NEW YORK – The two key watchwords for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team are depth and youth.
During a teleconference held on Tuesday, Team USA officials led by General Manager David Poile and Assistant Executive Director Jim Johannson, provided further insight into the 48 players invited to orientation camp in late August on Monday.
“We invited 34 players in 2010 and this year it’s 48 and I’m happy we’re doing that because the pool of USA talent is deeper, it’s not more quantity, it’s quality. I’m really pleased with the quality and depth we have,” Poile noted.
Of the 48 players invited to the Arlington, Virginia, camp, 16 have suited up for the USA at the Olympics, including headliners Zack Parise, Ryan Suter, Jonathan Quick, Patrick Kane, Bobby Ryan and Phil Kessel.
An additional nine of the invitees won bronze at the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Stockholm and Helsinki.
“From USA Hockey’s perspective, I think that it’s fantastic that our best players will be on the ice representing us. It’s really what the Olympics have become,” Johannson said proudly.
The World Championship bronze medal was the first medal of any kind at the tournament for the United States since winning bronze in 2004.
That crop of talent includes the young goaltender John Gibson, who was in net for Team USA during the bronze medal game versus the Finns, and Alex Galchenyuk of the Montreal Canadiens, who sniped the game-tying and game-winning shootout tallies.
In addition, up-and-coming stars such as Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets and Seth Jones of the Nashville Predators were also included on the invitee roster.
“We’re rewarding success by inviting the nine players that won bronze at the World Championship and three players that won gold at the World Junior Championship,” said Poile.
Both Trouba and Jones joined Gibson and Galchenyuk in winning that World Junior tournament held in Ufa, Russia.
“We definitely have an eye on the future with these invites as well. Whether it’s their time now or not, we want them to be around these veterans so they’re ready when their time comes,” he added.
Poile emphatically stated that the evaluation camp is not the end all, be all in terms of final selections.
“Just because a player wasn’t invited to this camp doesn’t mean they won’t make the Olympic roster. And, just because you’re at this camp, doesn’t mean you’ll make the team,” Poile insisted.
“I think the majority of the evaluations we’ll be making will happen in October, November and December,” added Poile. “In my recollection, I don’t think anyone made the 2010 team by showing up to the orientation camp, nor were they eliminated.”
The Nashville Predators General Manager also said: “We have a number of players from the 2010 team, that by their body of work deserve to be on the 2014 team, but we do have a number of spots open and we have a lot of quality players vying for these remaining positions.”
Those challenging for those few remaining spots are young stars in their own right, including James van Riemsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Max Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens and St. Louis Blues defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk.
Without a doubt, this will be the most challenging decision any USA Hockey staff has ever faced and the best team the Americans have ever put on the ice.
Assistant coaches also named
USA Hockey also announced three assistant coaches that will flank Bylsma in Sochi.
Tony Granato, who serves as Bylsma’s assistant in Pittsburgh, will act in the same role for the Olympics. Additional assistants include the Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Todd Richards and the Flyers leader, Peter Laviolette.
“The good news for USA Hockey is that for the first time all four of our coaches have been head coaches in the National Hockey League and that speaks volumes for how far USA Hockey has come both on and off the ice,” Poile boasted.
“I talked to all of them, and they’re all totally pumped to be part of this, so I feel good about that,” added Poile.
Granato played for Team USA at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary, while Richards was an assistant at the 2010 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Germany.
Laviolette stood behind the bench for the Americans in Turin and was twice the head coach at the World Championships in both 2004 and 2005.
Bylsma and Laviolette were famously involved in a blowup at the end of the 2012 regular season as Laviolette challenged Bylsma to a fight, calling him “gutless” for the line combination he put on the ice at the end of a 6-4 contest.
The bad blood escalated as the two teams met just weeks later in the opening round of the playoffs, with several brawls taking center stage in a series won by the Flyers.
Now they will work together in a high-profile coaching staff that is aiming to win another Olympic medal next year.