With respective countries naming their Olympic Ice Hockey rosters in the near future, Hockey at the Forks takes a look at some of the Winnipeg Jets’ players, and their odds of heading overseas to represent their nation in February.
Team USA will be a force to be reckoned in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, with speed, skill, and grit on every line. Blake Wheeler‘s chances of being on that roster were very good coming into the 2013-14 NHL season, but a sub-par year so far has put him on the bubble. Does Wheeler belong in Sochi?
The United States always bring a stacked roster to the Olympics, and this year will be no different. Speed and skill will be the two main factors that USA General Manager David Poile and his staff will select the players on. Wheeler’s game centers around those two dynamics, but with players such as Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, and Phil Kessel leading the way, Wheeler could settle in to a third or fourth line position. Wheeler’s big frame (6’4″) would add a good amount of grit to the American lineup, and he would be able to play physically, while still being an offensive contributor.
Although Wheeler looks good on the ice, his stat line hasn’t been up to snuff. Wheeler has one goal in his last 16 games, and it was an empty-netter. In that time, the 27-year old has 9 assists, and is a -3. Wheeler’s play can be explained with the team around him, as the young Jets have had consistency issues all season long. If Wheeler was with world-class players, with a possible combination such as Bobby Ryan and Joe Pavelski, he could easily regain his scoring touch. Although Wheeler hasn’t been producing offensively as of late, he is still the fourth-highest scoring American in the last three seasons. A stat such as that should automatically mean Wheeler is a lock, but there is still work to be done.
At age 27, the Robbinsdale, MN native will have more opportunities to represent his country in the future if he doesn’t make the team this season. Wheeler is still growing as a player, and many believe he has not reached his full potential just yet. His play in-between now and Christmas will be the difference-maker for his chances of cracking the squad.
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