Not since NHL players started going to the Olympics 12 years ago has the U.S. team featured so many fresh faces.
Of the 23 players chosen Friday for next month’s Games, only New York Rangers captain Chris Drury, New Jersey counterpart Jamie Langenbrunner and Detroit defenseman Brian Rafalski have Olympic experience.
The infusion of up-and-coming players is hardly a surprise. Team USA general manager Brian Burke made it clear last summer it was time to turn the page on those who represented the U.S. time and time again.
“We’re going there to win,” said Burke, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ general manager.
The roster announcement was made at Boston’s Fenway Park following the Bruins’ 2-1 overtime victory over Philadelphia in the Winter Classic.
“We tried to pick a team based on the body of work, rather than how a team is playing now,” Burke said. “We tried not to penalize players off to a slow start.”
The average age is 26.5 years. Rafalski is the oldest player at 36, while 21-year-old Chicago forward Patrick Kane is the youngest. It’s quite a change from the former foundation that included then-44-year-old defenseman Chris Chelios four years ago.
Langenbrunner is making his second appearance, but first since 1998. He’ll be joined by Devils teammates defenseman Paul Martin and forward Zach Parise.
Martin started the season as a virtual lock, but a broken left forearm curtailed his chances. Just when it seemed he would return last week, Martin had a setback in his recovery that made surgery necessary. When it was revealed he would be out another month, it seemed likely he would be kept off the roster.
The Los Angeles Kings are the only other NHL club with three on the team: goalie Jonathan Quick, defenseman Jack Johnson and forward Dustin Brown.
The Americans’ greatest strength could be in goal, where Buffalo’s Ryan Miller is expected to be the No. 1 netminder. Should he falter, reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas of the Bruins will also be available.
“I’ve been waiting my whole life for this,” Thomas said after beating the Flyers.
Parise will be joined up front by St. Louis’ David Backes, the Rangers’ Ryan Callahan, Ryan Kesler of Vancouver, Toronto’s Phil Kessel, Tampa Bay forward Ryan Malone, San Jose’s Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan of Anaheim, and Colorado’s Paul Stastny.
The remaining defensemen are Erik Johnson of St. Louis, Toronto’s Mike Komisarek, Brooks Orpik of Pittsburgh, and Nashville’s Ryan Suter.
Suter’s father, Bob, was a defenseman on the 1980 U.S. “Miracle on Ice” team that won gold at Lake Placid. His uncle, Gary Suter, played on the 2002 squad at Salt Lake City.
Toronto’s Ron Wilson will be the coach.
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