This is the sort of problem that USA Hockey always dreamed of having. As it winds down its preparations ahead of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, the club’s management is finalizing selections from a talent pool that is deeper than at any point in the country’s history, ensuring that the 25 men who are eventually chosen will offer an enviable mix of size, skill, grit and experience. And they’ll have the potential to be the greatest ever to wear the Stars and Stripes.
In other words, they won’t need to rely on a hot goalie to get them to the gold medal game.
All that talent makes for a challenging selection process, but as this NHL season has played out, the choices have become more clear. Team USA GM David Poile said last month that seven forwards are locks. That number has to be at least 10 by this point. Six of his eight defensive spots should be spoken for. And the goalie race has likely been whittled down to two players battling for the sweet spot in the press box.
There are a couple of injuries that are throwing some confusion into the mix—Jonathan Quick and Paul Martin, to name two—and there’s always the chance that the Hockey Gods might toss another wrench into the USA’s best-laid plans. But with about three weeks to go before the final announcement at the Winter Classic, it’s likely the only spots left to fill on the roster are the extras.
With that in mind, here’s a projection of how Team USA will look on Jan. 1.