It's official! NHL players are going to the Olympics, and it's time to project the United States roster. I can only imagine how difficult it is to make the roster for real. Roster spots fill up quickly, and in the end it's hard to believe some of the players who are left off. Keep in mind that Brian Burke told TSN during the draft that this year's Olympic team will place a higher emphasis on skill, because of the fact that this year's tournament will be played on an international sized ice surface. Still, this team will have some grit.
Zach Parise - Phil Kessel - Patrick Kane
Dustin Brown - Ryan Kessler - David Backes
Max Pacioretty - Derek Stepan - Ryan Callahan
James van Riemsdyk - Joe Pavelski - Jason Pominville
This top 12 is missing some serious names: Bobby Ryan, TJ Oshie, Brian Gionta, Alex Galchenyuk, Brandon Saad. All could be in the mix for a roster spot. It is a challenge finding American centers who can counter the likes of Canada's Crosby-Stamkos-Staal punch. But just take a look at that second line, what a shutdown force they could be. The Americans will have size and grit up front, and just like in 2010 - very balanced scoring.
Ryan Suter - Keith Yandle
Paul Martin - Kevin Shattenkirk
Jack Johnson - Dustin Byuglien
Ryan McDonagh, Brooks Orpik, and Alex Goligoski should be in the mix for the final roster spots. Rob Scuderi and Eric Johnson remain available if USA Hockey officials determine they need more veteran presence. This is a solid looking group of skill defensemen, ideal for moving the puck on a larger ice surface. There won't be a number one defenseman in this tournament who's better than Ryan Suter.
Jonathan Quick - Jimmy Howard - Ryan Miller
After much thought, Ryan Miller makes the team. His experience can add a lot for the American team. However, this is Jonathan Quick's tournament. The gold medal will rest on him. If Quick is able to play like he did in the 2012 playoffs, there's a very good chance the United States will reach the gold medal game for the third time in the last four Olympic competitions. Jimmy Howard showed that he can get as hot as any netminder during this past playoff run. And yes, I realize the Chicago Blackhawks knocked both of Team USA's top goaltenders out of the playoffs this year. Cory Schneider and Craig Anderson are both possibilities for the roster, and if one starts the season on a roll he will have to be considered. Ducks prospect John Gibson, 20, is the future of American goaltenders and may deserve a trip to Sochi.
Head Coach: Dan Bylsma (already announced)
Assistant Coach: Joe Sacco - after guiding Team USA to a bronze medal at the World Championships, how could he not be named to this staff. If things had gone better in Colorado, he's be in contention for the head coaching job.
Assistant Coach: Peter Laviolette - played in the 1988 Games, captained Team USA in 1994, coached in 2006. Grand total: zero medals. Despite that fact, the Flyers boss can be an asset to the staff. He's got international experience and a Stanley Cup.
According to the Washington Post, USA Hockey will hold an Olympic orientation camp on August 26 and 27 in Arlington. No on-ice sessions will take place because of insurance concerns. The camp participants should be announced this week.