Winnipeg Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien has caught the eye of USA Hockey. Now can he convince them he's more player than baggage for the long trip to Russia?
Byfuglien was among four Jets invited to Team USA’s orientation camp this fall in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Also on the U.S. early watch list are rookie Jacob Trouba, defenceman Zach Bogosian and winger Blake Wheeler.
Here’s what U.S. GM David Poile had to say about the Jets:
Dustin Byfuglien: "I have to choose my words wisely. He’s a bit of a wild card. He’s never participated in any USA Hockey tournaments. Our committee doesn’t know him as well as some of the other guys and we want to get to know him a bit. He’s a tremendous talent. The decision will come down to how he plays in October, November and December. We’ll be watching him closely."
Jacob Trouba: "We’re trying to reward success. Trouba played in both the world junior and world championship this year. Whether he’s going to make this team or not, he’s going to be a big part of Team USA’s future. I wanted, along with all the other guys on the committee, wanted that component this year. For guys like Trouba, I want them to be around our core veterans. Whether it’s for today or somewhere down the road he’s going to be a big part of things."
Zach Bogosian: "Zach’s been at a couple of world championships and he’s a young player that is starting to improve. He’s talented, has size and the skating that we’re really looking for in Sochi. We’re going to have some changes on defence. Zach fits into a fairly big group of young guys fighting for a spot.
Blake Wheeler: "An emerging young player with all the attributes we’re looking for. Size and speed and very conditioned. We’ll be watching a lot of Blake early in the season to see if he can swing into the mix to be a candidate for Sochi."
Team USA will hold its camp at the Washington Capitals practice facility in Virginia running August 26-27.