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2014 Winter Olympics U.S. Men’s Hockey Player Profile: Zach Parise

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Wild forward Zach Parise is one of the league’s most dynamic offensive players. His combination of speed, skill and heart has earned him his second consecutive trip to the Winter Olympics and the honor of wearing the captain’s “C” for Team USA at this year’s tournament in Sochi.

Parise has been a prolific scorer at virtually every level he’s played at. The Minnesota native began his career with the University of North Dakota in 2002, where he potted 26 goals in 39 games as a freshman. Parise was drafted 17th overall by the New Jersey Devils the following summer, joining an astoundingly deep class of first-round picks from the 2003 Entry Draft that has been heralded as the greatest ever.

The skilled winger returned to North Dakota for one more year, putting up 55 points in 37 games. He then made the transition to professional hockey in 2004, joining the Devils’ AHL affiliate in Albany. Parise made an immediate impact, scoring 18 goals and adding 40 assists for 58 points. It was the first and the last season Parise spent in the minors. New Jersey promoted him to the big club in 2005 and he went on to register a respectable 32 points in 81 contests.

The following year was the 2005-06 NHL lockout, which seemingly worked wonders for Parise. He came back from the year-long hiatus and managed what would become the first of many 30-goal campaigns in his career, finishing the season with 31 goals and 31 assists. Parise was also an impact performer in the playoffs, netting seven goals in just 11 games.

Since then, Parise has cemented his position as one of the best offensive players in the league. He has five 30-goal years on his track record, including a career-best 45-goal campaign in 2008-09, and potted 18 goals during last year’s lockout-shortened 48-game season.

In 42 games so far this year, Parise has 18 goals and 17 assists for 35 points. Along with Patrick Kane, he’ll be relied on to provide the bulk of the offense for Team USA. Parise’s speed should be an asset on the bigger ice in Sochi, where he’s likely to log first-line minutes.

Sam Kelly is an NHL writer for RantSports. Follow him on Twitter and add him to your Google network.