Three Rangers on U.S. Olympic squad
January, 1, 2014
By Katie Strang | ESPNNewYork.com
The New York Rangers will be well-represented at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, at least as far the U.S. Men's Hockey team is concerned.
Three players -- Ryan Callahan, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan -- were named to the squad Wednesday afternoon, the announcement made following the 2014 Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Both Callahan and McDonagh were considered virtual locks to make the team, though Stepan's spot on the roster was a bit more tenuous. The 23-year-old native of Hastings, Minn., got off to a slow start to the season after a protracted contract negotiation with the Rangers held him out of preseason action.
"It's a great honor," Stepan said via conference call Wednesday evening. "I wasn't sure if I was going to be there or not. It's something I'm very grateful for."
After leading the Rangers with 44 points last season, Stepan has seven goals and 25 points in 41 games for the Blueshirts this season. His name was one that was up for debate at certain points of the selection process. According to a report by ESPN.com's Scott Burnside, the management group considered leaving him off the list entirely, but ultimately kept him because of their need for depth at the center position:
One interesting development is the first airing of the notion that perhaps both Oshie and Saad could go and Derek Stepan would come off the list. The New York Rangers center had been a given as the management team has always wanted five centers. But Stepan has played poorly and had an uneven season overall. Now for the first time, the idea is raised that he may go to make room for both Oshie and Saad.
Still, the fear of not having enough depth down the middle if they take only four is too much to sway the group at this stage, especially given that there are no real options if there is an injury among the other forwards.
Callahan is the only one of the three with previous Olympic experience; he was a member of the squad that finished with a silver medal after losing to Canada in the championship match in the 2010 Vancouver games.
"I think the biggest thing I took out of Vancouver was how fun it was and how much of an honor it was, how proud I was to represent the USA and your country," Callahan said. "You never know how many chances you're going to get at it and now I have another crack at it. Going into Russia, I'm just going to enjoy it."
Among the notable names left off the roster? Defenseman Keith Yandle and goal-scorer Bobby Ryan.
"To be honest with you I haven't had a chance to look at it too deeply," Callahan said. "But from the guys that were named, they're all talented. It looks like we're going to have a fast group on the big ice surface, which is good. With the players we have on the team, I think we're going to have a good shot."
Callahan is actually still recovering from a knee injury that was initially expected to sideline him through at least the first week of January, though he appears close to returning. The Rangers waived Taylor Pyatt Wednesday, making room on the 23-man roster should the team need to activate Callahan off injured reserve in advance of Friday's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Though McDonagh was considered a sure thing, he said he was relieved to hear the news. He recalled watching the games four years ago and is relishing the chance to participate firsthand.
"You truly never know," McDonagh said. "To find out for certain, it's something I'm pretty proud of and [I'm] honored to be part of the team. I remember watching the 2010 [Olympics] and imagining what it would be like to play in the Olympics and represent your country. Now I have the opportunity and [I'll] try to do my best with it."
To check out ESPN.com's exclusive look on how the U.S. squad was built, take a peek at Scott Burnside's fantastic piece here.