This commentary maybe a little premature. However, when I saw the news that Stevie Y was placed in charge of the Canadian Olympic efforts, I thought it maybe worthwhile to take a quick look at what players, eligible to play for the US, are emerging as contenders for the 2012 team.
Based on this year's performances to date, the US team should have an abundance of high quality forwards to choose from. There is excellent depth at all three forward positions. In the pivot, you have Kesler, Stepan, Backes, Pavelski, Stastny and even Oshie to choose from. All these guys are still young and in their primes. At LW you have ace Zack Parise followed by emerging stars Max Pacioretty and Blake Wheeler with all around force Dustin Brown. The team's greatest depth maybe at RW. Kessel, Kane & Ryan lead the pack, with Pominville and Callahan fighting for roster spots. Just think of all the havoc a line of Brown, Backes and Callahan would create for our opponents.
While the forwards are good, they aren't in the same class as the talent Canada, Russia and Sweden bring to the table upfront. The great equalizer is that the US team could have the strongest defense group and goaltending in the Olympic Tournament.
In goal, the committee would have to start with 2010 hero Ryan Miller, however emerging stars like Howard and Quick could easily displace Miller on the top rung of the US ladder.
On defense, I can think of at least 14 options right now. I'd start with Yandle, Suter and Byfuglien, and after that I'd choose the remaining 4 players based upon their skill set. Do I need more scoring from the backend? If so, Goligoski and Carle come to mind. Do I need a physical presence? If so, Brooks Orpik would top that list. What about a stopper? Paul Martin and youngster Ryan McDonahg would top that list. If I'm looking for young all-around talent, I'd focus on Shattenkirk, Carlson, Cam Fowler, Jake Gardiner and the Johnson boys Eric & Jack.
If I were choosing the team today I'd pick the following
Forwards: Parise Kesler Kessel; Pacioretty Pavelski Ryan; Wheeler Oshie Kane; Brown Backes Callahan with Stepan or Pommers as the extra forward.
Defense: Yandle Shattenkirk; Suter Byfuglien; McDonagh Orpik with Goligoski in reserve.
Goalie: Miller, Quick and Howard
I must admit I'm finding it hard to leave Carlson, Martin and Jack Johnson off the defense corps. I also think a guy like Brian Burke could easily opt for more experience and sand paper upfront and put Stastny & Malone back into the lineup. Either way, this could be the most talented team ever fielded by the US. Maybe even better then the Modano, Hull, Roenick, & Tkachuk lead 2002 silver medal team.