- Craig Custance
On Tuesday, in a conference room at the NHL offices in Toronto, the brain trust charged with building the Team USA Olympic roster sat down to discuss who was rising and falling in the eyes of those making the final choices. For a good three hours, American hockey names were debated.
This is an exercise repeated in some form by all countries, as enough hockey has been played to get a feel for who is making the best case to play in Sochi.
"We can all debate. There's generally a group of them that are on the team, we don't need to spend a lot of time on," Team Canada GM Steve Yzerman said. "It's that other group."
That other group. That's the group that is so fun to debate. With the season already a quarter of the way through, here are players from that borderline group who have improved their Olympic stock.
1. Matt Duchene, F, Colorado Avalanche. He's sidelined right now with an oblique injury suffered against the Panthers on Saturday, but that's about the only thing that has slowed him down this season. He's got 12 goals in 19 games and continues to climb up the Team Canada ranks after an eye-opening performance at the World Championships last spring.
"The thing that makes him a real intriguing player, you have big ice, you have open speed. But he has tight speed, too, around the net, below the goal line," said Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, who coached him in the Worlds. "He made some plays at the World Championships where he was pulling up, spinning, making plays at the net. Creating something out of nothing, that was very impressive."