Olympic watch is a regular feature on THN.com comprised of a list of players who have been playing themselves on and off their country’s Olympic teams. This subjective list is based only upon how the player has played to this point. We fully realize that selections will be made on a bigger body of work than just the first 35-40 games of the season.
The guys in the ‘on’ category are players who probably entered the season on the bubble, but have seen their stocks rise. Players in the ‘off’ category won’t necessarily be left off their teams’ rosters, but they’re certainly not doing themselves any favors.
Andrew Ladd: Wait, don’t scoff at this. There’s almost no chance Ladd will be on Canada’s Olympic team, but what if the gold medal game comes down to a shootout? I’d want Ladd, who’s been lights out in the skills competition, going 5-for-5 with three game winners.
Marc-Edouard Vlasic: There is a very real sense Vlasic will be a part of this team and with good reason. He’s a very good shutdown guy who can also put up points.
Josh Harding: Again, let’s not get carried away here, but the guy has the second-best save percentage in the league among goalies who have played 10 or more games.
Claude Giroux: His play has improved along with his team’s, but how can you justify having him on the team over so many other players who are playing so well right now?
Ryan Miller: Give Miller credit. He has gone from not even being on the roster to possibly being the No. 1 man depending on the extent of Jonathan Quick’s injury. There is no better U.S.-born goalie at the moment.
Ben Bishop: He leads all goalies in wins and American starters in save percentage and is a huge key to the resurgence of the Tampa Bay Lightning this season.
Jason Pominville: He has been a scoring machine for the Minnesota Wild this season and leads all American players with 11 goals.
Seth Jones: Along with his team, his play has tailed off of late and might not have made enough of an impression to take a chance on a rookie defenseman.
Cory Schneider: He has played well, but can’t seem to get wins for the Devils and has played only eight games to this point in the season.
Slava Voynov: Not that he was ever really in doubt, but he is rocketing up the depth chart among Russian defensemen. Probably the best Russian defenseman in the NHL right now.
Vladimir Tarasenko: Tarasenko gives the Russians something they lack – decent offensive production from the right wing.
Sergei Gonchar: His veteran presence is valuable, but he has struggled with his defensive play since the beginning of the season.
Nail Yakupov: He has the worst plus-minus in the NHL and is averaging one goal every nine games.
Victor Hedman: The defense corps will be one of Sweden’s strengths and Hedman has made the most strides of any young player on the roster.
Gabriel Landeskog: His defensive game was never in doubt, but he’s also picked up his offensive game lately.
Johan Franzen: Not only is he not producing, there have to be concerns about his ability to get around the big ice surface.
Viktor Fasth: Went from a rookie sensation last season to being sent down to (and called back up from) the minors for the Ducks this season.
Rasmus Ristolainen: He’s just 19, but he’s drawing regular minutes with the woeful Buffalo Sabres and has been one of the few bright spots.
Jori Lehtera: The 25-year-old St. Louis Blues draft pick is fifth in assists in the KHL and is producing almost a point a game.
Ville Leino: He’s played eight games for the Buffalo Sabres and has one shot – one shot – to his credit.
Jan Kovar: The undrafted 23-year-old is small, but he has been mighty in the KHL this season with 32 points in 24 games.
Roman Cervenka: He didn’t exactly light up the NHL last season with the Calgary Flames, but is scoring a point a game in the KHL.
Martin Havlat: Injuries have hampered his career at the NHL level. He still has good speed, but has he played enough to play with the best in the world?
Richard Panik: He has no goals and the worst plus-minus on the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he’s playing pretty regularly at the NHL level.
Tomas Kopecky: Still looking for his first goal for the Florida Panthers after 19 games.