We've covered the Olympics on here a few times before and it's safe to say we're all a little concerned about them. All of the SBN Hockey blogs have once again teamed up though to give everyone a good glimpse at who on the teams they cover could be heading to Vancouver for two weeks in February to play for their countries. Please check out the other sites info on this page - it's a good read
We here are SCH are already pretty late with this preview so here we go..
Pack Your Bags
Patrick Kane (USA) - Kaner is an absolute no-brainer to play for the Americans. Kane is just one of the many young stars like Phil Kessel, Bobby Ryan, T.J. Oshie, Erik Johnson and maybe even James van Riemsdyk that could be leading the Men's team back to glory (or at least relevancy). As we've seen throughout this season, few players in the NHL (and therefore the world) can match Kane's vision and IQ out on the ice. It'll be an uphill battle for the USA team to get to any medal rounds but it's players like Kane that will give them a chance.
Marian Hossa (Slovakia) - According to NHL.com - there are only 12 skaters in the NHL from Slovakia that have played this year so my knowledge of who is going to be on this team is pretty damn limited. Regardless, from what we've seen in just 2 games, Hossa would be a lock to make any team in the country so Slovakia is sure to love having him.
Tomas Kopecky (Slovakia) - As I said above, there are very few players from Slovakia who have made it to the NHL - so somebody like Kopecky is pretty much a lock. While he wouldn't make other power house teams, or most teams really, he's a pretty good lock for the Slovak team.. so good for him.
Nearly A Lock
Jonathan Toews (Canada) - I debated putting Toews in the "pack your bag" category but since he's not a 100% sure thing, I thought he should go here. There's very little doubt that Toews will make the team, especially given Yzerman's fondness for Captain Marvel. The fact that Toews might not crack Canada's top 4 centers tells you how deep their team is going to be. With Toews' injury earlier in the year and not exactly lighting the world on fire so far, his stock may have dipped slightly but there's still very little chance we don't see Toews on the team.
Duncan Keith (Canada) - Keith is almost certain to join the team in Vancouver as well - we know that Keith is one of the best defenseman in the league and I'm sure Yzerman does too. Keith is 4th overall in points for d-man and 3rd overall if you take out the Czech Tomas Kaberle.. Keith logs big minutes against tough competition in all situations. It'd be surprising to see him miss the games.
Work To Do
Dustin Byfuglien (USA) - Buff rode an outstanding end of the regular season and even more impressive playoffs to get himself an invitation to the Men's Olympic Hockey Camp this summer. However it was pretty clear to anyone who went there that Buff was at least a step behind every other player in that camp. Brian Burke has an unexplained soft spot for tough guys who can't do much else (read: The current Maple Leafs) - so there's an outside shot that Buff makes the Men's squad. If he had played with the same intensity we saw late last year I think he'd be much closer to making the team but instead we've seen him revert to the player who takes games off at a time, only to have a shift or two of interest. Probably won't be enough for him to make the team but weirder things have happened before..
Brent Seabrook (Canada) - I don't know if Biscuit actually has much "work" to do but he's a dark horse at this point to make the squad. If he could be assured to play with Keith I think they'd obviously be a force during the games. It's not a stretch to say those two are at least in the top 5 of defensive pairs in the league and having a pairing with that level of familiarity could give the Canadian squad a major leg up over players that rarely ever get to play with their teammates for any extended periods of time. I'd think it'd be foolish not to take him but I'm biased...
Patrick Sharp (Canada) - Sharp got off to a red-hot start this year - 9 points in his first 6 games. He's settled down a lot though with only 12 points in the games since that start. Canada's absolutely loaded with snipers that are better than Shooter. He'd pretty much be a lock to make the US squad but the Canadian squad might just be a bridge too far.
Niklas Hjalmarsson (Sweden) - I don't really know much about Olympic hockey squads - I enjoy watching it when it happens but don't follow the build up too far beforehand. So I don't know what Hammer's shots are but in my slight research on the issue, I've only seen Hammer's name thrown out there on message boards so I'm thinking he doesn't have the greatest shot to make the team for Sweden. The Swedes won the gold last year so their team is going to be tough to crack but we've seen how Nintendo has upped his game from the start of last year, especially in the playoffs. If he can play there I don't see a reason why he wouldn't be a great addition to the Swedish team.