Revisiting my US Olympic Hockey roster projections

Earlier in the summer I took the time to project who I felt would be donning the red, white and blue for the United States in the 2014 Olympic Games. With a quarter of the NHL season in the books there is a potential for a number of players to have cemented their spots or even opened the eyes of the USA Hockey executive team.

Considering the US doesn’t have the mountain of talent that is touted by the Canadians to pull from, there are more than a few assumed locks for the team. Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel are both enjoying strong starts to the season and will certainly be counted upon to continue their elite scoring ways in Sochi. The story remains the same for many of the forwards I assumed would be making the squad.

What it will likely come down to is who has the strongest resume as the games near. While the orientation camp and preseason rosters were based on career resumes and the assumed growth of players, others have shot out of the gates and bear watching as the season progresses. Due to that, there is likely to be some shuffling amongst the names who already were considered favorites.

Max Pacioretty has only played 15 games and has accounted for nine points (7+2) in that span. His absence from the lineup and the slower start could bump him off the roster as could be the case for James Van Riemsdyk. He has 16 points (9+7) in 22 games and has a natural chemistry with Kessel, but he could also be supplanted by a new face should the executive staff go with who is playing best.

JVR is probably more of a longshot to be left off the roster than to make it at this point and Ryan Callahan’s injury issues to start the year and Dustin Brown’s unimpressive offensive output won’t win them many favorites. However, Brown and Callahan both serve incredibly well in a checking and leadership role, which will likely cement their spot on the roster.

My original roster only accounted for 13 forwards and seven defensemen as I didn’t account for the two extra roster spots made available for this year’s games. Given that my original roster now has two gift openings, there isn’t nearly as much trouble trying to narrow down who should and shouldn’t be packing up for Russia.

The players who have motivated me to revisit my picks include; Jason Pominville (13 goals already), TJ Oshie (21 points) along with a few others who I originally considered little more than darkhorse candidates (Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Dubinsky and Cam Fowler).

I truly believe that most of the American roster was decided early on as players like David Backes, Kane, Kessel, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were all but decided the minute the orientation camp roster came out. Others would certainly be favorites but would need a solid first half of the year to cement their spot, this is where I see some opportunity for turnover. Here’s my new roster with new names highlighted in blue:

 

Forwards

LW

C

RW

Patrick Kane

Joe Pavelski

Bobby Ryan

Zach Parise

David Backes (A)

Jason Pominville

James Van Riemsdyk

Paul Stastny

Phil Kessel

Dustin Brown

Ryan Kesler

Ryan Callahan (C)

Derek Stepan

TJ Oshie

Defense

LD

RD

Ryan Suter

John Carlson

Ryan McDonagh

Kevin Shattenkirk

Keith Yandle

Justin Faulk

Dustin Byfuglien

Seth Jones

Goalies

Ryan Miller

Jonathan Quick

Ben Bishop

 

The changes at forward are minimal from my original roster. Max Pacioretty comes out and Jason Pominville steps in. TJ Oshie is also a new addition but gets penciled into the roster spot I previously omitted.

Pominville’s inclusion is a no brainer at this point as he is not only a responsible two-way player who can kill penalties, but he also ranks amongst the league leaders in goal scoring this season. I slot him in opposite of Parise to capitalize on his chemistry with his fellow Wild teammate.

Pominville is also a natural right winger which helps to balance the lines. Dustin Brown – who is off to a slow start – slots into a true checking line with Kesler and Callahan and with Stepan and Oshie as the two extras, Dan Bylsma will have a pair of young, gifted players to freelance with as he sees fit.

Center is still an issue with this roster and after you get past Pavelski any of the three (four counting Stepan) are quite interchangeable. This is easily another portion of the roster which could be changed by the time the team is announced.

I made a few changes on the blueline, including shuffling of the pairs to properly line up lefties and righties. Suter and McDonagh could easily end up as the minute eating top pair for this team regardless of which way they shoot, but I kept lefties and righties together this time. The right side is interchangeable and the hierarchy reflected here is more of a spaceholder. Although John Carlson is the closest to a number one defenseman amongst those listed.

Byfuglien and Jones become my two new faces while removing Brooks Orpik and overlooking Erik Johnson and Zach Bogosian (along with the injured Paul Martin). I have a sneaking suspicion that Jones will make this team due to his blend of size and mobility. Meanwhile, Byfuglien’s versalitiy makes him a Swiss Army Knife of sorts as they can use him as a forward in a pinch, as a powerplay net front specialist or simply injecting him for a few minutes on defense each game. Unlike Jones, who would likely rotate in with the rest of the defensemen, Byfuglien represents a luxury for the coaching staff.

Paul Martin’s (L) injury may leave him off the US roster, but Ryan Miller’s (R) play will likely earn him a trip to Sochi.

On the outside looking in of both groups will be Alex Galchenyuk, Bogosian and Johnson. They’re basically the next three up and I’d also consider Paul Martin depending how he heals up in the coming weeks.

Galchenyuk could easily steal a spot in the event that the determination is made to seek more offense down the middle of the ice. Bogosian and Johnson offer a little more stability on the backend while not being pylons either. Both could easily step in for Byfuglien, Jones or even one of the more offensively inclined rear guards I have listed.

As for the goalies, I have Ryan Miller back in the mix and slotted in as the starter due to his stellar play behind a leaky Buffalo roster. He’d likely be a Vezina contender yet again if he was playing with a capable team and I have little doubt he will carry this play into Sochi. Quick remains on the team but his groin issue could easily bump him off the roster. I count him as the backup for now but I assume the starting duties may not be decided until after a few games of the round robin once the games open.

My last goalkeeper may be a surprise but I feel like Ben Bishop has earned the right to at least make the trip to Russia. The third goaltender won’t likely see any playing time and will likely only dress as a backup for one of the less intimidating round robin opponents. While Corey Schneider could easily fill this role, I’ll give it to Bishop due to his stellar play to open the year.

The final few players to lock up a roster spot for Sochi may not sort themselves out until the last few days of the evaluation period. In fact, the goaltending situation appears to be so convoluted that may not be determined until then either. This is just an attempt at spit balling the roster. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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