When the head coach of Team USA’s Men’s Hockey team, Dan Bylsma—along with general manager David Poile—sent out invitations to camp this summer, Torey Krug was not on their radar.
But that has all changed now.
Krug is undoubtedly being viewed—at this point in the season—as a potential defensemen for Team USA after continuing his success in the Boston Bruins’ 2013 postseason into this season. Through 24 games, the Michigan-native has seven goals and eight assists, while boasting a plus-6 rating.
Before Monday’s game against the Penguins, Pittsburgh’s—and USA’s—head coach, Bylsma, said to ESPN.com’s Joey McDonald, “I can, without hesitation, say he has been mentioned and talked about a little bit, based on how he’s played, the start he’s had and what he’s done so far through 23 games.”
Well that was before the game. It was after the puck dropped where Krug made his presence felt for all three periods, and especially in overtime. With less then one second left in the game, Sidney Crosby tied the contest for Pittsburgh, sending it into overtime. The 22-year-old Torey Krug, just 34 seconds into overtime, ripped one home past goalie Marc- Andre Fleury.
The Bruins earned the win, and, perhaps more importantly, Krug may have earned a spot on the Olympic squad.
Having already caught the attention of Bylsma before the game, Krug, without a question, impressed Bylsma even more, showing that the rookie can play and perform in big time situations.
Krug leads all rookie defensemen in scoring, and is behind only the Sharks’ Tomas Hertl in all rookies in scoring. He also ranks 11th in the league among all defensemen in scoring.
Clearly, the young D-man can score, and would provide Team USA with his youth and scoring ability. He may not be the biggest guy on the ice, standing at 5′ 9″ and 179 lbs., but that’s not as important in international play—where the game is less physical and more about the skating.
With eight defensemen spots available on the team, Krug has easily earned the right to play in in at least the last spot. Here are some projections of who may be the defensemen alongside for Team USA in the 2014 Olympics:
With 15 points and a 0 plus/minus, Suter averages 29:33 time-on-ice for the Wild, and has also represented Team USA in 10 tournaments, including being an alternate captain for the 2010 U.S. Olympic team. Also, his father, Bob Suter, was on Team USA for their historic gold medal run in 1980. Ryan Suter is the clear No. 1 defenseman for the United States.
Shattenkirk has 16 points and a 7 plus/minus through 22 games this season. Shattenkirk is the right shot player the U.S. needs. He has played in three different international tournaments, two World Junior Championships and one World Championships. He has proven he can play and score on the international level and would be a good fit for the United States defense.
Having not missed a game in four years, as well as being a great leader on and off the ice, Yandle would be a great D-man to help lead the team. Yandle is perfect for the power Team USA needs, as he has 44 goals since the 2009-10 season, and is a shoot-first defensemen.
Johnson is a big, right-shot at 6’4″ 232 pounds, and would help balance out the righties and lefties. Johnson represented the U.S. in the 2010 Olympics and has a 13 plus/minus through 22 games this season. The 2006 first overall draft pick will be back to play for the Team USA in 2014.
Byfuglien is second in the league for defensemen in scoring this season—with 21 points in 26 games. Putting him on the power play along with Yandle, and the United States’ high-scoring forwards, could potentially lead to a deadly power play in the 2014 games. Dustin could bring an entirely new dynamic to Team USA in the upcoming Winter games.
Martin has been placed on the U.S. Olympic team twice now, both in 2006 and 2010; however, he has yet to play an Olympic game. He did not see the ice in 2006 and missed the 2010 Olympics with a broken arm. Well, 2014 is his year to play. Martin provides the speed and skating Team USA wants on the larger, international ice.
Having international experience in the 2010 World Junior Championships, and being a right shot, gives Carlson a spot on the Olympic team. The Natick, Mass. native had two goals— including the game-winning overtime goal to best Team Canada in the gold medal game in the 2010 WJC. Carlson has been on the top defensive line for the Capitals this season, as well at times on the second line, but shows both great defensive skills and offensive skills—with 11 points this season. He is ready for the Olympics and would help the 2014 team to the Gold.
The United States coaching staff has made it clear they are going to focus on the players’ skating abilities and speed on the international ice. All of the above defensemen have that ability and many have international experience. Krug fits perfectly here and would indeed perform in the Olympics. Some may view him as a long shot to make the team, but I think he is closer to make the cut then a lot of people think. He has the scoring ability as well as the skating ability; he has proven he can play in big-time games—as shown by the 2013 playoffs and his most recent game in front of Team USA’s head coach, Dan Bylsma.
He is ready for the Olympics and he should be on the 2014 squad.