Commentary

U.S. selections for 2010 Olympics

Updated: November 19, 2009, 3:17 PM ET
By Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun | ESPN.com

In less than three months, the puck will drop on the most highly anticipated tournament in the history of Olympic hockey, at the Vancouver Olympic Games. For both the Canadian and U.S. Olympic brain trusts, coming up with 23-man rosters for those games by the end of the calendar year (Canada will announce its team New Year's Eve, while the U.S. will unveil its roster during the Winter Classic in Boston the following day) is a constantly moving target.

Here's a look at how we see the U.S. squad as the NHL season hits the quarter pole.

Team USA

Scott Burnside

Goalies

Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Craig Anderson , Colorado Avalanche

The skinny: This is pretty simple: Miller leads the NHL in both GAA and save percentage and is a Vezina Trophy candidate, so you can pencil him in as the starter. Thomas, the defending Vezina Trophy winner, has been up and down, so the second spot becomes a bit more contentious. The issue for head coach Ron Wilson will be about whether to use two goaltenders or just hand the job to Miller and hope he catches fire for the underdog Americans.

Defenseman

Brian Rafalski, Detroit Red Wings

Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators

Erik Johnson, St. Louis Blues

Jack Johnson, Los Angeles Kings

Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins

Rob Scuderi, Los Angeles Kings

Ron Hainsey, Atlanta Thrashers

Paul Martin , New Jersey Devils

The skinny: The American blue line is in a state of flux with Paul Martin out with a broken forearm. Assuming he's back and healthy, he's the anchor to this unit. We left off Mike Komisarek, a given during training camp, because he's hurt and because he simply hasn't played very well in Toronto. We also left off Zach Bogosian, even though he leads all NHL defensemen in goals. He is behind Erik Johnson and Jack Johnson on the U.S. depth chart, and it's believed he's not ready yet for this stage. Neither Alex Goligoski nor Matt Carle was invited to the U.S.. orientation camp, and in spite of strong starts, we left them off our list, too. Without Komisarek, we went with two heart-and-soul guys who were crucial parts of Pittsburgh's run to the Stanley Cup last year. Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi (now in Los Angeles) will provide ballast for the otherwise young, skilled blue line. Both have been injured but should be healthy come February. We also added Ron Hainsey, who has played a vital shutdown role for the Atlanta Thrashers, while adding offense on the power play in the absence of Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Kubina.

GM Brian Burke has said he'd like to take eight defensemen, and there is a popular theory that he will name Dustin Byfuglien of Chicago because he can play defense. Our thinking is if you can't play defense for the Blackhawks, you can't play for the U.S. Olympic team. Byfuglien makes it as a forward, or he doesn't make it at all.

[+] EnlargeZach Parise
Mike Stobe/Getty ImagesZach Parise has thrived under Jacques Lemaire to become one of the Devils most valued players.

Forwards

Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils

Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey Devils

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Ryan Malone, Tampa Bay Lightning

Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings

Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks

Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche

Scott Gomez, Montreal Canadiens

Dustin Byfuglien, Chicago Blackhawks

Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs

The skinny: The U.S. forward contingent is a little more straightforward, although it comes with some question marks, most notably who is going to play center? Burke wants a forward group that will be high on skill on the first two lines and high on grit on the next two lines. The problem for Burke is that some of the guys he was counting on, David Backes and T.J. Oshie, for instance, are off to dreadful starts. We left both St. Louis Blues off our list and added Joe Pavelski, who was hurt at the beginning of the season but has bounced back nicely to help down the middle, with Ryan Kesler and Scott Gomez. We took Bobby Ryan ahead of Brian Gionta because of his size. We left off Philadelphia's talented rookie, James vanRiemsdyk, because he wasn't at the summer orientation camp and because of his youth. Tim Connolly is a skilled center but we're not sure he fits the Burke mold, ditto R.J. Umberger from Columbus . We also left Chris Drury off our list, given his uncertainty due to a concussion. If he's healthy, Drury is pretty much a given to make this team because of his leadership qualities. A healthy Drury would likely knock Pavelski out of the mix. Byfuglien makes our team because of his size and grit.


Pierre LeBrun

Goalies

Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Craig Anderson, Colorado Avalanche

The skinny: Anderson's huge opening quarter of the season for the surprising Avalanche lifts him ahead of youngster Jonathan Quick, who had an up-and-down first seven weeks of the NHL season with the Los Angeles Kings. It doesn't really matter who the No. 3 goalie is because the Miller-Thomas duo has been penciled in by Team USA brass as the 1-2 punch for a long time, but at this point the only development there is that Miller has added a bit of space between the two, thanks to a brilliant opening seven weeks. Miller looks to be the No. 1 man in Vancouver. Robert Esche, meanwhile, is playing his heart out in the KHL in Russia but that's not on Team USA's radar.

[+] EnlargeMike Komisarek
Abelimages/Getty ImagesDespite a dreary season for the Leafs, Pierre LeBrun believes the banged-up Mike Komisarek will make the U.S. roster.

Defense

Brian Rafalski, Detroit Red Wings

Paul Martin, New Jersey Devils

Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators

Erik Johnson, St. Louis Blues

Jack Johnson, Los Angeles Kings

Brooks Orpik, Pittsburgh Penguins

Mike Komisarek, Toronto Maple Leafs

Rob Scuderi, Los Angeles Kings

The skinny: Probably the name that jumps out on my list is Komisarek. It hasn't been a great opening seven weeks with the Leafs, but he's a physical defender -- Brian Burke's type of guy -- and the Olympics will be played on NHL-sized ice in Vancouver. I found it difficult to leave out Matt Carle, who has been outstanding in Philly this season, as well as second-year man Zach Bogosian in Atlanta, but in the end tried to find balance between stay-at-home types and puck-movers.

Forwards

Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils

Jamie Langenbrunner , New Jersey Devils

Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Ryan Malone, Tampa Bay Lightning

Ryan Kesler, Vancouver Canucks

Dustin Brown, Los Angeles Kings

Bobby Ryan, Anaheim Ducks

Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche

Dustin Byfuglien, Chicago Blackhawks

Ryan Callahan, N.Y. Rangers

Mike Modano, Dallas Stars

The skinny: I struggled between Stastny and Gomez at center but eventually chose Stastny. Gomez has been OK but not great in Montreal so far this season. Just to annoy Burnside, I once again included the veteran Modano on my list. No, seriously, I believe he should be on. Team USA is going young, but Modano represents the lone link to the glorious 1996 World Cup era. He remains a terrific skater and can play a third- or fourth-line center role on this team and kill penalties. He's been at the Olympics before and can tell the kids what to expect. And quite frankly, I don't think Burke would have gone to the extent of inviting Modano to the Olympic camp in August if he didn't want to have him on the team. Another guy I have on there that Burnside doesn't is Callahan. I just love what he brings at both ends of the ice. He's a flexible player you can put on all four lines. Joe Pavelski falls victim to the fact I can name only 12 forwards. If I was Team USA, I would name 13 forwards but make sure Byfuglien is among them so that he can be the swing guy. In the case, I would have Pavelski on my team.