When the NHL announced last week that its players were going to be participating in the Olympics, the various countries began to contemplate who was going to be on the rosters. Monday, the league announced a list of players that have gotten invites as to who could represent their country, and four members of the New York Islanders got invitations. Canada sent invites to John Tavares and Travis Hamonic, the United States sent an invite to Kyle Okposo and Russia sent an invite to Evgeni Nabokov. Of the four guys, only Nabokov has any experience playing in the Olympics, having played for Russia in the last two Olympic games. Hamonic, Okposo and Tavares are all first time possible Olympians.
When it comes to Nabokov, he has the best chance to be the starting goalie for Russia at the games. Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky are the only two guys from NHL teams to be invited to Russian camps. It seems like Nabokov and Bobrovsky have the best chances to get to dress for the Russians as far as net-minders are concerned. Nabokov, despite being 38 at the time of the Olympics, still has the best chance based on experience and an overall game.
As far as the United States goes, Okposo is the only Islanders player to get an invite to their camp. For the US, there are plenty of forwards being invited back who played in the 2010 games. Okposo is going to have an uphill climb to try to get to the US roster, as he has to deal with a lot of top tier talent coming out of the league. Now don’t get me wrong, Okoposo does have a decent chance to make the roster, but what he has done in the last few years in the league doesn’t really warrant taking a spot on the roster. Again things could change between now and February, but from the looks of things — and I hate saying this — I don’t think Okposo makes the US at the Olympics.
Two Islanders have a shot to make the Canadian roster, in the form of Tavares at forward and Hamonic on defense. On the blueline for Canada, just as is the argument with the forwards up front with the US, Hamonic is going to have a tough time trying to make the roster. Hamonic is a good defenseman, don’t get me wrong, but with some of the guys he will be competing against, it’s going to make it really hard for him to hit the roster. By the same token, Tavares has better chances of making the Canadian roster come February. There are still talented players lined up at the position of center, but Tavares has been good enough over the past few seasons to warrant making the roster.
The orientation camps will be taking place over the last week of August, which will lead right into training camp in September. Okposo would be the fifth Islander named to the US Olympic squad, hoping to join Bryan Berard (1998) and from the 2006 team Rick DiPietro, Mark Parrish and Jason Blake. Tavares and Hamonic hope to become the third and fourth Islanders named to Team Canada’s Olympic roster, joining 1998 representative Trevor Linden and 2002 representative Michael Peca. Nabokov, whose two previous Olympic appearances came during his career, would be the fifth Islander selected for the Russian side. The other Islanders that have played for Russia are: Sergei Nemchinov (1998), Oleg Kvasha and Alexei Yashin (2002), and Yashin and Alexei Zhitnik (2006)
The NHL will pause its regular-season schedule from Feb. 9-25, 2014, while the Olympics are played. Between the orientation camps and the actual start of the Olympics, rosters could change and players could be thrown in. As it sits right now, I can only really see Tavares and Nabokov making the Olympic rosters, but that’s right now. I do wish all players the best of luck during camps and here’s to hoping this Olympics are as enjoyable as the 2010 games.