As part of SB Nation's series of previews for the upcoming Winter Olympics, let's take a look at the Nashville Predators who are expected to represent their country this February in Vancouver. We'll break down which players should pack their bags already, which are in a battle for a roster spot, and which have real work to do if they want their shot at Olympic glory.
Pack Your Bags!
The most prominent Predators discussed in terms of the Winter Olympics are Nashville's twin towers on defense, Ryan Suter and Shea Weber:
|2009 - Ryan Suter||25||2||9||11||-2||16||1||0||0||0||24||8.3|
Suter, as has been discussed repeatedly, is the son of Bob Suter, a member of the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" U.S. Mens Team. A steady two-way defender who faces elite opposition every night, Suter's greatest strength is his ability to carry the puck from defensive to offensive zone, and get the attack moving. The U.S. should contend for a medal, and Suter is likely to play a major role on a pretty young American squad.
|2009 - Shea Weber||23||6||9||15||-2||4||4||0||1||0||66||9.1|
The roster selection for Team Canada is one of the most-talked about hockey stories this year. In every online projection for which players will don the Maple Leaf, however, you'll see Shea Weber's name listed as a regular on the blueline. He brings that rare combination of reliable defensive work, outstanding offensive production, and brute physical force that franchises dream of building a team around.
Well, he's still under a valid NHL contract with Nashville, so I guess this counts. Radulov should provide secondary scoring for what should be a dynamite Russian squad led by the formidable trio of Alexander Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, and Evgeni Malkin.
|2009 - Marcel Goc||23||2||1||3||-2||6||0||0||0||0||36||5.6|
Germany isn't exactly stacked with NHL-level talent, and the versatile Goc is sure to be included on Uwe Krupp's team.
Roman Josi - Switzerland
Defenseman / Nashville Predators
June 1, 1990
This smooth-skating young blueliner, Nashville's 2nd-round pick (38th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, plays in the Swiss League, and last season led all players under age 20 in goals, points and assists. Having appeared in the 2009 World Championships, he's expected to suit up in Vancouver for his native Switzerland, which is capable of the occasional upset, having beaten both the Czech Republic and Canada in the 2006 Turin Games.
In A Battle
|2009 - Patric Hornqvist||25||5||5||10||2||8||0||0||2||0||82||6.1|
Sweden is the defending gold medal champion, and while being hailed as "a prime example of someone playing their way onto an Olympic team", the field of potential forwards is a tough one to crack, especially if Peter Forsberg is healthy and ready to go.
|2009 - Pekka Rinne||17||961||11||5||38||2.37||452||414||.916||2|
Finland is turning into a real hotbed of goaltending, and with Calgary's Miikka Kiprusoff proclaiming that he'd rather stay home if he's not the #1 starter, Rinne might be able to play himself onto this squad alongside competitors like Nicklas Backstrom, Tuukka Rask, and Antero Niitymaki.
|2009 - Alexander Sulzer||5||0||1||1||2||0||0||0||0||0||2||0.0|
Originally thought of as a lock for the German team, Sulzer's OIympic dreams have likely taken a hit given his lack of playing time so far this season.
Work To Do
Dietrich was on Germany's preliminary roster at their summer organizational camp, but is part of a crowded field of players in either North American minor league hockey or European elite leagues. With Milwaukee, he is the Admirals' 2nd-leading scorer with a goal and 13 assists in 21 games.
|2009 - Martin Erat||22||4||5||9||-7||20||2||0||1||0||43||9.3|
Perhaps the recent injury to Edmonton's Ales Hemsky opens up a roster spot at forward, but Erat's slow start hasn't helped his chances.
|2009 - Dan Hamhuis||21||1||6||7||1||18||0||0||0||0||39||2.6|
Hamhuis has represented Team Canada at the World Championships on a number of occasions, and was invited to their Olympic camp this summer. There's little reason to believe he'll crack the lineup for the Winter Olympics, however; that's not a crack on his ability, as the competition there is incredibly tough.
|2009 - David Legwand||25||5||9||14||-1||10||0||1||2||0||53||9.4|
Given his stellar defensive work this season in a checking role between Joel Ward and Jerred Smithson, Legwand might gain consideration for a similar job on Team USA. There are few players in the world that can match Leggy's combination of skating ability and size at the center position, and he could help an American team that will hope to win tough, low-scoring games. He'll have to maintain his recent offensive success, however, to get noticed as a hot commodity.