Now boarding: Flight 2010… Buffalo to Vancouver

Captain AmericaAs the 2008 IIHF World Championships come down to the wire, one of the relatively major stories of the tournament was Jason Pominville deciding to play for the US.

While this post will not talk about how awesome Jason Pominville is for choosing to call himself American, (that will be covered in a later post) it will be discussed because there is talk that it was motivated by a potential opportunity to play in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Should Pominville put up numbers like he did last season again next season, there will be no doubt that he will be included on the US roster for the Games.

Odds are, he will not be alone on the flight to Vancouver. Here are some candidates for their national teams:

The Clubhouse Leaders

Jason Pominville, RW (USA) – The US team is expected to be full of younger talent, and I’m not sure if Pominville, who will be 27 when the tournament begins, will fall into the “young guns” or “grizzled veterans”. His versatility will be a good selling point for him. He can play the powerplay and kill penalties. Things are looking good for him.
Chances: Likely

Ryan Miller, G (USA) – While the US is getting deeper and deeper in talent, that’s not exactly the case between the pipes, as evidenced by the Americans’ performance in the Worlds this year. Miller will be fighting it out with Islanders goalie-for-life Rick DiPietro for the #1 spot.
Chances: Guaranteed (barring injury or massive mental breakdown)

Maxim Afinogenov, RW (Russia) – Afinogenov is now a vet for the Russian team, with two appearances under his belt (including a bronze in 2002). While there is loads of young talent available for the Russians, they’ll probably choose to take Max with them to provide leadership. Afinogenov will be 30 years old at the time, and odds are he’ll still be able to dangle.
Chances: Solid

Jochen Hecht, LW (Germany) – Hecht will be watching eagerly to see if the Germans qualify, because he is a lock to be on the roster… IF they qualify. He may even be team captain. But he’ll be sitting at home if the Germans don’t get a spot.
Chances: Depends on qualifying results

Jaroslav Spacek, D (Czech Republic) – Spacek was rejuvenated last season, and as long as he keeps up his strong play, his experience will give him the edge over some younger players.
Chances: Good

Toni Lydman, D (Finland) – Like Spacek, he has previous experience, and his prior exploits in international play should earn him a spot.
Chances: His family could start planning the trip. Not booking, but planning.

Chasing the Leaders

Henrik Tallinder, D (Sweden) – Hank’s been a bit out of favor with the Swedes since the whole “incident”, but he is still one of the nation’s premier defenseman. He’ll be fighting for a spot with younger guys who’ve burst on the scene, like Atlanta’s Tobias Enstrom and Vancouver’s Alexander Edler.
Chances: Nothing guaranteed

Dmitri Kalinin, D (Russia) – Kalinin has been steady for the Russians in international play. The biggest question is if he’ll even be on the Sabres roster next season. Even if he’s back playing in Russia, he’s got a decent shot at a spot on the Russian roster.
Chances: Ok

Ales KotalikAndrej Sekera, D (Slovakia) – Rej really needs to have a good ’08-’09 season to solidify his case. He’s got all the tools, time to develop, and not a lot of competition.
Chances: Can earn a spot

Ales Kotalik, RW (Czech Republic) – Al made the taxi squad in the 2006 Olympics, and thanks to injury, made a few appearances for the Czechs. He put up solid numbers at the World Championships. If he struggles next season, I don’t think he has a shot.
Chances: Not great, but not bad

Trailing the Pack

Teppo Numminen, D (Finland) – Teppo is a legend in Finnish hockey. He has played in four Olympics. The biggest thing that stops him from number five is the fact that he’ll be 41 years old. Odds are he’ll have already hung up his skates by then.
Chances: Doubtful

Derek Roy, C (Canada) – Should he have been born in any other country, I think Derek Roy can make a case to be on any roster. Problem is, Canada is simply too deep up front, and they insist on carrying role players and “leaders” like Ryan Smyth. If he puts up better numbers than he did this year, I think it’ll be hard to keep him out.
Chances: Odd man out

Tim Connolly, C (USA) – If healthy, Connolly could be a dominating player. Ain’t that the fucking truth.
Chances: Depends on the number of headaches he has between now and then

Drew Stafford, RW (USA) – Drew can get his name in the hat if he steps up and becomes the player he’s shown flashes of. He was a low-line player on a weak US team in the World Championships, so he’s got a lot of players ahead of him. I don’t think he can get a roster spot, but he could sneak his way on the taxi list.
Chances: Slim

Philip GogullaJhonas Enroth, G (Sweden) – As of now, Enroth may be around 5th on the Swedish national depth chart. Some time in North America could help him. He could be a surprise.
Chances: Don’t bet on it

Wild Cards

Philip Gogulla, LW & Felix Schutz, C (Germany) – Germany is going to have to earn a spot in the qualification tournament in November. Unless they’re playing in Buffalo, odds are they’ll be helping the German side. For a country with a shallow talent pool, two young guys on their way to the NHL would probably crack the roster.
Chances: Good if they make it

Thomas Vanek, RW (Austria) – There isn’t much to say here. If Austria qualifies for the tournament, Vanek will be on the team, and the team’s best player.
Chances: On if they’re in

So that about wraps it up. I don’t think there is anyone else currently in the organization that will challenge for a spot. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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Posted on May 16, 2008, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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