St. Louis Blues right wing T.J. Oshie was one of 25 American-born National Hockey League players selected Sunday to represent the United States at the 2014 Winter Olympics next month in Sochi, Russia.
Oshie, who is part Ojibwe (Chippewa), and two other Blues players join an All-Star-caliber lineup of American skaters who hope to bring a Gold Medal back from Sochi. The U.S. narrowly lost to a Sidney Crosby-led Team Canada at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver.
Oshie, a 27-year-old from Everett, Wash., is ninth in the NHL in scoring with six goals and 27 assists in 39 games. Though it will be his first time playing in the Olympics, he brings a wealth of international playing experience to the U.S. team.
He played for the U.S. at the 2006 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship and the IIHF’s 2009, 2010 and 2013 World Championships. He’ll be joined in Sochi by fellow Blues teammates David Backes, a center with 16 goals and 14 assists in 35 games, and defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk who’s scored six goals and 22 assists in 38 games.
The U.S. team, led by Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach Dan Bylsma, is a mix of youth and veterans players with Olympic experience. Thirteen members of the Silver Medal-winning 2010 Olympic squad are on the 2014 team, including Backes 2010 Olympic MVP goalie Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres, forwards Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks, Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings, Ryan Callahan of the New York Rangers, Zach Parise of the Minnesota Wild, Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs and defensemen Brooks Orpik of the Penguins and Ryan Suter of the Nashville Predators.
“We went through a very thorough process to get to today and could not be happier with the team we’ve selected,” said David Poile, general manager of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Men’s hockey team of GM and president of the Predators. “We’re fortunate to have probably the deepest talent pool we’ve ever had in our country and that made for some very difficult decisions. In the end, however, we’re confident we’ve selected a group of players that puts us in the best position to have success in Sochi.”
USA Hockey invited a diverse group of players to its pre-Olympic orientation camp in Washington last summer. But the organization’s brain trust passed on forward Kyle Okposo, who’s enjoying his best season with the New York Islanders, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, and Predators rookie D-man Seth Jones.
Some hockey experts believe that Okposo, who is currently 12th in the NHL in scoring, didn’t make the cut because of concerns
about his skating ability on the larger 200 ft. long by 100 ft. wide international ice surface even though he played on the big ice during his days at the University of Minnesota.
That assessment was verified Thursday in a brutally frank tic-tock story about the U.S. team’s selection process on ESPN.com. Okposo disagreed with the talk about his skating ability.
“That part of it is a little bit frustrating, that they think I’m not built for the big ice, but that’s their opinion,” Okposo told Long Island’s Newsday. “I think I’ve proven myself on the big sheet from college and I’ve had a lot of international experience playing world championships with them. But that’s their viewpoint and, you know, that’s okay…I wish them all the best.”
Byfuglien tantalized USA Hockey with his massive size and offensive upside with his powerful slap shot from the blue line. But questions lingered about his defensive prowess on the large ice.
As for Jones, the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft, it was a matter of 2014 being too soon for the Nashville rookie. Look for the 19-year-old son of former NBA standout Popeye Jones to be in the mix for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Oshie will be one of a handful of minority hockey players representing their countries at the Winter Games. Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL best blue liner last season, is under consideration to play for Team Canada.
Canadiens goaltender Carey Price, whose mother is a former chief of the Ulkatcho First Nations, will likely be one of three goalies chosen when Hockey Canada unveils its Olympic roster on January 7.
Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya will likely play for his native Sweden as he did at the 2010 Winter Games.
Here’s the U.S. Olympic Men’s team roster. GOAL: Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres, Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings, Jimmy Howard, Detroit Red Wings. FORWARDS: T.J. Oshie, St. Louis Blues, David Backes, St. Louis Blues, Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers, Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs, Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild, Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings, Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks, Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens, Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks, Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche, Derek Stephan, New York Rangers, James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs, Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets. DEFENSE: John Carlson, Washington Capitals, Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes, Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks, Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins, Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers, Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins, Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues, Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators