It's right around the corner so we might as well talk about it. As much as I wish every Devils player could go home and relax, refuel and get focused for the playoffs during the Olympic break, that's not going to happen. There WILL be NJ Devils representing various countries at the 2010 Games in Vancouver and here's who I think we'll be watching.
Absolutely Going To Vancouver:
Zach Parise - Parise is currently 13th in the league in goals and points and 2nd in Goals and 1st in points in the league when you narrow it down to American born players. Not only is Parise a sure thing (baring injury) to be wearing a Team USA jersey in February, one just wonders if that jersey might have a "C" on it. It should be pure joy watching this kid compete at the international level with guys like Kane and Kesler.
Marty Brodeur - Marty left the Team Canada Evaluation Camp with everyone asking "Brodeur or Luongo?" but if you take a moment and look at the numbers, Marty is the answer without question. Of course the Olympics are in Luongo's city so that may play into his favor and Fleury does have youth on his side but if Canada wants to win gold, why not go with they guy that's actually done it for you before?
Patrik Elias - Isn't he the best Czech hockey player in the world? At least that was the award handed out to him last year so I would expect the Czech's to want the best on their team. He's slowly getting healthier every day and as long as he continues that trend, then he should be there.
Maybe We'll See Them, Maybe We Won't::
Paul Martin - I thought this guy would have been a lock for Team USA until his injury. Burke said that Martin's injury wouldn't play into the decision on his chances but I'm not sure I believe that completely. He probably won't see the ice for a few more weeks so how does Team USA know he's healthy in time for the New Years Day announcement? Personally, I would put him on because a healthy Martin (who is sure to be 100% by February) logs a lot of ice time shutting down the opposition.
Jamie Langenbrunner - The last time Jamie saw Olympic ice was in 1998. When I heard he got an invite to the Team USA camp in the summer, I was a bit surprised. Sure, Jamie is a solid player who commands the point and is coming off his best offensive season so maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Personally, I have a list of players well above Jamie to make the team but he is experienced so maybe he can be an asset to all the young guys I have picked to head to Vancouver.
The Long Shots:
Travis Zajac - I actually think he's kind of a long shot. Don't get me wrong, he's a valuable member of the Devils organization and we can depend on him to bring his game to the rink night in and night out but I think he's on the outside looking in. Canada has a slew of players to choose from like Joe Thornton, Sidney Crosby, Brad Richards, Patrick Marleau, Mike Richards, Rich Peverley, Ryan Getzlaf, and Paul Statsny. I just don't see Zajac cracking a way on to the team but stranger things have happened.
Niklas Bergfors - Prior to the season I would have said absolutely not but the kid has been turning all kinds of heads this season. It's recently been said that Team Sweden is trying to get Bergfors on the eligibility list so maybe he does have a shot. If you look closely at the numbers, he's currently 9th among Swedish skaters in scoring and 3rd among Swedish right wingers so based on that, why wouldn't we be seeing Bergfors in Vancouver? I still think he's a long shot.
Johnny Oduya - Based on the contract he signed over the summer, I thought Oduya was a sure thing for Team Sweden but then the season started and he was nothing short of horrid showing little on both sides of the puck and then he gets injured and misses a large chunk of games. Now he's back and needs to buckle down and start showing everyone his capabilities but I think Team Sweden is already set with defensemen so I don't see much hope for Oduya.
The rest of the Devils roster should be home during the break getting ready for the final push of the season.