COMMENTARY | Three members of the New York Rangers are expected to make the roster for the 2014 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team at the Sochi Games. Captain Ryan Callahan is set to take his second Olympic turn, after helping Team USA bring home a silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games, top defenseman Ryan McDonagh is poised to be an anchor of the defense, and Derek Stepan may center Team USA's fourth line.
The final roster won't be announced until January 1, but all three are solidly positioned for a trip to Sochi. McDonagh and Callahan are locks, and Stepan figures to make the roster as well, although some project him as more of a reserve forward than a fourth line center in rotation. If he misses out on the final cut, unlikely but possible at this point, the man who gets the call in his place may be, of all people, former Rangers player Brandon Dubinsky.
McDonagh will take prominent place on the left side of the second defensive pairing, while Callahan could appear on the third or fourth line. As a two-way player known for his grit and his motor, Callahan should also see plenty of time on the penalty kill.
Stepan's role, as mentioned, would be the most in flux of the three, but it should be noted that the biggest shortcoming of the 2014 U.S. Olympic hockey team is perceived to be at center. Therefore, if he does make the cut, strong play early in the competition could lead to a quick boost in ice time for a player like him.
None of the three are offensive dynamos -- through December 2, Stepan has 5 goals and 14 assists in 27 games, tied for the club lead with 19 points; Callahan has 6 goals and 4 assists in 19 games; and McDonagh has contributed with 6 goals and 9 assists in 27 games.
But Callahan throws more hits, blocks more shots and makes more winning effort plays than you could reasonably expect of anybody, Stepan is emerging as a skilled playmaker and a solid defensive forward, and McDonagh of course is a TOI workhorse and a true shutdown defenseman.
McDonagh has no problem taking the opponent's top offensive guy and staying on him all night long, or spending 25 or 30 minutes on the ice when he needs to, so he'll certainly be relied upon heavily by the U.S. Olympic hockey team at the Sochi games.
So for these three Rangers, they'll be trading their Broadway Blueshirts to represent the Red, White and Blue in February 2014. How they perform in that elite environment could of course lead to big things when the NHL resumes following the Sochi Olympics.
While the idea of McDonagh logging more minutes and Callahan undergoing even more wear and tear than he normally does may not sit well with some fans or members of management, the less physical environment of Olympic hockey shouldn't take too much of a toll. Additionally, for a younger player such as Stepan, who has had his ups and downs, a strong Olympic showing could provide him with the confidence and experience to instantly take his game up another level.
There are big expectations for the U.S. Olympic hockey team at the 2014 Sochi Games, and these three Rangers will all have their chance to make an impact on the team and the tournament.
Jake Emen is a freelance writer covering sports, food and drink, and local events. Born in New Jersey, he has been a New York Rangers fan for two decades. He also runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com. You can follow Jake on Twitter, @DCJake.
- Sports & Recreation
- Ice Hockey
- New York Rangers
- Ryan Callahan
- Derek Stepan
- Ryan McDonagh