SBNation is doing a series of Olympic Previews, taking a look at each team and which of their players may be suiting up for their countries in Vancouver. As a baseline, we are going to give an indication of their chances of making their team by using these arguments: "Pack Your Bags", "Nearly a Lock", "Fairly Safe Bet", and "In a Battle". The Jackets have a few players who could become Olympians, here's a look at them:
Rick Nash (Canada) - Pack Your Bags
There is almost no way, outside of injury, that Nash will not be a member of Team Canada. In fact, he is penciled in by most as the man riding shotgun to Sidney Crosby. Nash has plenty of international experience in his young career, including being a member of the 2006 Olympic Team, which failed miserably. He is a more mature and complete player now, and will look to be an offensive leader for the Canucks at home in Vancouver. My favourite Nash goal at an international tournament didn't take place at the Olympics, it was at the World Championships, but here it is anyway:
Steve Mason (Canada) - In a Battle
At least he was at the beginning of the season, that is. Before the start of the regular season this year, many experts thought that when it came to Canada's goaltenders, Roberto Luongo and Martin Brodeur were locks. The battle was for who the third goaltender was going to be. The three main contenders were Mason, Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Ward. With Ward's injury, that made it a two-horse race. The problem is, Mase never showed up. His play this season has been downright awful. I'm not a believer in sophomore slumps, but the proof is in the pudding here. Look for Fleury- who is coming off of a Cup win and is playing great right now-to get the third goalie nod.
Kristian Huselius (Sweden) - Fairly Safe Bet
The man we call Juice may not be on the top of the list of skilled Swedish forwards, but he is a strong candidate to be on the Swedish team. His last international exoerience was at the 2002 World Championships, where the Tre Kroner won the bronze medal. He has never played in an Olympics, but he is on the Swedish short-list for 2010.
Samuel Pahlsson (Sweden) - Nearly a Lock
Sammy will almost definitely be on the Swedish team in 2010. He helped the Swedes win the Gold Medal back in 2006 in Torino, playing on a line with Freddy Modin (more on him in a minute). A dedicated checking center like Pahlsson will be very important this time around, with the Olympics being in Vancouver, the games will be played on NHL-sized ice, meaning tighter checking.
Fredrik Modin (Sweden) - In a Battle
I saw that Freddy is in a battle, not necessarily with other players trying to make the team, but with his own body. After being lauded for his amazing durability, the last couple of seasons have been near write-offs for Freddy as he has been hit with injury after injury. That said, if he is healthy I can't imagine him not playing for the Swedes, even in a fourth line role. He is after all, one of the very few players who are a member of the Triple Gold Club.
Anton Stralman (Sweden) - Nearly a Lock
Stralman is off to a great start since joining the Jackets, putting up good point totals. He is one of the main reasons the Jackets' powerplay has gone from last in the league a year ago, to best so far this season. He has played in three straight World Championships for Team Sweden, from 2007-2009. The Swedish defensive corps are a talented group, with Anton fitting in nicely. With the injury to Kronwall, Stralman may see top line duty with Nick Lidstrom.
Jakub Voracek (Czech Republic) - Nearly a Lock
The Czechs are a team that always seems to surprise at international tournaments. Look no further than the '98 Olympics, where they took home the Gold based on the amazing play of Dominik Hasek. In 2010, the Czechs are a good team, and Voracek should be a member. He likely will play a third or fourth line role, with the top six wingers likely being Jagr, Hemsky, Prospal and Hejduk/Havlat.
Rostislav Klesla (Czech Replublic) - In a Battle
Rusty is a fringe player in terms of the Olympic team. He does have international experience, but he is in tough this time around. He has to beat out the likes of Kaberle, Kubina, Rozsival, Hamrlik, Spacek and Kuba. It's not completely impossible though, and with the smaller ice a rugged player like Rusty could shine.
Jan Hejda (Czech Republic) - In a Battle
Like Rusty, Jan is fighting for a spot. He's defense-first, which may help him because the guys he is fighting for a spot against are generally puck-moving types. He has international experience, his most recent was at the 2008 Worlds. Given the play of Jaro Spacek, one of Hejda or Klesla could make the squad.
Fedor Tyutin (Russia) - Nearly a Lock
The Russians have scary forwards, plain and simple. They are the most dynamic group in the world, hands down. That said, they don't have spectacular defense. A hybrid defenseman like Tyutin will fit in very well on the Russian squad, and he could see powerplay duty with Sergei Gonchar.
Nikita Filatov (Russia) - In a Battle
Filatov wasn't at the Russians Olympic came this past summer, but he is no doubt still very much on the radar of the National Team. With his recent return to Russia, his stock has certainly risen, but he is still in tough to make the squad, given their amazing talent and depth up front.
R.J. Umberger (United States) - In a Battle
I wanted to include Umby mainly because I believe that it is wrong that he wasn't invited to the Team USA camp. He is a much better player than a handful of guys who did get the invite, but it all has to do with his history with USA GM Brian Burke. Umby didn't sign with Vancouver, who drafted him in the first round when Burke was the GM. This led to bad blood, which has clearly carried over to the Olympics. RJ's play hasn't done much to convince Burke otherwise either.
To finish things off, being a Canadian I am excited as hell to have the Olympics here in my home country. After the disappointment of Torino, I, like every other Canadian, want to see the Gold come back to Canada. Here's my prediction of the Team Canada Olympic Roster:
HM: Marty Turco