Six Nashville Predators (not including Alexander Radulov and prospect Roman Josi) have been selected to represent their countries at the upcoming Winter Games in Vancouver. We'll be closely tracking their progress here, but for now, I'm going to preview each player's role, expectations, and my prediction regarding their performance.
You can check out SB Nation's Olympic hockey hub here.
Follow below for the preview where the players are listed in order of importance to their team, highest to lowest...
#20 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators
Jan 21, 1985
United States of America
Due to injuries to other United States defensemen Mike Komisarek and Paul Martin, and alternate captain duties, Ryan Suter will play a massive part on the blueline for the US. I expect Suter to have some of the highest time on ice, and log minutes on the power play and penalty kill. Don't be surprised to see Suter on the ice in any situation for the Americans.
Brian Burke, David Poile, and Ron Wilson didn't pick Suter to show up in the stat line very often. That'll be left to the likes of Brian Rafalski. What they do need, however, is someone to line up against Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin, and Henrik Sedin. Ryan Suter is probably the best lockdown defender on Team USA.
Ryan is used to a heavy workload, but I'm afraid being one of the top dogs in a tournament with competition such as this may wear on him in the short term. I look for Suter to be his usual steady self, but not spectacular, as the United States fails to medal.
#9 / Center / Nashville Predators
Aug 24, 1983
Marcel Goc will likely be the Germans' go to guy for key faceoffs and their center when the other team's top line is on the ice. An above average penalty killer, Goc will likely see some time on special teams, also, as Germany lacks much top-flight talent. If healthy, Goc will be a jack of all trades for the Germans.
Team Germany surely doesn't expect to medal, but all of their hopes will be pinned on the NHL players. Defensively, Goc will be a large part of the equation. In selecting Goc, I think the Germans are hoping for a 50%+ faceoff percentage and solid play in their own zone.
As good as Goc has been for Nashville, he's never subjected to covering Ovechkin or Crosby, like he will be for Germany. Marcel will likely play valiantly but his team as a whole will be vastly overmatched.
#10 / Left Wing / Nashville Predators
Aug 29, 1981
Martin Erat is called upon for top-level offensive production for his NHL team, but as an Olympian, he'll likely see 3rd line and penalty-killing work for the Czech Republic. The Czechs are a dark horse to medal, and already have a loaded offense without Marty. I'd be surprised to see him on the ice in crucial situations over the likes of Tomas Plekanec, Jaromir Jagr, Martin Havlat, Patrik Elias, and others.
Erat for the Czech Republic will probably be required to play well defensively and provide good energy when their top lines aren't cycling deep in the other team's zone. Expect his stat line and time on ice to be low.
Marty won't be given the opportunity to prove himself in the most important situations, but I don't think he'll hurt the Czechs, either. Look for a performance similar to his NHL play-- solid, not spectacular, with the occasional horrific turnover.
#6 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators
Aug 14, 1985
Shea Weber's workload will be quite a bit lighter than as an NHLer, as he's likely behind Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Duncan Keith, and Dan Boyle on the Canadian defensive depth chart. Despite that, if you see the Canadians on the power play, don't be surprised to see Weber alongside a good puck mover like Boyle or Neidermayer who can load him up for his patented cannon. He'll be called on for 3rd pair minutes, alongside likely Dan Boyle as Mike Babcock won't want to breakup Keith/Seabrook or Pronger/Niedermayer.
He's lower on this list than Erat simply because of the stunning depth the Canadians boast.
I think the Canadians would probably like to see Shea generate some man-advantage stats and solid, physical play from the back. As good as Weber is, he's probably the 5th or 6th defenseman on the team ahead of only Drew Doughty, and will be played accordingly.
I think that Shea may benefit from some power play time with Team Canada, and it wouldn't shock me to see him pot a goal or two from the point being set up by Sidney Crosby or Joe Thornton in group play. Look for Weber to be one of the team leaders in hits and shots by a defenseman.
#52 / Defenseman / Nashville Predators
May 30, 1984
Alexander Sulzer is a relatively inexperienced player at the NHL level, but is going to be thrust into top-4 duty as an Olympian. One of the better defenders on Team Germany, Sulzer will likely be placed in a similar, if not quite as prominent, role as Ryan Suter.
Germany will need Sulzer to log one of the heaver time on ice numbers, while pitting him against a 2nd scoring line. He'll also be called upon to provide a bit of spark in the offensive zone.
Alex's fate will likely be close to Marcel Goc's. Good NHL players, but placed on a team like Germany and forced to play well above their heads, he'll probably get burned often and made to look worse than he actually is.
#27 / Right Wing / Nashville Predators
Jan 01, 1987
While Patric Hornqvist is the Predators' leading goal scorer and almost assuredly their MVP, he's headed to Vancouver as a member of Team Sweden, a bona fide offensive juggernaut. At the Olympics, Horn Dog will likely line up on Sweden's 3rd or 4th line and be placed in a checking/energy role. Hornqvist has had an incredible season by any measure, but will be hard-pressed to break into an important role on a roster which contains the Sedin twins, Nicklas Backstrom, Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg, and more.
Sweden wants a solid, two-way game played from Hornqvist. Few mistakes, good defense, and creating a few scoring chances will likely earn him future looks and more playing time.
On a team as loaded as Sweden, it'll be that much easier for Patric to do what is asked of him. While I doubt he'll score or make much of an impact statistically, I'm anticipating Hornqvist working hard and probably scaring the life out of a few goaltenders.
In summary, the Predators have some very good players representing them in Vancouver. Could we see one or more of them make a huge impact when it comes to medaling? Sure. Will we? Thats a trickier question, as none of Nashville's representatives are key cogs in their country's wheels (excepting possibly Ryan Suter). At any rate, I'm quite confident they'll all make us proud in Vancouver.