The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are a little over a month away. That means that the NHL will be on an extended break. However, not every Blackhawk player will get a three week break. The U.S. team will be announced on Wednesday and the rest of the teams will be announced next week. Here is a look at players on the Blackhawks who may be representing their country in Russia.
Patrick Kane- There is no doubt that Kaner will be on the U.S. Olympic team. This season, Kane has followed up his Conn Smythe trophy from the playoffs with a Hart Trophy worthy season. Kane has been on fire with 23 goals and 20 assists in 42 games. He has had 2 twelve game point streaks and saw his 14 game point streak snapped tonight. Kane is second in the NHL in points (53) only behind Sidney Crosby.
Odds: 100 percent. Kane will be on the top line for the team USA and is a major part of their gold medal aspirations.
Brandon Saad- Saad has played very well in his second year. He has been more consistent and has 14 goals and 30 points in 42 games this year. Saad has bounced around from the second to third line for the most part. He brings a lot of speed and skill to the Blackhawks lineup and is a valuable part of their team. However, with a glut of wingers such as Zach Parise, Kane, Dustin Brown, Bobby Ryan and Phil Kessel, it may be tough for Saad to make it.
Odds: 50 percent. The rosters are expanded in the Olympics which mean team USA will take 14 forwards. Saad is a bubble player but his speed could be an asset on a larger rink which means he could get the nod over a bigger player such as Blake Wheeler.
Nick Leddy- It has been a nice year for Leddy who on other teams would be a top four defenseman. Last year Leddy scored 6 goals, which is a career high, already he has five goals midway through the season. An improved shot has seen Leddy be a major contributor on the power play with three goals. However, Leddy is not good enough on the defensive end to overcome his speed that he can bring. There are more defensively responsible players that are more reliable for team USA.
Odds: 0 percent. Ryan Suter, Kevin Shattenkirk, Jack Johnson, Keith Yandle, Brooks Orpik and John Carlson are locks. Unless Dustin Byfuglien eats himself out of contention and there are a few injuries, Leddy will be sitting home for the Olympics.
Jonathan Toews- No question that Captain Serious will be in Russia for the Olympics. Toews is one of the best two way players in the game. If it weren’t for Sidney Crosby, Toews might be the number one center for team Canada. Toews has 15 goals and 40 points this year. His stats could be higher but his focus on the defensive end is something that Canada will need with all of the high end skill and offensive firepower. Toews will be counted on to form a shutdown checking line and for his faceoff ability.
Odds: 100 percent. At the 2010 games in Vancouver, Toews was named the best forward and saw raves from his game from Coach Mike Babcock. Toews could be on a line with Rick Nash and Patrick Sharp (if Sharp makes it).
Duncan Keith- Another player from the Blackhawks who will be in Russia without a doubt is Keith. It has been an impressive year for Keith who has 36 assists which is good for second in the NHL. Keith brings an immense amount of speed which will be useful on a larger ice surface and a good offensive game. It doesn’t matter who Keith is partnered with as his speed is a great complement to any defensive partner but potential partners include Shea Weber or Alex Pietrangelo.
Odds: 100 percent. This will be the second Olympics for Keith who should see his game flourish in the bigger rinks in Europe. His speed could be the difference for Canada as they look to push the pace.
Brent Seabrook- It has been an interesting calendar year for Seabrook who has been through the ultimate highs and lows. Seabrook was benched in Game 4 of the Detroit series and scored OT game winners in Game 7 of the Detroit series and Game 4 of the Stanley Cup finals. Seabrook has speed and a physical presence to his game that not many defensemen have. His right handed shot is in his favor but with Weber, Pietrangelo, Drew Doughty and P.K. Subban, all right handed shots, in the fold, Seabrook will have a tough time making the team.
Odds: 50 percent. It really comes down to either Seabrook or Dion Phaneuf for the last spot. If team Canada wants a left hand shot, they will take Phaneuf. But Seabrook has a good shot at making the team.
Patrick Sharp- Sharp was the ultimate bubble person heading into the year. But his recent performance has to guarantee him a spot no? His six goals in the last week which earned him the number one star of the week certainly made the brass of team Canada take notice. Sharp ended December with 12 goals and his 22 on the season are second on the team. In addition, Sharp has a history of coming up big when the stakes are the highest. There is a lot of talent on Canada with spots guaranteed to Toews, Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Martin St. Louis and Nash. But Sharp is hungry to prove himself on the international stage which makes him an intriguing prospect.
Odds: 95 percent. The recent performance of Sharp in the month of December and the last week should assure him a spot on the team. The chemistry between him and Toews would make him the perfect line mate for Toews in Russia. If Sharp doesn’t make it, there will be no one who is hungrier in the NHL when it resumes at the end of February.
Corey Crawford- The battle in goal is interesting for team Canada. Roberto Luongo and Carey Price are locks to make the team. It comes down to a battle between Crawford, Mike Smith, Braden Holtby, Josh Harding and Martin Brodeur for the final spot. The groin injury of Crawford did not help his chances. But Crawford was stellar in the playoffs last year as he bailed out the Blackhawks time and time again when they appeared to coast through games. It has been a decent year for Crawford who is 17-6-3 with a goal against average of 2.47 and .907 save percentage both of which are down from last season.
Odds: 25 percent. The injury to Crawford has not helped his chances. He does have a chance to make it but Smith probably gets the spot. If not it comes down to either Crawford or Harding, whose concerns about his Multiple Sclerosis could keep him off the team and give the Crawford the nod. However, the best thing for Crawford would be if he doesn’t make the team and gets an additional three weeks of rest as he has appeared tired with the heavy workload he has shouldered this year.
Marian Hossa- There is no question that Hossa will be in the Olympics as he has been a frequent participant for the Slovakian national team. Hossa has had a good season so far as he has 14 goals and 34 points. A lot will be expected from Hossa as this will be his fourth Olympics with team Slovakia.
Odds: 100 percent. Hossa is the main player for team Slovakia as Marian Gaborik will miss the Olympics with a broken collarbone. In 2010, Slovakia finished 4th and will need Hossa to be a superstar if they are to make the podium.
Michal Handzus- Raise your hand if you thought that Handzus would be in the Olympics for Slovakia? Handzus is no longer a threat to put up 20 goals a year but there is no depth for Slovakia at center. Even though Handzus is slow, his positioning and intelligence can be beneficial to Slovakia as it relies on a majority of unproven European players. Remember, Handzus was a key player for the Blackhawks with 3 goals and 11 points in the playoffs last season.
Odds: 99 percent. It’s almost a guarantee that Handzus will be on the roster unless for some unforeseen reason, Slovakia goes with a young, unproven forward corps. When Tomas Kopecky is another center, it’s a lock that Handzus and his experience will be useful to team Slovakia even if Handzus doesn’t have the wheels for a larger ice surface in Russia.
Niklas Hjalmarsson- It has been a great year for Hjalmarsson and it’s going to get better shortly. There is no doubt that Hjalmarsson will be on team Sweden. So far it has been a breakout year for Hjalmarsson who has already tied his career highs in goals (3) and points (17) midway through the year. One of the things that has been evident is an increase in skill and speed from Hjalmarsson this year. He is an excellent shot blocker and brings a physical element to a defensive corps that is loaded with speed and offensive skill.
Odds: 100 percent. There hasn’t been much doubt that Hjalmarsson would earn a nod to the Olympics, his offensive explosion as only bolstered his case as he has been having a great year. The increase in minutes and responsibility leaves no doubt he will handle the international stage well.
Johnny Oduya- Oduya was on team Sweden in 2010 and his experience could give him the nod. Also in his favor should be his chemistry with Hjalmarsson as they form a shutdown pair that routinely takes on the top forwards of the other team to help alleviate the pressure off of Keith and Seabrook. It has been a good year for Oduya who has 2 goals and 10 points. His addition to the Blackhawks as left him with the reputation of a winner with their sterling record when he is in the lineup. Oduya brings a lot of speed and great defensive responsibility to the table.
Odds: 98 percent. This should be a no brainer as Oduya has proven himself to be a valuable defenseman who is responsible in his own end. The chemistry that he has with Hjalmarsson should have Sweden clamoring to pair the two up and stick them on the top lines of Canada, Russia and USA. With the injury of Alexander Edler, Oduya looks to be a lock.