Olympic Hockey Preview: Team USA
The US Olympic team, doesn't usually get the hype that a team like Canada or Russia does, but people may be taking a second look at the Americans this year.
The United States has a strong cast ready to lace up their skates this year, and put it all on the line in pursuit of that coveted gold medal.
The following is who I feel are the most deserving of donning the Red, White, and Blue come February.
Goaltending: Craig Anderson
Craig Anderson has almost single handedly turned the fortunes of the Colorado Avalanche around.
After a less than stellar season, the Avalanche brought in Anderson to turn the tides and he has done just that.
Despite facing more shots than any other goalie in the league, Anderson has posted a .921 save percentage (fifth best in the league), and has won 13 games (tied for second).
Anderson was not invited to orientation in the summer, but is certainly drawing looks now.
Ryan Miller is likely the early Vezina favorite.
Miller has led the Sabres to first place in the Northeast and third in their conference.
Miller is second in save percentage with .931, fourth in wins with 12, and leads all goalies with a 1.97 GAA.
Miller is on fire and will lead team USA to a strong finish in the Olympics this year.
Defense: Brian Rafalski
Brian Rafalski is the best American-born defenseman in the game today.
A rearguard for the Detroit Red Wings for the past couple of seasons has brought him big game experience, and he has excelled at nearly every opportunity.
Rafalski has won three Stanley Cups and an Olympic silver medal already in his career.
Brian will be the go-to guy on defense for the Yanks in 2010.
Alex Goligoski is playing in his first full season in the NHL for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Goligoski played half a season, and a couple of playoff games with the Stanley Cup-winning 2008-09 Penguins squad. He is no stranger to winning, and can provide some of that winning experience to a young American squad.
Goligoski is the highest-scoring American born defenseman in this young NHL season and is showing a lot of promise in the absence of veteran D-man Sergei Gonchar.
Whitney currently resides in Anaheim after being traded from the Penguins last season. Whitney is another offensively gifted player.
He shows a keen ability to make smart plays on both sides of the puck, which makes him even more of a weapon.
Whitney is logging nearly 27 minutes a game, which is the most of any player in the league.
Whitney can play the big minutes, and has played in big games, which will make him a valuable asset to Team USA.
Jack Johnson is a key cog in the Los Angeles Kings future success. The young defenseman is a strong defensive player on a team full of offensive weapons.
Johnson can do just about anything.
It would be a wise decision to let the budding star get some much needed experience. He will certainly be a bright star in the future of American hockey.
Paul Martin is not offensively gifted, but he is no slouch.
The New Jersey Devils blue-liner is a solid defenseman who isn't prone to a lot of mistakes. He could provide much needed stability and leadership to the American squad.
Martin is currently injured, which means that he might not skate up for the Americans this winter.
The Massena, New York native is as hard a worker as you are going to find.
The sophomore blue-liner has not gotten an entirely fair shake in terms of international play as he has yet to lace up in the Red, White, and Blue.
Bogosian is having an excellent campaign with the Thrashers showing just why he was picked third overall. This season, in 17 games, Bogosian has recorded eight goals. This is the most by any defenseman this season.
Bogosian has asserted himself as the Thrashers best D-man. Given the opportunity, he could do the same for Team USA.
Forwards: Patrick Kane
Patrick Kane will likely lead the charge on offense.
The young winger is as slick as they come, with amazing speed, and a solid skill base.
Kane has played in several international competitions and has proven himself in big game situations with the Hawks and the London Knights.
The Chicago star has secured a spot on the roster and will have a lot of success in the tournament.
Dustin Brown is only 25 years old, but is already the captain of an up-and-coming Los Angeles Kings squad.
The young gun has good offensive ability, is strong on the puck, and isn't afraid to get a little dirty. But most importantly he is a good leader. He may just wind up with a letter "C" on his jersey.
Even though Brown is only 25, he has represented the United States six times in international competition (winning bronze in 2004). This international experience is key as he will provide a model for younger players.
Parise leads all American-born players in scoring with 10 goals and 12 assists in just 18 games.
The Devils are red hot this season and a lot of that success can be attributed to their star player Zach Parise.
Parise can do just about everything. The winger can skate, score, and dangle with the best. Zach also keeps his nose out of trouble to boot.
Parise nearly topped the 50 goal mark last season after tallying 45, which was third best in the league.
The 25 year old has five years of international experience under his belt, including a gold medal in 2004 at the World Junior Championships.
Parise and Kane will make a very dynamic duo.
Since returning from injury Phil Kessel has been on fire.
Kessel has shown flashes of brilliance and has really stepped up his game in the absence of Marc Savard.
Kessel is speedy, tricky, and can score lots of goals if needed.
Kessel has appeared for the United States in seven international tournaments in the past five years, winning gold in 2005 and silver in 2004 in the U-18 tournament.
Jamie Langenbrunner is a leader and a likely candidate for the captaincy of the squad.
With the Devils and the Stars, Langenbrunner has captured two Stanley Cup titles, and is currently on the hunt for his third as the captain of the high-flying New Jersey Devils.
Langenbrunner is by no means a flashy player, but he gets the job done. He may not put up stellar record-breaking numbers, but he is very reliable and can pull his own weight.
With Brian Burke at the helm you can be assured that Bobby Ryan has an assured spot on the roster.
Ryan plays a "Brian Burke style" game. The prototypical power forward is a rather rare commodity to come across.
Bobby can skate with the best and power his way through the rest.
The Calder Trophy finalist is on his way to another stellar season and could be very beneficial to a slightly smaller USA Olympic squad.
(image courtesy LIFE.com)
Paul Stastny is a Canadian born hockey player, but has dual citizenship, and will play for the United States in the 2010 Olympic games.
Paul Stastny is a playmaker at heart and is a mighty fine one at that. With great vision and good touch, Paul has been key in turning the Colorado Avalanche's fortunes around.
And he could do the same for Team USA.
So far Stastny is looking at a career year, and will really benefit in playing a much larger role for the Avalanche.
Ryan Kesler has been a Vancouver Canuck since he entered the NHL in 2003. Since that time he has established himself as a smart two-way forward. He was recently rewarded with a Selke nomination this past offseason.
His strong defensive presence up front will be needed as teams nowadays are very strong offensively and are good challenges for players such as Kesler.
In his international play Kesler has won three gold medals at the 2001 U-17, 2002 U-18, and the World Juniors.
Ryan Malone is a good crash and bang type of player, but he has recently asserted himself as somewhat of a goal-scorer.
Malone leads all American-born players in goals, and has backed that up with some solid numbers in the helper department.
Malone is well known for his toughness and his ability to fight back from injuries. A very selfless player and a likely leader, Malone will be very beneficial to the Olympic squad.
Filling out the roster
Filling out the final roster and the taxi squad will be Dustin Byfuglien, Tim Connolly, James Van Riensdyk, Tim Thomas, and Erik Johnson.
These final players will add skill and grit to the roster, but will likely not get the same sort of ice time that the aforementioned players will.