2010 Winter Olympic Hockey Preview: The Games' 10 Most Dynamic Players
The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver will play host to one of the most impressive collection of hockey players to ever take the ice.
Team Canada is expected to compete for the Gold medal, as are the Russians, Team Sweden and perhaps Finland and Team USA.
Each country will ice very different rosters.
Canada is expected to ice a well-balanced group, littered with a number of NHL captains and veterans. Team USA will ice an impressive group of younger players, whose speed and competitive level is expected to get them through the tough battles ahead.
Russia will ice one of the most intimidating group of forwards in Olympic history, with Alex Ovechkin expected to lead the way.
Let's take a look at the games' ten most dynamic hockey players and how they will impact their teams' fortunes.
Tomas Plekanec—Centre, Czech Republic
Leads all Czech players with 60 points with his NHL club, the Montreal Canadiens. Will be relied upon to lead the Czech offensive attack, both five-on-five and on the power play.
Known for their team-first approach to hockey, the Czechs will have to get a good effort out of all their players in order to be successful, but given the shear volume of ice-time Plekanec is likely to get, his performance will be key.
Ryan Miller—Goaltender, Team USA
Leads all NHL goalies with a .930 save percentage. Will be relied upon to keep opposing forwards at bay, serving as Team USA’s last defense against the likes of Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, amongst others.
Through 51 games with the NHL's Buffalo Sabres, Miller has established himself as one of the NHL’s elite goalies, posting a record of 29-14-7. His 2.19 goals against average ranks him third overall, further illustrating his dominance at his position.
Team USA will be a young, inexperienced squad, a squad that many believe will be hard pressed to score goals—although Zach Parise will have a thing or two to say about that. If the States do struggle offensively, it will be up to Miller to keep their opponents off the score sheet, making him Team USA’s most valuable player.
Marian Gaborik—Forward, Slovakia
Arguably the NHL’s comeback player of the year, Gaborik will have to dominate if the Slovakians are to be successful in Vancouver. Through 58 games with the NHL’s New York Rangers, Gaborik has amassed 35 goals (4th overall) and 69 points (sixth overall).
Known for his crafty puck handling and skating ability, Gaborik will be a force to be reckoned with in this tournament, and may very well lead Slovakia to an upset win or two.
Henrik Lundqvist—Goaltender, Sweden
Arguably one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, Lundqvist will have to be sharp if Team Sweden is to go far in Vancouver.
With only rookie Jonas Gustavsson and virtual unknown Stephan Livi behind Lundqvist as backup options, if Lundqvist gets hurt Sweden is in big trouble. Lundqvist will give the Swedes a lot of confidence, without that, it will be very hard for them to employ their torpedo offense.
Blessed with strong positioning, a great glove hand and reflexes like a cat, Lundqvist will be one of the most dynamic players at the Olympics, one that can steal a game and the gold medal hopes of the opposing country in a heartbeat.
Zach Parise—Forward, Team USA
Expected to lead the United States in scoring, Zach Parise occupies the 10th overall ranking in goals scored and the 17th overall position in points amongst all NHL players.
While it is true that Team USA’s game plan will be more of a team game, the individual effort of Parise on USA’s first line and power play responsibilities make his contribution important to Team USA’s success.
Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel and Bobby Ryan will also be asked to chip in offensively, but it is Parise that brings the most diverse skill-set to the table and, as such, gets the nod as one of the tournaments most dynamic players.
Henrik Sedin—Centre, Team Sweden
Currently sits second overall in points amongst all NHL players with 80. His 55 assists rank him second overall and his plus +27 rating is sixth amongst all NHL players.
His superior two-way play and the chemistry he has with his brother Daniel, will play a huge role in Sweden’s success. Once thought to be too soft, Henrik is having a career year and has added a larger physical dimension to his game this season.
Henrik is a magician with the puck and his scoring ability—he has 25 goals (17th overall), is not to be ignored.
Whether five-on-five, on the power play or on the penalty kill, Henrik’s contribution may very well be the difference between a Gold Medal and going home empty handed for the Swedes.
Martin Brodeur—Goaltender, Team Canada
The most highly decorated goaltender in NHL history, Brodeur will be asked to be all but perfect for Canada, something Brodeur has dome for Canada before.
Calm and well positioned, with great puck handling skills and a mental toughness that is unmatched, Brodeur is the ultimate goaltender and, in my opinion, the best netminder in this tournament.
Through 56 starts with the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, Brodeur has amassed a record of 34-19-3. His 2.27 goals against average ranks him sixth overall, while his .916 save percentage ranks him 17th.
Brodeur is so much more than just the numbers. His ability to get into the shooter's head is legendary as is his penchant for coming up large in the big games. No question about it, Brodeur will be one of the most dynamic players in Vancouver—he will have to be for Canada to win Gold.
Evgeni Malkin—Forward, Team Russia
Blessed with speed, skill and physical prowess, Malkin has established himself as one of the NHL’s elite players.
His ability to rise to the occasion in the big games was on display for all to see in last year's Stanley Cup playoffs, where he scored a number of big goals while bringing an elite competition level at every turn.
Through 54 games with the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, Malkin has registered 21 goals and 64 points—not his best offensive season, but still good enough to rank him 13th in the NHL’s scoring race.
Look for Malkin to supply the secondary scoring for Russia, scoring that may very well give the Russians the nod as this year's Gold Medal recipients.
Sidney Crosby—Forward, Team Canada
Sid the Kid needs no introduction. He roared onto the NHL scene with more hype than a Don King boxing promotion.
He has proven to be the Pittsburgh Penguins savior, single-handedly changing the Penguin's fortunes through tremendous leadership and marketing appeal, culminating his offensive prowess and leadership skills into a Stanley Cup Championship in 2008-09.
Known for his set-up abilities, Crosby has changed his game up this year, netting 41 goals through 60 games, a career high for Crosby.
Puck handling, face-off skills and passing ability are made to look like child’s play by Crosby. His calm demeanor and intense competition level make him a force to be reckoned with, if not the tournament's most dangerous player.
Alexander Ovechkin—Forward, Russia
They don’t call him Alexander the Great for nothing. Ovechkin has earned his nickname through tremendous play and the fiercest competition level on the planet.
Ovechkin makes highlight reel plays on a nightly basis and is widely regarded as the NHL’s most prolific goal scorer.
Through 53 games with the NHL’s Washington Capitals Ovechkin has scored a league leading 42 goals, adding 47 assists (5th overall). It all equates to 89 points, which puts Ovechkin atop the NHL’s scoring leaders.
Spirited play, goal scoring ability and pride for his country put Ovechkin in a stratosphere all his own. No question, Ovechkin is the most exciting player in the game today, with the ability to change the outcome with a single flick of his wrist.
Alexander Ovechkin is the most dynamic player at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.