Ryan Miller (Buffalo Sabres – NHL) – This will be a big adjustment for Miller – not so much playing in Russia or on international ice. The thing Miller will need to get used to is playing for a team that’s actually good. He has done it before, but with the Sabres chasing their franchise record for the least points per game in a single season, he might have gotten used to the idea of being embarrassed. It’s Buffalo’s dreary team that makes hard to take his 2.74 GAA at face value. He’s still the same goaltender that led Team USA all the way to the Finals with a 1.35 GAA and .946 save percentage in six contests. With Miller likely to play between the pipes, America should count their goaltending as a strength.
Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings – NHL) – Ryan Miller is likely to be the team’s starter, but Quick is worthy of consideration as well. Since the 2010 Winter Games, Quick has made a name for himself with his stunning 2011-12 campaign. He had a 1.95 GAA and .929 save percentage in 69 contests that season and followed it up with a 1.41 GAA and .946 save percentage in 20 playoff contests en route to his first Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy. He struggled during the shortened campaign, but bounced back in the playoffs to lead the kings all the way to the Western Conference Finals. He’s having a solid season with a 2.18 GAA and .911 save percentage in 32 games.
Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings – NHL) – When he’s at his best, Howard is one of the best goaltenders in the league. The problem is that he doesn’t consistently play at that level. This has been one of his weaker campaigns with a 2.65 GAA and .914 save percentage in 34 contests. It hasn’t helped matters that he’s battled through knee and hip problems. He doesn’t look out of place on the United States’ roster by any stretch of the imagination, but he should be regarded as the team’s third-string netminder.
John Carlson (Washington Capitals – NHL) – After playing 22 games as a rookie in the 2009-10 campaign, Carlson quickly established himself as a top-four defenseman. He recorded over 30 points in the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons and is likely to accomplish that feat again this time around. Meanwhile, he has also blocked 123 shots while logging a team-high 24:47 minutes per game.
Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes – NHL) – One of Team United States’ promising young stars, Faulk won’t celebrate his 22nd birthday until nearly a month after the Olympic tournament. He’s a well-rounded defenseman, capable of playing in all situations, getting things going with the puck, throwing his body around, and getting in front of shots. It’s no wonder that the Hurricanes ask him to play nearly 25 minutes per game. He’s also on course to set a new-career high this season after 22 points in 57 contests last this season.
Cam Fowler (Anaheim Ducks – NHL) – Fowler is only 22 years old, but he’s already done a lot growing. Even has a rookie he was brilliant offensively with 40 points in 76 games in 2010-11, but it took him some time to develop the rest of his game. Now he’s far more responsible defensively with a plus-11 rating. He’s also been getting plenty of ice time when the Ducks are killing penalties. That hasn’t come at the expense of his work with the puck though as he still has six goals and 31 points in 60 games.
Paul Martin (Pittsburgh Penguins – NHL) – Martin has been a great defenseman for years, but he took things a step further in the shortened campaign by recording six goals, 23 points, and a plus-14 rating in 34 games while logging 25:20 minutes per contest. Martin hasn’t been nearly as effective offensively in 2013-14, in part because his season was disrupted due to a fractured tibia, but he remains a solid all-around defenseman.
Ryan McDonagh (New York Rangers – NHL) – At the age of 24, McDonagh doesn’t have much international experience at the adult level. He was still in with the University of Wisconsin during the 2010 Winter Games and competed in his only World Championship in 2011. So this tournament might prove to be a bit of an adjustment for him, but he’s certainly up to the challenge. It didn’t take him long to establish himself as one of the New York Rangers’ top defensemen following his 2010-11 rookie campaign. He’s taken things a step forward this season though with eight goals and 30 points in 59 games while logging a team-high 24:35 minutes per contest.
Brooks Orpik (Pittsburgh Penguins – NHL) – The United States chose to lean on a lot of youngsters when selecting the nation’s defense, which makes Orpik the team’s oldest blueliner at 33. He was taken in the first round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins and was part of their Stanley Cup-winning campaign as well as the United States’ silver medal run in the 2010 Olympics. He has 12 points in 50 games this season, but he’s more of a defensive defenseman with 145 hits and 99 blocked shots.
Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis Blues – NHL) – Just before the Olympic break, Alex Pietrangelo became the first St. Louis Blues’ defenseman to record at least 40 points in his first full three campaigns (in other words, minus the shortened season). The funny thing is that Pietrangelo’s feat is going to be replicated pretty soon. After recording 43 points in each of his rookie and sophomore campaigns, Shattenkirk is on pace to do even better this season after recording eight goals and 36 points in 56 games. He’s a complete blueliner, who is also capable of throwing his body around and willing to get in front of shots.
Ryan Suter (Minnesota Wild – NHL) – The man who will anchor Team United States’ defense, Suter is an absolute workhorse. He’s averaged an incredible 29:49 minutes per game this season while the next best player is at 27:41 minutes. Along the way, Suter has scored six goals and 33 points while also blocking 96 shots. None of that is particularly new for Suter, he’s been one of the NHL’s best and most consistent defensemen for years. In fact, this will be the sixth straight campaign where Suter has recorded at least 30 points while logging over 24 minutes per contest.
David Backes (St. Louis Blues – NHL) – Backes is a well-rounded player who can be equally scary with and without the puck. After something of an off-year where he scored just six goals in 48 contests, Backes is back on track in 2013-14 with 20 goals and 22 assists in 52 contests. On top of that, he has 179 hits and 78 penalty minutes. The United States has enough skill on their roster to potentially use him primarily as a bottom-six forward.
Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings – NHL) – Like Backes, Brown plays with an edge, but Brown has lacked Backes’ scoring touch this season. Although Brown recorded at least 20 goals and 50 points in five straight seasons from 2007-08 to 2011-12, he has just 10 goals and 16 points in 58 contests this season. On top of that, he couldn’t be colder going into the Olympics given that he has no points and a minus-eight rating in his last 12 games. That being said, Brown was terrific during the Kings’ Stanley Cup-winning run in 2012 with eight goals and 20 points in 20 playoff games, so he is capable of stepping up with the pressure on.
Ryan Callahan (New York Rangers – NHL) – Callahan is known for playing with a lot of heart and grit while leading his New York Rangers teammates. The Rangers captain certainly won’t be the flashiest player on the ice as he has never recorded more than 54 points in a single season, but he can play a valuable role as a bottom-six forward against opposing nation’s powerhouse lines. This will be his second trip to the Olympics after participating in America’s silver medal run in 2010.
Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks – NHL) – Kane is both one of the best players in the league and a big game guy. Even at the age of 21 he managed to score three goals and five points in six Olympic games in 2010. He’s only gotten better since then and currently ranks fifth in the NHL with 63 points in 59 contests. He’s also risen the Stanley Cup twice with the Chicago Blackhawks. In his first trip to the finals, he buried the game-winning goal in overtime. The second time around he won the Conn Smythe Trophy. So a strong showing in the Olympics certainly isn’t beyond his capabilities.
Ryan Kesler (Vancouver Canucks – NHL) – When Kesler was selected to the United States’ Olympic team in 2010, he was seen as a rising superstar. Unfortunately, the last four years haven’t been kind to him. He had back-to-back 70-plus point campaigns in 2009-10 and 2010-12, but dropped to just 49 points the following season. After missing most of the shortened campaign, he has just 20 goals and 37 points in 60 games this season. Consequently, Kesler shouldn’t be counted on to play a big role with America in this tournament.
Phil Kessel (Toronto Maple Leafs – NHL) – Arguably one of the league’s more underrated players. It’s rare to see him be mentioned among the NHL’s best forwards, but he deserves to be part of that conversation. Since the start of the 2011-12 campaign, Kessel ranks second in the NHL’s scoring race with 199 points in 190 games. That puts him behind just Evgeni Malkin. This season, Kessel is second in the league with 31 goals and fourth with 65 points in 60 contests. He’s also reached the 30-goal mark for five straight campaigns, excluding the shortened season. The United States will be relying heavily on Kessel and Kane to lead their offensive charge.
T.J. Oshie (St. Louis Blues – NHL) – T.J. Oshie has been a solid top-six forward for a few seasons now, but he’s taken a step forward in 2013-14 with 14 goals and 46 points in 57 games. Although this will be his first trip to the Olympics, Oshie has frequently served the United States on the international stage. He has taken part in three World Championships, with his most noteworthy showing coming in 2010 when he scored four goals and six points in six games.
Max Pacioretty (Montreal Canadiens – NHL) – Pacioretty was taken in the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but it took him a while to firmly establish himself in the NHL. He took a significant step forward in 2010-11 with 24 points in 37 contests, but Pacioretty truly made his mark in the following campaign with 33 goals and 65 points in 79 contests. This season he’s been a pure sniper and ranks fourth among Americans with 26 goals in 50 games, despite the fact that he only has 37 points in total.
Zach Parise (Minnesota Wild – NHL) – The former New Jersey Devils captain, Parise currently wears an ‘A’ with the Minnesota Wild, but he will lead Team USA. That’s not particularly surprising after the showing he had in the 2010 Olympics. He led all American forwards in that tournament with four goals and eight points in six contests. At his height in 2008-09, Parise had 45 goals and 94 points, but the 29-year-old has slowed down in recent years. He’s going into the tournament with 19 goals and 36 points in 44 contests, which puts him behind players like Kessel and Kane in terms of points per game. Still, Parise is capable of being this team’s hero.
Joe Pavelski (San Jose Sharks – NHL) – The San Jose Sharks haven’t hesitated to use Pavelski with a lot of different linemates and even have him serve on the team’s third line. That’s because he can perform almost regardless of the situation. He leads the Sharks with 29 goals and ranks behind only Joe Thornton with 54 points in 59 contests. He’s also been superb with the man advantage as evidenced by the fact that he’s entering the break tied for ninth in the league in power-play points. Pavelski had three assists in six games in the 2010 Olympics, but it wouldn’t be surprising if he is one of the Americans top goal scorers in Sochi.
Paul Stastny (Colorado Avalanche – NHL) – Stastny’s career got off to an amazing start with him breaching the 70-point milestone in three of his first four campaigns. At the height of that, he served on Team USA during the 2010 Olympics and recorded a goal and three points. After that Stastny took a step back with 57 and 53 points in 2010-11 and 2011-12 respectively. He’s done a bit better this season and certainly is worthy of his spot on the team, but he still shouldn’t be regarded as one of this team’s elite forwards.
Derek Stepan (New York Rangers – NHL) – Stepan is the youngest forward on the team, but he wasn’t a surprise addition. After recording 45 and 51 points in his first two campaigns with the New York Rangers, Stepan stepped up in the shortened campaign with 18 goals and 44 points in 48 games. He’s endured some rough patches in 2013-14 and has consequently taken a step back, but he still has 10 goals and 35 points in 59 contests. It’s worth adding that Stepan’s also been a force in previous international tournaments. He helped lead the States to a gold medal in the 2010 World Junior Championship in 2010 with five goals and a tournament-leading 15 points in seven games. He participated in the World Championships the following year and recorded two goals and seven points in seven contests.
James van Riemsdyk (Toronto Maple Leafs – NHL) – The Philadelphia Flyers selected van Riemsdyk with the second overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but he never ended up getting a lot of ice time with that club. It wasn’t until the Flyers sent him to the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Luke Schenn that he got an opportunity to shine. Van Riemsdyk did just that, scoring 18 goals and 32 points in 48 contests in the shortened campaign. He’s taken things a further step forward this season with 24 goals and 47 points in 58 games. He’s also logged a lot of minutes with Kessel, so America might experiment with putting them on the same line in the Olympics.
Blake Wheeler (Winnipeg Jets – NHL) – Wheeler started his career as a solid secondary scorer for the Boston Bruins, but it wasn’t until he was dealt to the Atlanta Thrashers in February 2011 that he got a chance to serve in a top line role. He rose to the occasion, scoring 17 goals and 64 points in 80 games after the Thrashers moved to Winnipeg in 2011-12. He followed that up with 19 goals and 41 points in the shortened campaign. This season has largely been more of the season in that regard as he ranks fifth among American-born players with 48 points in 60 games.