While the next Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are still a little under a year away, discussions continue on between the NHL, NHLPA, IIHF and IOC to determine whether NHL players will participate in the games. As it stands right now, all signs point to an agreement being reached to keep the game’s best players representing their respective nations.
In the spirit of these discussions, I thought I’d take a look at which Rangers might be making the trip over to Russia next year…
Henrik Lundqvist – Sweden: After a gold medal performance in 2006 and general NHL dominance over the past eight seasons, Hank is the guy for Sweden. Not even a disappointing 5th place finish in Vancouver could begin to dethrone The King.
Ryan Callahan – United States: Cally assumed a penalty-killing, bottom-6 role in Vancouver in 2010, often paired with former Ranger, Chris Drury. Callahan will play a much more prominent role on a still young US roster this time around. A letter is a distinct possibility for the Ranger captain.
Rick Nash – Canada: Nash was a major contributor for the Gold Medal winning Canadian side in 2010. If I recall correctly, it was the line of Nash, Richards and Jonathan Toews that really turned that tournament around for our neighbors to the north. Not really looking forward to seeing Nash on the other side of the puck again…
Marian Gaborik – Slovakia: No matter the current attitude of Ranger fans, Gaborik is still one of the best players in the world, and certainly one of the best Slovakian born players. He is an absolute lock for Sochi.
On the bubble
Derek Stepan – United States: Step has had a tremendous amount of international success already in his young career. He captained the 2010 US World Junior team to their second ever Gold Medal in Saskatoon, and was a member of the 2011 World Championship team. Will be make the jump to the Olympic stage in 2014? There is some potential for turnover on the US squad, so Step could work his way into serious consideration over the next several months.
Ryan McDonagh – United States: The debate rages on over whether McDonagh is a lock for the US blue line in 2014. I personally think he will make the team, but there are some very talented US rearguards looking for a spot as well.
Marc Staal – Canada: As we all know, Canada has the deepest pool of hockey talent in the world. The fact that they had the luxury of leaving the talented defenseman off the 2010 roster is pretty crazy. Canada should see some blue line turnover between Vancouver and Sochi, so Staal could claim one of those coveted spots. As always, however, there will be stiff competition.
Dan Girardi – Canada: Girardi is very much in the same boat as Staal. Most countries would kill to have players this talented on the bubble, so it will all depend on what GM Steve Yzerman has in mind for his defensive composition. If he values that shut down pair, Girardi should get a long look in camp.
Carl Hagelin – Sweden: Hags has had a very impressive start to his pro career. He might still be a little green to sneak into a very talented Swedish side, but he should still get his fair share of consideration. I will be interested to see if he gets any traction with his speed/forechecking prowess.
Michael Del Zotto – Canada: Considering the guys ahead of him on this list and serious puck movers like Duncan Keith and Drew Doughty already on the roster, I think MDZ will be sitting this one out. But, you never know…
J.T. Miller – United States: Like Derek Stepan, J.T. Miller has seen his share of international success. He has played in four international tournaments, including two World Juniors where he took home gold in 2013. He wore an “A” for that squad, but, while his Olympic time should come, it likely won’t be in 2014.
That seems to be it for possible Ranger Olympians. What do you guys think? Sound off in the comments below.