Team USA, Men's Hockey: The Forwards
Youth, youth, youth. That was the main focus when GM Brian Burke assembled Team USA for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
With Ron Wilson (Toronto Maple Leafs) behind the bench, along with assistant coaches, John Tortorella (New York Rangers) and Scott Gordon (New York Islanders), the Men's Hockey team will rely on the kids to rebound from Torino's forgettable performance.
At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Team USA finished in eighth place, only ahead of Kazakhstan, Germany, Italy, and Latvia.
Here's a look at the young offense that will help Team USA hopefully improve on that record in Vancouver.
NHL Team: New Jersey Devils
Langenbrunner is one of the three exceptions to the youth movement. Even on young teams, experience is a great quality. Langenbrunner has plenty of it.
Out of the 24 men on the team, Langenbrunner is the only one who played on the 1998 team in Nagano.
It was an easy decision to award Langenbrunner with the captaincy of Team USA.
Langenbrunner has won two Stanley Cups during his 13 NHL seasons. His first Cup win came in 1999 with the Dallas Stars, who selected him 35th overall in 1993.
He won his second Cup in 2003 with the New Jersey Devils, where he is now the captain.
One of Langenbrunner's greatest qualities, besides leadership, is scoring when it counts. He ranks 18th amongst active NHL players in playoff scoring, with 32 goals and 52 assists. Team USA will lean on Langenbrunner and his clutch performances throughout the tournament in Vancouver.
NHL Team: New Jersey Devils
Position: Left Wing
Like Jamie Langenbrunner, Parise is a member of the Devils and will be counted on as an assistant captain for Team USA.
When it comes to goal scoring, Parise is lethal. Since he came into the NHL during the 2005-06 season, Parise has made the lives of NHL goalies miserable.
Parise has scored 30 or more goals in every season besides his rookie campaign, where he scored 14. Last season Parise truly arrived when he lit the lamp on 45 occasions and added 49 helpers.
This, like many players, will be Parise's first Olympic Games, but he is no stranger to international play.
Parise was named MVP of the 2004 U20 IIHF World Junior Championship. The United States won that tournament with the help of Parise and his five goals and six assists.
Parise also played in the 2002 U18 World Junior Championship, where he again helped the U.S. win gold.
NHL Team: Los Angeles Kings
Position: Right Wing
Since being drafted 12th overall in 2003, Brown has done nothing but play years older than his actual age. At the young age of 23, Brown was named the captain of the Kings. Brown will provide that same leadership for Team USA.
Not only will Brown be looked at as a leader for the U.S. squad, but he will also supply a combination of offense and intensity. Brown, since entering the NHL has found himself atop the league leaders in hits. He's finished in the top three of that category for the past three seasons and is currently third in the NHL in hits this year.
In addition to hitting and jarring the opposition, Brown also puts the puck in the net.
Like Parise, Brown will be making his Olympic debut, but is no stranger to Team USA. Brown has participated in six tournaments for Team USA. His most recent came during the 2009 World Championship, where he was team captain and recorded three goals and five assists.
NHL Team: New York Rangers
Where should I start with Chris Drury? The man simply knows how to win. He's done it all in his athletic career, starting with a Little League World Series victory.
In addition to his LLWS trophy, Drury has won a Stanley Cup, an NCAA championship, and even won the 1989 Pee Wee Hockey championship.
The only thing missing from Drury's illustrious trophy mantle is Olympic gold. He came close in 2002, when Team USA won the silver medal at the Salt Lake Games.
In addition to the 2002 Games, Drury has represented the United States in seven tournaments, including the 2006 Olympics in Torino.
Although Drury has struggled over the past two seasons as captain of the Rangers, he was all but a lock for this team. Some (myself included) even had him slated as the captain.
Captain or not, Drury will undoubtedly provide this young team with the right leadership and experience needed to make a deep run in the tournament.
NHL Team: Colorado Avalanche
Luckily for the United States, Stastny chose to play internationally for Team USA. Born in Quebec, raised in St. Louis, Stastny had the option to play for Canada.
Since being drafted 44th overall in 2005, Stastny has built himself to be one of the most prolific playmakers in the NHL. Stastny hit the ground running his rookie campaign, accumulating 28 goals and 50 assists. The next two years, Stastny's numbers were a little off because he was marred by injury, however he has returned to his form this season.
Through 55 games, Stastny has racked up 11 goals and 38 assists.
Stastny will be not only relied on for setting up his teammates, but gaining initial puck possession. Stastny ranks third in the NHL for faceoff percentage, with 50.6 percent.
This will be Stastny's first Olympic games, but his bloodline is no stranger to the Olympic stage. His father, Peter, is not only a Hall of Famer, but he also played in two Olympic games.
The only international experience Stastny has came from the 2007 World Championship, where he recorded eight points.
NHL Team: Vancouver Canucks
The Canuck will surely have the tables turned against him in hostile Canada when he dons the USA jersey.
Kesler, will be making his Olympic debut in front of his normally, home-town fans of Vancouver.
Although he has been making consistent improvements in his offensive game since he was drafted 23rd overall in 2003, Kesler is primarily a defensive centermen. And a darn good one at that. Kesler also holds an insane 55.6 FO percentage
Winning faceoffs and shutting down the opposition's top players, will be a role that Kesler will feel very comfortable with at home in Vancouver, where he is a plus-13.
Kesler, after almost making the 2006 team, will be making his Olympic debut. Along with Parise, Kesler was also a member of the gold-winning 2004 U20 World Junior team. Kesler also won gold two years earlier at the U18 tournament, as well.
Kesler was also a member of the 2005-06 World Championship squad, and spent parts of two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program, where he recorded 72 points in 72 games.
NHL Team: San Jose Sharks
Pavelski might be the most inexperienced player on Team USA on paper, but not in stature.
Pavelski, who will make his Olympic debut in Vancouver, has only played internationally once, at last year's World Championship.
Like Kesler, Pavelski is absolutely magnificent on faceoffs. Through 41 games, Pavelski has won an absurd 60 percent of his faceoffs.
Unlike most players, Pavelski is most dangerous when he doesn't have the puck. His hockey sense and anticipation is top-notch.
In addition to his away from the puck ability, Pavelski is a very resourceful special-teams player, as he plays both the powerplay and penalty kill.
The Wisconsin native was a steal, selected by the Sharks in the seventh round of the 2003 draft.
NHL Team: New York Rangers
When Ryan Callahan is on the ice, the opposition better have their heads on a swivel. Callahan will hit anything that moves. Since being drafted by the Rangers in 2004, Callahan has cemented himself into the league's leaders of hitting.
Since playing full time for the Rangers, Callahan has ranked in the top five in the league for hitting, which includes second overall so far this season.
Callahan is your prototypical American hockey player. High-energy, high-intensity, gritty, and hard-working. Callahan does most of his damage along the boards and in front of the net, where he'll pitch in a few garbage goals.
Although he's having an up-and-down offensive season this year, as a part of the dreadful Rangers' offense, Callahan will probably put in a goal or two for the U.S. in Vancouver.
There isn't enough to say about Callahan's tireless work ethic on all ends of the game.
He can play the powerplay, and is an relentless shot-blocker on the penalty kill. His speed and puck retrieval is one of his strongest assets. He is currently fourth amongst forwards in the NHL in blocked shots with 57, just 12 behind the league leader, Rangers and U.S. teammate, Chris Drury.
Callahan should have a little more international experience than he actually does, but a freak mishap kept him from participating in the 2007 World Championships. Callahan's equipment was lost in the air and never made it to Moscow, where the U.S. was playing Finland in the quarterfinals.
Callahan did play in the 2005 World Junior Championship, where he amassed 29 penalty minutes in seven games. This will be Callahan's first Olympics.
NHL Team: St. Louis Blues
Like Callahan, Backes is another gritty American winger. He loves to park himself in front of opposition's nets and provide screens and deflections with his 6'3", 220 pound frame. Backes also finds himself in the top 15 hitters in the NHL.
The fact that the Olympics are being held in Vancouver, on NHL-sized ice, is extremely beneficial to Backes. With less space, Backes will be able to play his rough, body-contact style of play.
His offense, although a little better than Callahan, is inconsistent. Last season he scored a career-high 31 goals, but sits at just 13 this season.
Since making his NHL debut in 2006, Backes has participated in the past three World Championships for the United States. This will mark his Olympic debut.
NHL Team: Tampa Bay Lightning
You want a strong, big, physical horse? Well than you've got Ryan Malone. Malone, who last played for the United States in 2006 at the World Championship, is a huge presence in front of opposition's goalies.
Malone, on top of his physical presence, will provide much needed leadership, as he is one of the older players at 30-years old.
Malone, who is more known for his moderate goal scoring and excellent defensive awareness, has been tearing up the offensive numbers this season in Tampa.
Through 55 games, Malone has 21 goals and 20 assists. He's on pace for career highs in both categories. Another category that Malone is on pace for a career mark, is game-winning goals. Malone currently leads the NHL with seven game-winners.
Those numbers aside, Malone will most likely be relied on as a checking forward, to provide penalty killing and defensive play in his first Olympic appearance.
NHL Team: Anaheim Ducks
After being selected second overall in 2005, Bobby Ryan finally arrived last season. Ryan, who split time between the Ducks and the AHL, scored 31 goals in 64 games last season. This season, he is on pace to shatter that mark, with 24 goals scored through 56 games.
Ryan, who will make his Olympic debut, is one of seven Ducks playing in the Games.
Ryan will bring superior goal scoring and offensive playmaking to the United States' roster. If there's one name that will fly under most people's radars, but will be a huge impact, it's Ryan's.
In the 2006 World Junior tournament, Ryan had seven points in seven games for the U.S..
NHL Team: Toronto Maple Leafs
Kessel had about as inauspicious start to a season as anyone could ever want. Kessel missed the first 12 games of the season, recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. When he came back, he was immediately thrown into the fire that is Toronto hockey.
After being traded in the offseason to Toronto from Boston, who selected him fifth overall in 2006, Kessel was looked at as the savior for the Maple Leafs.
Kessel, who has a huge shot, is one of the most lethal shooters in the NHL. His skating and dangling ability is top-notch and he can score from any area of the ice.
He will be heavily relied on for offensive output for the United States. Kessel, 22, one of the youngest, youngsters on the team, will be making his Olympic debut. The transition might be easier for Kessel, as Ron Wilson is the coach of the Maple Leafs and Brian Burke is the Leafs' GM.
Kessel played for the U.S. in three World Championships from 2006-2008. He also led all players in assists during the 2006 World Junior Championships.
NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Finally, we have in my opinion, the best offensive player on Team USA, Patrick Kane.
Kane, 21, not only is he arguably the best offensive threat on the team, but he's also the youngest.
Since being drafted first overall in 2007—only the sixth American-born player to do so—Kane has done nothing but produce for the Blackhawks. In his rookie season, Kane posted 21 goals and 51 assists. This season, Kane is on pace to annihilate those numbers, with 21 goals and 39 assists through 55 games.
Kane has helped the young Blackhawks climb from the bottom of the standings, where they were when he made his debut, to amongst the top-three teams in the NHL today.
Kane, in my opinion is the best American-born playmaker since Mike Modano, and will eventually overtake him as No. 1.
Kane, making his Olympic debut, will most likely find himself alongside his 2008 World Championship linemates, Zach Parise, and Phil Kessel. Those three accounted for 44 percent of the team's scoring during that tournament, with 28 points.
Kane also played for the 2006 U18 WJC team where he won a gold medal and led the team in scoring. He won a bronze medal with the U20 WJC team in 2007 and was named to the tournament All-Star team, with five goals and four assists.
Kane holds the U.S. National Team Developmental Program's single-season point record with 102 points.