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Team USA Hockey Players to Watch at the Winter Olympics in Sochi

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | With the amount of talent that team USA men's hockey is plagued, one has to wonder who will shine during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The style of play that each player brings to the team could go one of two ways: The chemistry will click and magic will happen or the players will crash and burn as a team.

While everyone knows the superstars that were chosen and have heard the great goaltending debate, there are some lesser known players who have teamwork ingrained into their soul. On defense you should watch Justin Faulk, Paul Martin and Kevin Shattenkirk. The forwards to watch are Paul Stastny, Derek Stepan and David Backes.

The Defensemen

With the defensemen in the National Hockey League evolving and coming into the play more, it is going to be essential for Team USA's defense to remain on their toes and stay closer to home during the Olympics. The style of play that will be the most successful during the Olympic Games will be the old school, stay-at-home defense that protects the goaltender and makes their presence known by working with their linemate as a cohesive unit.

Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues is excellent at moving into the play, but his team oriented attitude will help him adjust and be a successful player during the games. Shattenkirk's ability to read a play is uncanny and he does not back down from a physical play. Although he is not a well-known player, Shattenkirk is one that will be exciting to watch in Sochi.

Paul Martin of the Pittsburg Penguins is another example of an excellent defenseman who is willing to work towards the betterment of the team, not his own personal gain. Martin needs to get healthy and back on the ice from sustaining a broken tibia. If Martin is still on the injured reserve when it is time to go to Sochi, he will be replaced. The Penguins are hopeful that he will be returning soon to the lineup though. The opposition should keep a close watch on Martin when he is on the ice.

Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricane is a go-getter on defense who is a smart player and able to adapt to many situations. His young age sometimes fools his opponents into thinking he is an easy target to get past and work over. Faulk's style of play is still developing and becoming more confident within the NHL. He is one to keep an eye on during the Games for team oriented plays.

Of the eight defensemen that were named to Team USA, Shattenkirk, Martin and Faulk are the ones to watch as their willingness to get into the play and make things happen is exciting to see. They are all team oriented and are willing to step in and help save the day when required. Should the chosen goaltenders falter, it will fall to the defense to help them out and keep the opposing team at bay. Teamwork will be key and these three players exemplify that very concept.

The Forwards

While there are some very flashy forwards chosen to represent the United States, there are also some who are very much true team players. Team USA has a solid mix of physicality, finesse and determination in their forwards. Their success during the Olympic Games will depend heavily on their ability to work together as a unified team making plays and not trying to outshine each other.

Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche is a playmaker and a steady force for his team. His calm demeanor and intelligent play will make him a player to watch during the Olympic Games. Statsny is not a showy player, but he is effective in what he does on the ice.

Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers is a young player, but he is seasoned in his abilities to make plays for his teammates. While Stepan is still learning and evolving as a player, his ability to earn assists and help his team is refreshing in one so young. His enthusiasm and style of play will benefit Team USA and he will be one to keep an eye on throughout the Games.

David Backes of the St. Louis Blues is another player who should perform well during the Games. He is a seasoned player who has experience leading his team, but he is not an overly showy player. He uses his size and brains to make things happen on the ice. Backes is a player who understands that a united team is the key to winning games. He is a player who should excel at Sochi.

Team USA is full of talented and successful players and of the forwards chosen to represent the United States, Stastny, Stepan and Backes are ones who should be key to the success of the team. They are not flashy, look-at-me players; they are hard-working, team-building players who will work hard at becoming a winning unit rather than a team of individual superstars.

Other Players to Watch
Other players on Team USA to watch during the Olympic Games include Brooks Orpick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings and James Van Riemsdyk of the Toronto Maple Leafs. These three players are excellent at making things happen on the ice. They should be able to settle into the team and find their niche quickly. There are several players who are representing Team USA who were not mentioned. This was not done to snub them. The purpose of this article is to highlight certain players whose ability to work well within a team as well as their adaptability and their willingness to put the good of the team above all else will aid in the success of Team USA. It is true that the other players may exhibit these same qualities and that will fuel their success in Sochi. It will take hard work, determination and teamwork to be competitive during the Olympic Games. All eyes will be on these players, dissecting their every play. It will be the players who keep a calm head, make smart plays and work together who will impact the team the most while preparing for and playing in the 2014 Olympics.

Micki Holley has been a freelance writer since 2007 and is a sports enthusiast. She is an avid fan of the Winter Olympics ice hockey competition and is a contributor for Yahoo Sports following the St. Louis Blues.


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