2010 Winter Olympics: The 10 Most Impactful NHL Players in Vancouver
When you think of an impact player, you think of someone who can change the outcome of a game, playing his best hockey when the stakes are at their absolute highest.
Luckily for the hockey fans who have the privilege of witnessing the Vancouver games, there are quite a number of impact NHL players who will wear their national colors for the next several weeks.
But if by impact player, you expect to see the names of Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby or Henrik Lundqvist, you will be disappointed. I don't need to tell anyone that the "Great Eight" or "Sid the Kid" will have an impact for their respective countries.
Impact players can be much more than just a superstar-and in the case of the Olympics, they very often aren't the big names who win the day.
Who will score the timely goal, to go ahead with under two minutes remaining? Who will lay their body on the line to block a shot on the penalty kill, trying to protect a lead? Who might stand on their head, making save after save to keep their country in a game?
Proceed with caution.
Ryan Callahan, United States
Right Wing, New York Rangers
Ryan Callahan isn't the most skilled forward on the American roster. He's probably not even in the top five. He won't get the glory that someone like Patrick Kane, Zach Parise or Ryan Miller might get, but if the Red, White and Blue wants to come home with a medal in a few weeks, Callahan will have a major part to play.
He does all the "dirty" jobs that are required to win games. Averaging two and a half minutes per game with the man disadvantage in New York, Callahan is a superb penalty killer.
An in-your-face player that shoots as well as he lays the body, his reputation as one of the least enjoyable forwards to go up against is well deserved. Ron Wilson will be able to deploy him against top forwards throughout the Olympics with the utmost confidence.
Johan Franzen, Sweden
Center/Right Wing, Detroit Red Wings
The Mule has replaced fellow Red Wing Tomas Holmstrom on the Olympic roster, and the Swedes couldn't have made a better choice.
While the primary focus of teams might be on Henrik Zetterberg or Nicklas Backstrom, teams had better pay attention to this power forward.
Franzen only recently returned to action, logging his first game in over four months against the St. Louis Blues. In his three games since returning, the Mule has scored twice and added an assist. But that's hardly the most encouraging part for Bengt-Ake Gustafsson's squad in their Gold medal defense.
Franzen has also been getting to his game, also known as playing with a physical edge and going to the net. In only his second game back, he dished out a three-course meal of pain in the form of seven hits against the San Jose Sharks. We all know what he is capable of when the Mule is on his game.
There might not be a more prime-time performer than Franzen. He has 25 playoff goals in the past two seasons.
Mikko Koivu, Finland
Center, Minnesota Wild
Sweden is supposed to win Group C? Nobody told Mikko Koivu.
The Wild captain has already turned in one of his best season of his career with 56 points in 61 games. The former sixth overall draft pick should easily surpass his career highs by the end of the year. But Koivu has other business to attend to.
The Finns can't score. It's all about goaltending. Teemu Selanne is too old. He's heard all of that. The 26-year-old "other" Koivu can and will change those misconceptions if defenses overlook him. Much like how he quietly leads the Wild, he will do so with Finland.
He is a man of many skills, as he is equally as comfortable on the power play as he is killing penalties. He is consistently one of the league's best shootout men. Oh, and he also wins 58 percent of his faceoffs.
Rick Nash, Canada
Right Wing, Columbus Blue Jackets
Only on Team Canada is it possible to be overlooked as a 40-goal-scorer. But with so many talented players on offense and defense, the brilliance of Rick Nash seems to slip out of focus.
An absolute monster of a winger at 6'4", 220 pounds, Nash will play in all situations for Mike Babcock in Canada's pursuit of Olympic Gold. Although the Blue Jackets play has been down this year as well as Nash's point production, Captain Columbus' play has certainly not gone south.
He will likely be paired on a line with Sidney Crosby, which makes him even more lethal, because defenses won't even be able to make him the primary focus of their energy. It's a situation that could only be drawn up on an All-Star team.
But Canada is an All-Star team, and Nash could very well lead it in goals scored.
Dennis Seidenberg, Germany
Defense, Florida Panthers
When names come to mind of the elite defensemen heading to Vancouver from the NHL, Dennis Seidenberg is probably one of the last. But he is a defenseman that can make someone's life in Group C more miserable than they would like.
He's not the world's biggest defender at only 6'0". But he'll do anything it takes to win, and that's a great thing for Germany to have. He's not only excellent at moving the puck, but he's more than willing to hit and block shots like any top defenseman should.
In fact, he leads the NHL in blocked shots (175), a mark that tops the second best by more than 20.
He will also have the pleasure of running the German power play, which may not look impressive on paper but keep in mind that the Florida Panthers don't have too many standouts on the man advantage either.
Alexander Semin, Russia
Right Wing, Washington Capitals
Zach Parise? No. Anze Kopitar? Nope. Jarome Iginla? Try again. Jeff Carter? Nyet.
None of them have registered 30 goals this year. On the other hand, Alexander Semin has buried the quietest 30 goals in the entire league. The other Alex is an often-overlooked superstar on his own team and will play the exact same role on Team Russia.
He's a hot-and-cold sharpshooter who can score from places on the ice that nobody thought possible. While he has been separated from Alex Ovechkin in Washington because the line was simply too good, Slava Bykov will surely re-unite them in Vancouver for chemistry.
All the while, The Great 2-8 will be giddy with excitement that opposing defenses will focus all their thoughts on Ovechkin, leaving him free to roam as he pleases.
Mark Streit, Switzerland
Defense, New York Islanders
Mark Streit will serve as the captain of a plucky Swiss team that will look to do some damage against the Americans and Canadians. But while his supporting cast isn't the greatest, Streit hasn't had the advantage of playing for a good team in quite a few years.
That hasn't stopped him from producing however. With only 61 points the 2008-09 season, the New York Islanders were by far the worst team in the NHL. Except nobody told Streit, who went +6 while playing over 25 minutes a game.
He's a jack of all trades but most importantly, he's one of the most underrated power play quarterbacks in the league and possesses a very accurate shot from the point. Even though the Islanders power play ranks 30th in the league, Streit still is one of the leaders in goals by a defenseman with eight.
Look for him to potentially lead the Games in minutes played.
Tomas Vokoun, Czech Republic
Goaltender, Florida Panthers
When you consider all the great goaltenders who will be playing in Vancouver, Tomas Vokoun isn't normally a man that gets much attention.
But he's one goaltender that no team in the tournament wants to face.
Vokoun is used to making 40 saves a game with the Florida Panthers. He thrives with action, and seems to only get stronger as a game progresses. It's a demoralizing factor, when a team can shoot that many pucks on net, only to get rejected over and over again. That's how Vokoun plays.
You feel hopeless. The Czechs, who will not field a team as gifted up front as ones they have in the past, so the emphasis will be on goaltending even more this year.
We all know what a hot goaltender can do in a single-elimination tournament. The Czechs pray they have that goaltender.
Anton Volchenkov, Russia
Defense, Ottawa Senators
While Andrei Markov and Sergei Gonchar will steal the headlines, Anton Volchenkov will be the reason why Russia goes far in the tournament.
If Ovechkin goes cold, Malkin or Kovalchuk can pick up the scoring slack. If Evgeni Nabokov isn't playing well in net, Ilya Bryzgalov can replace him without losing much of anything. But there's nobody on the roster who can do what Volchenkov can.
He is consistently one of the most underappreciated defensemen in the NHL. But while he is on the ice, he is the definition of a "shut down" defender. He's not hard to spot, just look somewhere near the Russian net and you'll probably find him.
Essentially a second goaltender on the ice for the Sbornaya, Volchenkov doesn't care how he gets in the way of an incoming shot. A stick, a leg, his face, he's done it all and none of it slows him down. Whoever the top forward on the opposing team is, he will find that player and stick to him like glue for as long as he's on the ice.
Shea Weber, Canada
Defense, Nashville Predators
The highly-lauded Canadian blue line may be one of the best seen in years. But the play of Shea Weber might be the most important of anyone, because of what he brings to the table.
While the likes of Pronger, Niedermayer, and Boyle will probably see most of the time against opposing top forwards, Weber will be an essential depth player. With a Howitzer from the point and a physical edge that is unrivaled by anyone in the tournament, Weber is a small forward's worst nightmare.
For a big hitter, which Mike Babcock will use him as, his ability to move the puck out of the defensive zone is a tremendous advantage for Team Canada.