Earlier this week, it was announced that NHL players would participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
With the delayed release, it gave time for USA Hockey, and Hockey Canada, to scout across the globe for their best homegrown talent.
When the word was released, both organizations wasted no time sending out their summer orientation camp lists, which is the first step for players to crack the lineup.
Many questions stirred after the release of the lists, but one of the biggest is picking the player to wear the “C” for both teams when they step on the ice in Russia next season.
Below, we rank the likely leaders, into three categories: The Veteran, The Talent, and The Leader.
- USA Hockey
The Veteran: Ryan Suter
Naming a ‘veteran’ player on the youthful USA list was more than difficult, but Ryan Suter fits the bill, even at his young age.
Suter left the Nashville Predators last summer for a monster deal with the Minnesota Wild, that has seen him take on an emphasized leadership role on the team. The 28-year old will enter his ninth NHL campaign in the fall, and currently wears the ‘A’ for Minnesota. He averaged 27:16 of TOI per game in the 2013 regular season, leading the league in that category. He also turned in a remarkable 41:07 of ice time in Game One of the Wild’s quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks, a career-high. Suter was a finalist for the NHL’s James Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s best defenseman, an award many believed he should have won. Suter’s hard work on and off the ice allows him to play at a high level longer than any other player in the world, and he could be a favourite to lead the team.
The Talent: Zach Parise
Parise is a natural when he steps on the ice, and his leadership extends off it as well, and that is the reason he was chosen.
Parise, as captain of the New Jersey Devils, signed an identical contract to Suter’s on the first day of free agency last summer. Just months before, Parise led the underrated Devils all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, where they were defeated by the Los Angeles Kings. Already serving time as Captain is just the cherry on top when it comes to the 28-year old. He has scored 30 or more goals in 5 of his 7 full NHL seasons, with the exceptions being his rookie year, and 2010-11, where he was limited to 13 games. Parise is not only a game-changing player, but consistently does so, providing Team USA with a solid consideration for the ‘C’.
The Leader: Ryan Callahan
Ryan Callahan wasn’t the only player named to the roster that currently is a captain himself, but his exemplary leadership is the reason he earned the spot.
Callahan’s game is not one that fans can judge in the stat columns, but with their own eyes. He is a clutch player, and just like the long line of New York Rangers captains before him, he has earned the respect of fans league-wide. His play isn’t the flashiest, but it is solid, and when backed by a high work ethic, makes him one of the best leaders in the world. If you name it, #24 has done it: from blocking shots and scoring short-handed goals, to dropping the mitts. Callahan is a complete player like no other, and adding great leadership only swells his chance to captain Team USA.
- Hockey Canada
The Veteran: Martin St. Louis
Martin St. Louis is a class act, and on the more traditional Canadian roster, is a perfect fit to wear the ‘C’.
Just like Canadian captains of the past, St. Louis oozes respect, and great play. At age 37, he won the Rocket Richard trophy as the NHL’s leading scorer, an unfathomable feat, especially while playing on the underpowered Tampa Bay Lightning. St. Louis has revived his game, and looks 10 years younger on the ice, keeping up with the young players with ease. When pairing his touch around the net with the wisdom of a 38-year old player, you get a front runner for Captain Canada, and St. Louis is just that.
The Talent: Steven Stamkos
Taking a look at Team Canada’s high-powered roster shows talent in all positions, but no player puts it all together better than Steven Stamkos.
Over the last two seasons, Stamkos has been a human highlight reel, not only scoring incredible goals, but scoring lots of them; He put the puck in the net 60 times in his last full season, 2011-12. Stamkos finished runner-up to teammate St. Louis in points this season, with 57 in 48 games. Stamkos is relied on again and again to produce, and he delivers. Averaging over 22:00 of ice time as a forward is a heavy workload, but Stamkos’ work ethic, natural talent, and conditioning level leaves comparables in the dust. He is the future of the Lightning organization after the departure of Vinny Lecavlier, and may very well have the opportunity to do the same for his country.
The Leader: Jonathan Toews
In a category in what is usually owned by fellow Canadian Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews has emerged from his shadow and let the spotlight shine on himself.
It was not only this season that Toews stood out as one of the best leaders in the league, but it has been building ever since the Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup of the decade, in 2010. Just one year before that, Toews was introduced as captain of the Blackhawks, and now five years later, is lifting the Cup for the second time. He is the kind of player a team can rally behind, and he has shown it with his own club. Besides his impressive offensive stats, Toews took home the Frank J. Selke trophy in 2013 as the league’s best defensive forward. A killer on faceoffs, Toews can be thrown into any situation and come out well, with a good hockey sense and talent that is growing more and more each season. Toews would not have been in the running for the role just a few years ago, but since his emergence as a marquee player in the league, he is definitely in the running.
Any of these six players could be captaining their country when they step into Russia, but the role is not for the fans to decide. The management of each team is a stacked roster, just like the players, and there are nothing but good decisions in the future of both these hockey clubs.
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