There’s a popular refrain on the north side of the 49th that suggests Canada could field two (or more) full teams for international competition and either could easily win gold.
That’s probably true, but there’s another country that can now boast similar high-end depth: The United States of America.
Thanks to an influx of insanely talented youth that’s growing by the year – who said Sunbelt expansion was a bad idea? – Team USA’s brass was forced to make tough decisions at all positions and couldn’t cram all the deserving bodies onto one squad.
Here’s how the U.S. B-Team would shake down; a pretty impressive collection by my eye:
Craig Anderson, Colorado – No. 1 reason Avs are in the playoff hunt; was early Vezina candidate and a surprise non-pick for U.S.
Rick DiPietro, Islanders – Injury woes have stunted progress, but has shown he can be a solid-to-impressive starter when healthy.
Jimmy Howard, Detroit – Tuesday’s 6-0 shellacking aside, the 25-year old has taken the reins in Detroit with a 2.21 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
Dustin Byfuglien, Chicago – In serious contention for the real roster (if only to bother Roberto Luongo), the 6-foot-3, 246-pounder is an elite power forward in the making.
Tim Connolly, Buffalo – The injury bug’s persistent bites have been the only thing keeping him from becoming an elite setup man.
Brian Gionta, Montreal – The thought was a reuniting of the old Devils duo would cause sparks in Montreal, but injury problems have hurt that potential.
Scott Gomez, Montreal – The thought was a reuniting of the old Devils duo would cause sparks in Montreal, but poor play has hurt that potential.
Bill Guerin, Pittsburgh – He’s no Chris Chelios, but the 39-year-old is producing like a man half his age (skating with elite talent will do that).
David Legwand, Nashville – His $5-million stipend and lofty draft status (’98 second overall) often skews views of the 29-year-old, who plays a solid two-way game.
Mike Modano, Dallas – Tied with Guerin in age, Modano doesn’t produce like he used to, but he’s morphed into a useful defensive presence.
Kyle Okposo, Islanders – One of many young Islanders who will keep New York in contention for years to come, the 21-year-old is a big man in a (relatively) small package.
T.J. Oshie, St. Louis – His pugnacity, testosterone, truculence, belligerence (thanks, Brian Burke) and scoring pop have endeared him to fans.
Drew Stafford, Buffalo – Responded to a healthy scratch by tallying six points in the following six games; has top-line potential.
R.J. Umberger, Columbus – Not best suited to be a No. 1 center, but is one of very few Blue Jackets who’s carried over his play from last season.
James van Riemsdyk, Philadelphia – Somewhat buried on the top-heavy Flyers, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound 20-year-old will only get better with time.
Blake Wheeler, Boston – Big, young and skilled like so many others on this list, the ’04 fifth overall pick is heating up with four goals and seven points in his past five appearances.
Zach Bogosian, Atlanta – From offense to defense and all the little things in between, the future stud can do it all and will be a top-pair guy in 2014.
Matt Carle, Philadelphia – After bouncing from team to team to team last season, the 25-year-old is now an integral part of a surging Flyers squad.
Andy Greene, New Jersey – One of the league’s most underrated, leads Devils in ice time and is a regular on both the PP and PK.
Ron Hainsey, Atlanta – Assumed to be part of the selected squad prior to the season, the 2000 first-rounder has slipped a touch, but is still a consistent contributor.
Rob Scuderi, Los Angeles – Few play the shutdown role better than the 2009 Cup-winner; always willing to throw his body in front of pucks.
Ryan Whitney, Anaheim – Has size, vision and silky-smooth skating; sits second behind only Scott Niedermayer in team ice time.
Keith Yandle, Phoenix – Still finding his game, but the 23-year-old oozes offensive potential and will someday flirt with 70 points.
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog appears Thursdays.
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