On Monday at the Washington Capitals’ training facility, USA Hockey began the process of assembling Team USA for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Three Detroit Red Wings — goalie Jimmy Howard, forward Justin Abdelkader and defenseman Danny DeKeyser — were among 48 players invited to participate in a two-day orientation camp, which concluded Tuesday.
Four years ago, Team USA officials abandoned the old guard for the Vancouver Olympic Games by choosing a younger, less-heralded roster that came within an overtime goal of capturing the gold medal.
It appears that spots aren’t as wide open as they were back in 2010 and that Team USA’s final roster will be greatly influenced by how players perform during the upcoming NHL season; however, being a camp invitee puts Howard, Abdelkader and DeKeyser on Team USA’s map.
What are the chances that each of the Wings’ trio becomes a first-time Olympian? The answer will become much clearer as the NHL season unfolds, but here are my initial thoughts about their chances:
Howard: Goaltending is Team USA’s strength with Jonathan Quick a shoe-in to be the starter in net.
There’s only one thing Howard wants more than being a member of Team USA — that’s winning a Stanley Cup. He’s focused and has his sights set on both.
Howard is an extremely determined athlete, and his competitiveness is off the charts. With his workhorse mentality and a very good Red Wings team in front of him, he has a golden opportunity to land the spot as either Quick’s backup or as Team USA’s third goalie.
Abdelkader: A gritty player who can skate, he’ll benefit tremendously by playing on a line with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
Detroit’s brass has always felt that Abdelkader has an offensive upside and saves his best for the biggest games. Playing on Olympic ice — coupled with his physical style and reputation — gives Abdelkader a reasonable shot to be a productive member on Team USA’s third or fourth line.
Crazy thought for your consideration — if Mike Babcock was Team USA’s coach, not Team Canada’s, Abdelkader would make the final roster.
DeKeyser: Team USA is loaded on the blue line, so DeKeyser would have to emerge as an elite NHL defenseman this season to have a legitimate shot.
Chris Chelios told me that DeKeyser doesn’t do anything great, but does everything very well. That would’ve worked in 2010 and sets him up nicely for 2018.
Unfortunately, it probably won’t be good enough for 2014. Realistically, there’s too much proven talent and experienced defensemen for DeKeyser to crack this lineup.