With the Olympic hockey tournament around the corner, NHL superstars are itching to get to Sochi to start the dream of eventually wearing a gold medal around their necks.
With the tournament arguably as deep as ever – there are at least six legitimate medal contenders in the pool – it could be the scorers who make the difference when push comes to shove. Below is a list of the top NHL scorer for each of the top 10 countries participating in the Olympic tournament:
10. Jussi Jokinen, LW, Finland (42 points)
Not quite as offensively gifted as the silver medal squad of 2006, Finland still has plenty of talent to challenge for a medal.
9. Mats Zuccarello, LW, Norway (43)
The only NHLer on his team, Zuccarello will get some valuable experience in Sochi that could benefit the New York Rangers in the short-term.
8. Anze Kopitar, C, Slovenia (47)
Never thinking he would see the day he would play in the Olympics, Kopitar is the only NHLer on the Slovenian roster. His offense is possibly the only hope they have to rattle a few bones on their way through the tournament.
7. Thomas Vanek, LW, Austria (48)
Though only three NHLers appear on Austria’s squad, ironically two of them are from the Islanders (Michael Grabner). That combination could be a surprisingly dynamic duo in this tournament, regardless of Austria’s slim chance of success.
6. Jaromir Jagr, RW, Czech Republic (49)
Not quite living in the past, but the Czech Republic team comes close, as Jagr joins fellow elderly statesmen Patrik Elias and Petr Nedved. The team is not as powerful as the gold medal squad from 1998, but with experience and talent, they could upset some powerful teams.
5. Marian Hossa, RW, Slovakia (50)
After it was announced that Marian Gaborik will not be participating due to injury, the importance of Hossa was immediately amplified. With a team weak on defense, it will be up to Hossa and his fellow forwards to keep Slovakia in each game.
4. Erik Karlsson, D, Sweden (54)
The only defenseman on this list, Karlsson has shown in the past few years that not only is he a top defenseman in the world, but he is one of the most dynamic scorers. Though not quite the same player, he could begin to replace the leadership lost with Nicklas Lidstrom’s retirement.
3. Alex Ovechkin, RW, Russia (59)
With Russia seeming to build these entire Olympics around a shot at hockey gold, Alex Ovechkin is under more pressure than ever before. How he performs in this tournament may very well determine his hockey legacy.
2. Phil Kessel, C, United States (63)
Ironically, as the country’s top scorer, Kessel may not even be on the team’s first line. With the team’s depth on the wing, Kessel may be relegated to the second line behind Zach Parise and Patrick Kane. Nonetheless, his speed will be a difference-maker on the wide international ice and could help launch Team USA to a top finish.
1. Sidney Crosby, C, Canada (78)
The most recognizable name in hockey heads into the Olympics not just as the leading scorer for Canada, but the top NHL scorer by 12 points. After scoring the golden goal in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Crosby has averaged over 1.50 points per game in the NHL. As the top center on arguably the deepest team in the Olympic pool, his play could very well be the spark that brings Canada back to the championship game.