the winner of the eight vs. ninth matchup.
The US should expect to beat Norway and Switzerland. At worst they'll be the fifth to eighth seed, which will line them up against a beatable Germany, Latvia, or Norway in the first round.
A quarterfinal matchup would be against a Sweden or Czech Republic-type of team. There are no easy games in the tournament at this point. The US will have to be on the top of their game to advance, but I like them to win Bronze.
A Gold medal is possible but tough for anyone. A single knockout tournament favours the hot team.
The talented young hockey players the US is producing makes me think it's only going to get better in the future.
2009 US Olympic Men's Orientation Camp Roster (Aug. 17-18)
Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres), Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings), Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins).
Tom Gilbert (Edmonton Oilers), Tim Gleason (Carolina Hurricanes), Ron Hainsey (Atlanta Thrashers), Erik Johnson (St. Louis Blues), Jack Johnson (Los Angeles Kings), Mike Komisarek (Montreal Canadiens), Paul Martin (New Jersey Devils), Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins), Brian Rafalski (Detroit Red Wings), Rob Scuderi (Pittsburgh Penguins), Ryan Suter (Nashville Predators), Ryan Whitney (Anaheim Ducks).
David Backes (St. Louis Blues), David Booth (Florida Panthers), Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings), Dustin Byfuglien (Chicago Blackhawks), Ryan Callahan (New York Rangers), Chris Drury (New York Rangers), Scott Gomez (New York Rangers), Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks), Phil Kessel (Boston Bruins), Jamie Langenbrunner (New Jersey Devils), Ryan Malone (Tampa Bay Lightning), Mike Modano (Dallas Stars), Kyle Okposo (New York Islanders), T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues), Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils), Joe Pavelski (San Jose Sharks), Bobby Ryan (Anaheim Ducks), Paul Stastny (Colorado Avalanche).
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