The U.S. orientation camp in Virginia is coming to an end today. This morning was a public day at the rink where fans could get player autographs and got to witness the jersey unveiling for the 2014 men, women and sled hockey teams.
The jersey can be seen here
. Tonight, the team of 48 will be taking in the Washington Nationals-Florida (OK, Miami) Marlins game. I’ll be there, too.
Very fun, productive few days here with incredible access to laid back, talkative players. Much of the stuff I put in my holster and will hold for myriad training camp stories and Olympic advances.
My article in Wednesday’s newspaper has a Minnesota flair, so check that out. Some of the folks quoted in there are David Backes, Zach Parise, former Wild coach Todd Richards, Paul Martin, Big Buff, Jake Gardiner and non Minnesotan but Minnesota part-time resident JVR – James van Riemsdyk.
Speaking of Big Buff, Dustin Byfuglien, he had a couple good lines. Byfuglien, a native of Roseau, attended the 2009 orientation camp but didn’t make the team. The hulk of a Winnipeg Jet blue liner who played forward as a Chicago Blackhawk was asked what he has learned since.
He deadpanned, “I learned that I wasn’t a forward.”
Former Gopher Blake Wheeler, also a Jet, also had a funny line when we jokingly asked him if the Americans were already behind the Canadians because of Mike Babcock’s ball hockey game: “I’d argue that we’re ahead,” Wheeler cracked.
Minnesota had 14 players here. Still, USA Hockey has done a marvelous job expanding its roots throughout the United States. Players from 13 states were represented.
“There was a time these teams were picked from the three M’s – Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts,” said Brian Burke, the U.S. director of player development, who grew up in Edina.
Minnetonka’s Gardiner, who plays for Toronto, talked a lot about how much this season is essentially a tryout for many of the young players. GM David Poile talked a lot today about how half the team is virtually a lock barring health and how he told the players “this will be the toughest team you’ll ever have to make” and these will be the “toughest decisions we ever have to make.”
Coach Dan Bylsma said today that the most likely scenario will be to take 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies to Sochi. So barring health, what would your team be? I’ll put whom I consider the locks and then the candidates:
Locks (10) – Zach Parise, Dustin Brown, Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski, Phil Kessel, David Backes, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Callahan, Bobby Ryan, Derek Stepan.
Candidates (4) – Max Pacioretty, T.J. Oshie (I think they take one of Pacioretty and Oshie, and Bylsma loves that Backes and Oshie have killed penalties together for “years”), Paul Stastny (U.S. is short centers and he had 15 points in the world championships), James van Riemsdyk, Kyle Okposo, Blake Wheeler, Kyle Palmieri, Brandon Saad, Craig Smith, Nick Bjugstad, Justin Abdelkader, Beau Bennett, Alex Galchenyuk, Trevor Lewis.
* Poile said yesterday the Wild’s Jason Pominville is “back on the board” and will be scouted throughout October-December.
Locks (6) – Ryan Suter, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh, Jack Johnson, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik (Bylsma noted Martin/Orpik chemistry/PK experience).
Candidates (2) – John Carlson (very good chance), Keith Yandle, Justin Faulk, Jake Gardiner, Cam Fowler, Nick Leddy, Erik Johnson, Kevin Shattenkirk, Zach Bogosian, Danny Dekeyser, Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba.
Lock (1) – Jonathan Quick.
Candidates (2) – Ryan Miller, Craig Anderson, Jimmy Howard, Corey Schneider, John Gibson.
Have at it.
Reminder, on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. at the Star Tribune booth at the State Fair, Wild GM Chuck Fletcher will be joining me to take questions from myself and Wild fans. Please stop by.
Also, the Wild announced an affiliation agreement with the Quad City Mallards in the Central Hockey League (CHL) today. Obviously, all its top professional prospects and minor-leaguers will be in Iowa of the AHL. The Wild also has an affiliation agreement with the Orlando Solar Bears in the ECHL.