Team USA: Projections and The Outsiders

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Quick Notes: All players on Team USA currently play in the NHL. Also, all players are very good players and deserving of Olympic spots. As a result, I have included players who were snubbed, but will not discuss which players would have been left off of the roster.

Forwards:

Parise                                     Kesler                                 Kane

VanRiemsdyk                         Pavelski                              Kessel

Brown                                    Backes                                Callahan

Oshie                                     Stepan                                Wheeler

Extras: Statsny, Pacioretty

                This top line should be able to cause havoc for opponents on both ends of the ice. Kesler has continually been one of the best two way forwards, highlighted by his Selke trophy in 2011. Though very different styles, Parise and Kane are both elite goal scorers and rise to the occasion when the game is on the line. Currently holding the 2nd position in points this season, only behind Sidney Crosby, Kane has taken his game to a higher level.

                The second line could be the most important piece of this team. This season, Kessel and JVR had a hot start. Their chemistry was very strong and the points were piling up. Recently, the Leafs have been struggling and their duo’s production has slowed down. Their scoring is streaky and they will need to catch fire. Pavelski is a very skilled playmaker to complement these wingers. This line looks to have a high ceiling of potential.  To win games, it is essential this line provides the necessary secondary scoring.

                This third line has everything any coach desires. They’re three great leaders, team captains, who play a hard-nose and aggressive style. Whether it’s throwing a hit, blocking a shot or going into a corner, this line will be a nuisance to opponents. Their style is annoying to play against and they will get under the skin of their opponents.

                The fourth line is very interchangeable. I could see the extras being moved in and out of this line. These are versatile players who will serve different roles. Stepan and Oshie have been very good penalty killers for their NHL teams.

Defensemen:

Suter                                   Shattenkirk

McDonagh                          Orpik

Martin                                 Carlson

Fowler                                Faulk

                Suter and Shattenkirk are very different players that complement each other very well. Suter is a defensive minded blueliner who logs the most average ice time in the NHL. Shattenkirk is an offensive minded defenseman who has improved his overall game this year to show his ability to play in a top role.

                McDonagh and Orpik would be a match made in heaven to shut down any scoring line. Both have proved with their respective clubs that they can slow down any opponent.  This would be a great pair to throw at the top line of any Olympic opponent and cause continual chaos. McDonagh has progressively added a strong offensive game as well.

                The last four defensemen are players that could be interchangeable, maybe even crack the top four, but I expect them to rotate spots between games. They are all very skilled and good puck-handling players.

Goaltenders:

Quick, Miller, Howard

  •     My prediction is this order will be their depth chart position to start the Olympics. With Quick recently returning from injury, his play over the next month will determine whether or not he starts. Even though Miller was phenomenal in the 2010 Vancouver games, Quick has established himself as the best American goalie over the last few years. Howard struggled to start this season, but has been consistently good over the last couple years and has been picking up his game since returning from injury.

 

   Odd Men Out:

  1. Bobby Ryan
    • I was very surprised to see Ryan left off of the roster. Ryan is an elite player who knows how to find the back of the net. Excluding the shortened season last year, Ryan has notched more than 30 goals each season of his career.  In the shortened season, he was on track to hit the mark again. This season, he has 18 through 45 games which would put him on pace to eclipse the total again. His abilities outside of scoring were questioned by the committee choosing the team. He didn’t seem to fit in the lineup if he wasn’t a top 6 forward. His abilities outside of scoring are very debatable, including his skating ability on the larger ice surface. The Ryan supporters will be out for blood if Team USA struggles to find goals without Ryan.
  2. Keith Yandle
    • A defenseman that I was surprised to see left off of the roster. He is a player that I thought would excel with the larger ice surface. He is a great skater and moves the puck extremely well. He is exceptionally good with the first pass and moving his unit out of the zone. Also, he continually racks up points, including 28 through 43 games this year.
  3. Kyle Okposo
    • A dark horse who wasn’t talked about much or included in projected rosters. He broke out toward the latter part of last season and played exceptional in the playoffs. After working hard this summer with line mate John Tavares, Okposo has taken his game to an elite level.  He is currently 14th in the league with 44 points through 43 games and 3rd among Americans behind only Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski. Also, Okposo played on a larger ice surface at University of Minnesota and excelled. Though he may have been late to the party concerning his elite status, I feel he would have been a nice fit on this roster.

Prediction:

                Being an American, my heart tells me the Americans have a good balance and have the ability to be in the gold medal game like in Vancouver last Olympics. Their roster has good speed and players to fulfill all the needed roles. My hockey sense and experience tells me this team will fall a little short. They will be lucky to win the bronze. As I look deeper into the roster, it seems this team was too forced together. They tried too hard to select the “right” players and passed on some of the best players.  For the Americans to reach their potential, all the roles must come together and create a strong chemistry. It may be difficult to find this chemistry with such a short tournament. My final prediction is Canada over Sweden 4-2 in the gold medal game and USA beats Russia 3-2 for the bronze. 

Editor’s note: Make sure to follow MattOBrien425 on Twitter @MattyO25! If you have Facebook, make sure to “like” us here: https://www.facebook.com/notyouraveragehockeyblog

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