Yes I know it’s July and the start of the NHL season isn’t all that close, but today we’re talking Winter Olympics! It’s almost hard to believe it has already been four years since the Sidney Crosby “Golden Goal” of the 2010 Winter Olympics that secured the gold medal for Team Canada, the goal that illustrated just how creative people could be with Photoshop. But the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are a new tournament and the gold medal is back up for grabs. This year, four Islanders have been invited to Olympic camp for their respective countries. John Tavares and Travis Hamonic have been invited to Canada’s camp, Kyle Okposo has been invited to Team USA camp, and Evgeni Nabokov has been invited to Russia’s camp.
Of the four, only Evgeni Nabokov has Olympic experience. Nabokov participated in the 2005-06 and the 2009-10 Olympics with Russia. Four other goalies were also invited to Russia’s camp including Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov, Vasily Koshechkin, and Konstantin Barulin. Russia is likely to pick three goalies from that list, and if Nabokov plays as well as he is capable of he should have a good shot at one of those three spots.
As far as Team Canada is concerned, Tavares should be a lock for the final roster and his invitation should come as a surprise to no one. Scoring 112 goals in his first four seasons in the NHL, and receiving a nomination for the Hart Trophy this year, Tavares has established himself as one of the NHL’s top players. Tavares has played for Team Canada many times before, most recently during the 2012 IIHF World Championship. Travis Hamonic on the other hand will face more of a challenge to make Team Canada’s final roster. Hamonic has not played for Canada in international competition since the 2010 World Juniors, and has steep competition from other defencemen including P.K. Subban, Kris Letang, Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Dan Boyle, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Karl Alzner, Jay Bouwmeester, Mike Green and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. However, Hamonic has played well for the Islanders, so well that he was just re-signed for another 7 years.
Kyle Okposo will also face a challenge making the final roster for Team USA. It’s certainly not impossible or unreasonable to think that Okposo could be on the final roster, but Team USA has a lot of talented forwards and if he wants to secure his spot he needs to show up to the orientation camp playing with the same intensity that he had at the end of the 2012-13 season. In the last five games of the season, all playoff games against the Penguins, Okposo had three goals and one assist. Okposo has been criticized by many Islander fans for starting the season slow and making poor decisions with the puck, but at the conclusion of last season complaints about Okposo were few and far between.
The Islanders are likely to be represented on additional Olympic teams including Slovokia and Austria by Lubomir Visnovsky and Michael Grabner respectively.