All the competing countries named their Olympic rosters earlier this week and the Coyotes were well represented with five selections. With that in mind, let's rank the five Yotes making the trip to Sochi from those who should make the most impact on their country's medal hopes to least.
1. Oliver Ekman-Larsson: D, Sweden
#23 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes
Jul 17, 1991
|2013 - Oliver Ekman-Larsson||41||4||18||22||5||28||2||0||3||91||4.4|
OEL will be joining a star-studded roster for Team Sweden and a loaded blueline. He joins former Norris winner Erik Karlsson, Blackhawks duo Johnny Oduya (yes, he's seriously Swedish) and Niklas Hjalmarsson, Alexander Edler, Henrik Tallinder and Red Wing twosome Jonathan Ericsson and Niklas Kronwall.
Oliver will likely be the Coyote who plays the most in Sochi, both because the Swedes are likely medal contenders and he'll see the most in game action. He has a chance to land on the top pair with Kronwall or on the second pairing with Edler. The most exciting thing that Coyotes fans have to look forward to during the Sochi games is the Swedish power play, as both Karlsson and OEL should be the point men on a Swedish advantage that will inspire nightmares. Hockey fans in Phoenix have known how darn good Ekman-Larsson is for years and in February, the rest of the world will too.
2. Martin Hanzal: C, Czech Republic
#11 / Center / Phoenix Coyotes
Feb 20, 1987
|2013 - Martin Hanzal||40||12||18||30||0||49||2||0||1||109||11.0|
Hanzal will be representing the Czech Republic for the first time at the Olympic level after twice playing for them in the world championships. Hanzal's role will be different from his regular duties with the Coyotes. The Czechs currently are set at their top two center spots with Tomas Plekanec and David Krejci so Marty will slot into the third line spot. He's used to playing against top competition with the Coyotes, but the offensive expectations won't be as great for him in Sochi. His size could be used on the Czech power play for a net front presence, but more than likely his only special teams play will come on the penalty kill.
One can only imagine what the Czechs could do with Hanzal had they also taken his running buddy, Radim Vrbata. Alas, Vrbata wasn't taken and we'll get into that later, but Hanzal will be asked to play a shutdown role during the Olympics and should succeed for his country.
3. Lauri Korpikoski: F, Finland
#28 / Left Wing / Phoenix Coyotes
Jul 28, 1986
|2013 - Lauri Korpikoski||27||6||7||13||2||12||0||0||0||53||11.3|
Lauri Korpikoski celebrated his nomination to the Finnish Olympic team with his second three point game of the season Tuesday against the Flames. This will be the third time that the Korpedo has represented Finland in international competition but his first at the Olympics.
Korpikoski will be expected to fill in a bottom six forward role for Finland at Sochi, focusing on defense and possession. Lauri's speed will be an asset on the larger ice an European Olympics brings and he'll see time on the Finnish penalty kill. Korpikoski will end up playing a role very similar to the one he filled for the Coyotes in 2011 and 2012, and should be a useful player for Finland in their hopes for a medal.
4. Zbynek Michalek: D, Czech Republic
#4 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes
Dec 23, 1982
GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG GTG SOG PCT
2013 - Zbynek Michalek
#4 / Defenseman / Phoenix Coyotes
Dec 23, 1982
|2013 - Zbynek Michalek||24||0||4||4||10||10||0||0||0||30||0.0|
Z will represent his home country for the second time in Olympic competition after doing so in 2010 in Vancouver. In a regular year, Michalek would have been higher on the list, maybe even number one, given his status as the Czechs best shutdown blueliner. However, his injury might keep him from the Olympics all together and even if he plays, it probably won't be at 100%. He has started skating on his own this week and could return to NHL action before the break, but I doubt that he will be playing at his best come February.
5. Mike Smith: G, Canada
#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Mar 22, 1982
|2013 - Mike Smith||36||2091||15||11||8||101||2.90||1128||1027||.910||0|
Smith's Olympic success was in simply being named to the team. Clearly third on the depth chart behind Carey Price and Roberto Luongo, Smith will more than likely see no action at the Olympics. That being said, he was chosen for that spot specifically because of his personality and easy going nature. He should be a good sounding board for the other goalies on his team and a positive teammate as the Canadians try for gold for the first time one the larger ice since NHLers were allowed to play in the Games.
The Trail Ahead: The Next Week of Games
The Coyotes will play four games in the next week, and need to start gaining points both for fantasy players and their own playoff hopes.
Things start off on Saturday with an evening showdown with the NHL leading Anaheim Ducks. These teams have met four times already and the Coyotes have yet to win any of them. The Ducks' success has been built by their balance, as they are top 10 in the league in both offense and defense. The Coyotes could certainly use a win, but points will be at a premium here.
Following that game, the Yotes go on a quick two game road trip, with back to back games in Winnipeg and St. Louis on Monday and Tuesday. The Jets are a middle of the road team offensively and rank in the bottom third of the league defensively. Phoenix should have some success here but the next game could be a challenge against the Blues and their top ranked offense and third ranked defense.
The week will end with a Thursday home game against the Vancouver Canucks. The Yotes could catch a break with the injury to Luongo, but the Canucks are still a formidable opponent.
Good luck with your week and make sure you've activated Doan and OEL into your lineups.
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