Tomas Fleischmann (14) has represented Czech Republic in the 2010 Olympicas as well as in the 2012 World Championships. Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Panthers: Road To Sochi


All signs point to Tomas Kopecky (82) making the Olympic roster for Slovakia.

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics may be months away but it is never too soon to speculate which players will get the chance to represent their country and which players will be left out in the cold.

Today we will be looking at the Florida Panthers roster and trying to determine which Panthers will get their shot at Olympic glory. The Panthers’ roster is made up of players from eight different countries. The majority of the players are Canadian (10 players) and American (8) but also represented is Finland (2), Czech Republic (1), Germany (1), Slovakia (1), and Russia (1). Of the eight countries represented, only Germany failed to qualify for the 2014 games so that means Marcel Goc will have no chance to play in this year’s olympics. (Which is a total shame by the way as Goc would have been a lock to make the German team had they qualified. His 11 points (7 G, 4 A) are tops amongst the four German players in the NHL, which I guess also paints a clear picture as to how Germany failed to qualify)

Lets take a look at the Panther players and the countries they represent:

Canada

Jonathan Huberdeau Erik Gudbranson Brian Campbell
Krys Barch Brad Boyes Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski Jesse Winchester Scottie Upshall
Shawn Matthias    

Outlook

No player on this list has much of the shot of making the Canadian olympic team, in fact just printing this list of names in conjunction with a Olympic themed post has me nervous that Les Assassins des Fauteuils Rollents will be rolling up to my doorway any second to covertly take me out.

Let’s look at it this way, Scottie Upshall has been the Panthers’ most productive Canadian forward and his 17 points puts him in a tie for 47th place in scoring amongst Canadians in the NHL. Brian Campbell is tied for 7th in scoring (15 points) amongst Canadian defensemen but that does not even amount to much as the big debate in Canada is whether P.K. Subban should make the roster. That’s right, P.K. freakin Subban!!! last year’s Norris Trophy Winner who is currently third amongst all NHL defensmen with 24 points! So yea, this is going to be a tough squad to crack and right now no Panther comes even close to sniffing a spot on the Canadian olympic roster.

Erik Gudbranson and Jonathan Huberdeau are two guys to keep an eye on for future olympics but right now there are just too many talented players ahead of them.

USA

Nick Bjugstad Tim Thomas Scott Gomez
Jimmy Hayes Tom Gilbert Mike Mottau
Dylan Olsen Scott Clemmensen  

Outlook:

As with Canada, it does not look like any Panther with be representing the United States in the 2014 Olympics. Only two players on the above list, Bjugstad and Thomas, even merit mentioning.

While he has impressed this season with the Panthers, Nick Bjugstad (27) will probably have to wait until 2018 to make his Olympic debut. Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Bjugstad got a boost of confidence from USA Hockey when he was one of the 48 players invited to the US Olympic Orientation Camp back in late August. Bjugstad was one of 24 forwards invited to the camp and while only 14 or so will make the final Sochi roster, the invitation alone was a good sign for the 21-year-old Minnesota native, a sign that he is very much on the team’s radar moving forward.

Tim Thomas made waves recently when he stated that playing for Team USA in this year’s olympics is still very much a goal of his. Thomas, who returned this season after sitting out last year, has proved so far that at 39 years old, he still has some juice in the tank, but he still needs a number of minor miracles in order to make the US olympic team.

Thomas is one of six goalies still in the running for the three roster spots. The other five goalies are Jonathan Quick, Ryan Miller, Ben Bishop, Cory Schneider and Jimmy Howard. Right now, Thomas is fifth amongst those goalies in save percentage and last in goals against average so he is going to need a stellar month of December just to even remain in the conversation.

Bjugstad may be a player of the future for Team USA, while Thomas looks like a player of the past. For the present, neither looks like they will be participating in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Finland

Aleksander Barkov

Sean Bergenheim

Outlook:

Aleksander Barkov looks like he will make Finland’s final Olympic roster but that statement is not as rock solid as it was one month ago. The 18-year-old Barkov was included on Finland’s orientation roster and started off his rookie season with the Panthers by scoring seven points (3G, 4A) in 10 games. Since then, he has cooled off considerably scoring only one goal and two assists in his last 21 games, and he is currently in the midst of an eight game scoring drought.

That being said, Barkov still ranks 6th amongst Finnish forwards in the NHL. The next month will be crucial for Barkov’s olympic dreams. If he picks up his scoring he should be a lock to make the team but if he continues at his current rate, Finland may elect to go with more experienced options.

Sean Bergenheim could be one of those options. Bergenheim, 29, has been off the Olympic radar due to injuries that kept him out of the 2012-13 season and forced him to miss the first month of this season. Since returning to the Panthers in late October, Bergenheim has tallied four points in 16 games (two goals, two assists) not exactly enough to force his way onto the roster. He could make a late push for a spot if he has a strong December. So far Bergenheim has looked like he is still fighting his way back from injury, he has only sporadically looked like his old self, but recently we have seen the good-Bergenheim more often than not. A definite long shot, Bergie will need to catch fire in the coming weeks.

The safe guess for the Panthers’ Finnish players is that Barkov makes the squad and Bergenheim does not. Hockey is a funny game though and anything can happen over a couple weeks.

Russia

Dmitry Kulikov

Outlook:

Things do not look good for Kulikov’s Olympic chances. He was not included in Russia’s orientation camp roster and he has done nothing to merit any further consideration with his play this season.

Czech Republic

Tomas Fleischmann

Outlook:

Fleischmann looks to be a pretty safe bet to make the Czech Republic Olympic roster. He has been a big part of the team since he took part in the 2010 Olympics. As expected, Flash was included on the orientation camp roster and despite a long scoring drought this season, he has been pretty productive for the Panthers; he is currently 11th amongst Czech forwards in the NHL. Barring any injuries, Fleischmann should be there when the Olympics get underway in February.

Slovakia

Tomas Kopecky

Outlook:

Like Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky will more than likely be representing his country this February in Sochi. Kopecky is one of six Slovakian forwards currently playing the NHL and that kind of depth means just being healthy should be enough to make the roster. He was a part of the 2010 Olympics and he should play a role again in 2014.

Recap

So looking back, it appears that the Panthers will have three representatives in the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Tomas Kopecky and Tomas Fleischmann are virtual locks for Slovakia and Czech Republic respectively while Aleksander Barkov looks like he will make the Finnish squad. There does not appear to be any Panthers with a shot at making the Canadian or American teams and Dmitry Kulikov looks to be left out of the Russian squad. Marcel Goc would definitely be there for Germany, except Germany did not qualify.

That’s all for now, we will keep you updated on the Panthers’ olympic picture as we get closer to the rosters being released which should be around late December/early January.

What do you think? Excited to seem some Panthers in action in Sochi? Bummed that there will be no Panthers on Teams Canada and USA? Share your thoughts in the comments section below and follow The Rat Trick on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest.

 

 

 

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