With the men’s Olympic ice hockey tournament starting this Wednesday, many teams are finalizing lines and strategies in hopes of getting that ever so important first group win. Team Austria will be kicking off the start of their competition on Thursday when they go against a heavily favored Team Finland. With only three NHL players on its roster, Austria looks to utilize them to the best of its ability, especially the Philadelphia Flyers‘ Michael Raffl.
Though only 25-years-old, the young forward is probably coming into Sochi with a veteran mindset. Rather than seeing what being on his country’s team can do for him and the rest of his career, Raffl is most likely thinking about what he can do for his country’s team. So, what exactly does Michael Raffl bring to the table for Team Austria?
Again, despite his age, Raffl has been all over the world playing hockey since he’s turned pro. In an international competition such as the Olympics, it’s important to build up as big a repertoire as possible when it comes to international play. Raffl has been able to do just that.
Besides playing in the NHL, Raffl has also spent time Erste Bank Hockey League, which is the highest level of competition in Raffl’s home country of Austria. On top of that, he’s also spent time in the Swedish Hockey League which is Sweden’s elite hockey organization.
His stat sheet isn’t really booming, but Austria will most likely be using him for his uncanny ability to set up plays. He’s not a wizard when it comes to assists, but he is that one guy who seems to get the play going from the other end of the ice. He’s smart, very precise and quick with the puck.
Sadly, it’s likely that Raffl’s Olympic experience will be cut extremely short. The Austrian staff will probably see themselves out of it by Friday. Team Finland will give them trouble, and we all know what Team Canada is capable of doing.
In 23 years of eligibility, Team Austria has only qualified for the Olympics 13 times and 2014 marks the first event since 2002 in which they have been selected. That 2002 roster possessed zero NHL players. If there is one thing Raffl can take from his Olympic experience it’s the fact that he is one of the first players from the NHL to be selected to Team Austria’s roster in over a decade.