Seven Gophers, 14 Minnesotans named to U.S. Olympic Hockey Camp

Feb 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) stops a shot by Winnipeg Jets right wing Blake Wheeler (26) as left wing Thomas Vanek (26) defends during the second period at the First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

USA Hockey announced the 48 players they are inviting to their Olympic Orientation Camp on Monday. Included on the camp roster are 14 Minnesotans and seven University of Minnesota men’s hockey alumni. The camp will take place Aug. 26-27, at Kettler Capitals IcePlex in Arlington, Va.

The camp will help determine the 25 man roster that Team USA will send to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Highlighting the camp roster are NHL superstars like Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, and Ryan Suter. Team USA is looking to improve upon the Silver Medal it earned at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C.

Of the Golden Gophers on the roster, four are forwards and three are defensemen. On the blue line representing the Maroon and Gold are Erik Johnson (Bloomington, Minn. – Colorado Avalanche), Nick Leddy (Eden Prairie – Chicago Blackhawks), and Paul Martin (Minneapolis – Pittsburgh Penguins).

Leddy could have the rare chance of winning the Stanley Cup and winning a Gold Medal in just an eight month span.

The former Gopher forwards heading to Arlington are Nick Bjugstad (Minneapolis – Florida Panthers), Phil Kessel (Madison, Wis. – Toronto Maple Leafs), Kyle Okposo (St. Paul – New York Islanders), and Blake Wheeler (Robbinsdale – Winnipeg Jets).

Other Minnesotans invited to camp are Dustin Byfuglien (Roseau – Winnipeg Jets), Justin Faulk (So. St. Paul – Carolina Hurricanes), Jake Gardiner (Minnetonka – Maple Leafs), Ryan McDonagh (St. Paul – New York Rangers), David Backes (Minneapolis – St. Louis Blues), TJ Oshie (Warroad – Blues), Parise (Minneapolis – Minnesota Wild), and Derek Stepan (Hastings – Rangers).

Another former Gopher that is expected to be a lock for Olympics, but for other country, is Thomas Vanek (pictured above alongside Buffalo Sabres teammate Ryan Miller; a Team USA goalie invitee). The Baden bei Wien, Austria native will likely captain the Austrians who haven’t qualified for an Olympic games since 2002.

A couple former Gophers that did not get a camp invitation and would have been realistic choices are Alex Goligoski (Grand Rapids – Dallas Stars) and Jordan Leopold (Golden Valley – Blues). With the direction that Team USA took on its overall camp roster by going fairly young, it is understandable why Goligoski and Leopold were left off in favor of players that have a high ceiling and a potential to play for the Americans in Olympic Games after Sochi.

No goaltenders with Gophers ties or that call Minnesota home were invited to the camp. It is the position that the Americans have a strong advantage in over most other countries.

The fourteen Minnesotans named was the most amongst all states. Michigan came in second with seven total natives named to the camp roster.

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Topics: Hockey, Minnesota Golden Gophers

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