Callahan, McDonagh and Stepan selected for U.S. Olympic hockey team
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Call it a hat trick for the Rangers.
Captain Ryan Callahan, top defenseman Ryan McDonagh and center Derek Stepan were named Wednesday to the 25-man U.S. Olympic team.
The tournament begins play in Sochi, Russia, in February.
Both Callahan and McDonagh were assured of spots based on comments by team executives before Wednesday's announcement, but Stepan, a second-round draft pick of the Rangers in 2008, considered himself on the bubble.
"It's a great honor," said Stepan, who learned about the selection during the NBC telecast. "I wasn't sure whether I was going to be there or not . . . I hadn't heard anything and started to think I wasn't going to be there."
Kyle Okposo, the Islanders' second-leading scorer behind John Tavares with 15 goals and 25 assists, did not make the team. Entering yesterday, Okposo was tied for 12th in the NHL in points (40), second among American-born players.
"We did not pick the best 25 players," general manager David Poile said after the roster was announced. "We picked the best 25 players that we thought gave us a chance to compete and win the gold medal."
Stepan captained the U.S. National team at age 19 in the World Junior championships in 2009-10, when the squad won the gold medal and was the tournament's leading scorer with four goals and 10 assists in seven games. Stepan also scored seven points at the World Championships the next season.
But the Hastings, Minn., native, who played with McDonagh at the University of Wisconsin, has been inconsistent in his fourth NHL season. He missed training camp and the preseason in a contract dispute, and has just seven goals and 18 assists. Stepan had 44 points in the lockout-shortened, 48-game season last year.
Apparently, Stepan's play since he was a teenager helped his cause.
According to a story by ESPN's Scott Burnside, who was allowed to sit in on the executive meetings, Stepan had little to worry about: He was a lock after Team USA's orientation camp in late August.
Callahan, a right wing from Rochester who is recovering from an MCL sprain of the left knee but expected back within a week, played on the 2010 team, which won a silver medal in Vancouver. At the U.S. orientation camp, Callahan was named to the team's leadership group.
"I'm obviously grateful and excited," said Callahan, who recalled "how much fun and how proud I was" in Vancouver. "You don't know how many chances you're going to get . . . going into Russia, I'm just going to try to enjoy it."
McDonagh is gifted with size and speed, and the St. Paul, Minn., native has blossomed, logging 24:40 a game as a first-pair defenseman assigned to the opponent's top line. He is the team's leading scorer on the blue line, with six goals and 17 assists, and has been a key element on a productive power play.