Columnist predicts 2014 U.S. Olympic team

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It’s never too early to start thinking about the Winter Olympics, especially if you’re a fan of Team USA. They managed to surprise a lot of people by winning the silver medal in 2010. Can they do one better in 20 months?

Washington Times writer Stephen Whyno offered up his early picks for the 2014 Olympic Games. While these are obviously subject to change – the NHL hasn’t even committed to playing in the Olympics yet – it does provide us with a fair idea of where they stand.

Goaltenders

This is probably Team USA’s greatest strength. Jonathan Quick and Ryan Miller headline the list, but Corey Schneider might also make the team if he’s settled into a starting role by then.

One interesting X-factor is Tim Thomas. He isn’t sure if he wants to play for Boston next season, but he wants to play in the Olympics. If he doesn’t play in the NHL in 2012-13, then it’s hard to see them picking him over some of the other fine choices they’ll have. But what if the NHL decides not to participate in the Winter Olympics? Would Tim Thomas stay out of the league and in the hopes that he could be the veteran leader in the Olympics? It sounds far-fetched, but can you really put anything by Thomas at this point?

Defensemen

Ryan Suter, Jack Johnson, Kevin Shattenkirk, and John Carlson might end up as their top-four defensemen. Beyond that, they got plenty of good choices, such as Brooks Orpik, Ryan McDonagh, Tim Gleason, Dustin Byfuglien, and Keith Yandle.

Erik Johnson is coming off back-to-back disappointing seasons, but he certainly has the potential to turn his career around and if he does, he might make the squad.

Forwards

They’re not going to match a team like Canada in terms of raw offensive power, but they will have some excellent all-around players like Ryan Callahan, Dustin Brown, David Backes, and, if he bounces back from a rough 2011-12 campaign, Brandon Dubinsky. Throw in Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, and Bobby Ryan and Team USA should have a very serviceable core of forwards.

James van Riemsdyk is certainly someone to keep in mind. He didn’t have the breakout season that everyone expected of him, but of course, there’s still plenty of time before the Olympics.

Think anyone got snubbed from the list? Is there anyone flying under the radar right now that you think will break out in time for Olympic consideration?