Team USA will start their quest for WC gold today at 7:15 pm EST at the Halifax Metro Centre in Halifax, NS, Canada. Their opponent will be Latvia. The Americans will start off in the B group which includes Latvia, Slovenia and Canada. While team USA has loaded up on young talent, they aren't even the favorites for their group or for gold or silver. Canada and Russia have those honors.
But the youngsters can make some noise. Especially now, which seems this is the year where the torch has been passed to a new generation of hockey players. Team USA's development program has paid dividends with gold and solid competitive edge in the U18 group for the past couple of years. Now many of those players have come to age.
While there still seems to be the standard veterans that pepper the line up, like Robert Esche (who didn't play in the NHL this season, but in the Russian Super League) and Zach Parise (New Jersey Devils), now there are new faces in the USA sweater. Young talent like David Booth (Florida Panthers), Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Peter Mueller (Phoenix Coyotes) and James Wisniewski (Chicago Blackhawks) get their chance on a bigger stage. Former Capital Jeff Halpern takes captain honors from current Capital Chris Clark, who is still nursing a bad groin.
It's all about experience, something that will be needed in two years time when the Winter Olympics rears it's ugly head. How these youths perform will be something to take some interest in now and could predict Team USA's chances in 2010. The group Team USA has been placed will be no easy task with Canada in the mix and will most likely be the toughest team to play on their home soil.
Team USA's chemistry seems okay as they won easily against Team Sweden in an exhibition game 5-1. Their camp in Portland, Oregon seemed to be productive and the team gelled well. They would have to, with the two favorites Russia and Canada picked to play in the gold medal game with inflated rosters. One thing is for sure, this new group should prove to be an exciting bunch to watch, and of course they are my dark horse for the gold medal game.