BOSTON -- Torey Krug is most definitely on the radar for Team USA as they build their Olympic hockey roster for the February Winter games in Sochi, Russia. The 22-year-old rookie defenseman has set the NHL world on its ear with the start to his first full NHL season while sitting tied for second in the league among those at his position with six goals scored in 23 games for the Black and Gold.
Clearly it’s a difficult field with Dustin Byfuglien, Keith Yandle, Ryan Suter, Brooks Orpik, John Carlson and Ryan McDonagh highlighting a group of excellent defensemen to choose from for Team USA’s blue line, and there would seem to already be a spot being saved for Nashville Predators rookie Seth Jones. But Team USA head coach Dan Bylsma admitted that the Team USA coaching staff and management team has been scouting Krug both live, and on video during the first quarter of the season.
“I can, without hesitation, say that [Krug] has been mentioned and talked about a little based on how he’s played, and the start that he’s had through 23 games,” said Bylsma. “We’ve been watching. We’ve had a lot of people out watching hockey games, and we certainly have made note of how well he’s been playing on the back end there.”
It’s a long shot for Krug, to be sure, as a left-handed shot on a team that has plenty of good candidates to choose from, but it’s also true the talented former Michigan State captain has value in being able to play adeptly on either the left or right side. Krug played almost exclusively on the right side in college, and has played both sides with different D partners this season in Boston.
Team USA assistant GM Ray Shero was in Carolina when Krug faced fellow Team USA defenseman candidate Justin Faulk, and US Olympic assistant coach Peter Laviolette has watched the last few Bruins game in person at TD Garden.
So there have clearly been a few sets of eyeballs watching Krug as he’s put himself in Calder Trophy consideration with an offensively explosive start to his rookie season, and is exactly the kind of speedy, skilled player that could help lift Team USA’s power play during international play.
The one thing Krug won’t do is dwell on the watchful eyes scouting him for a potential Olympic roster spot, as thinking about those things too much hasn’t served him well in the past.
“I’d love to play for my country, but I can’t let affect my play with this team. I just kind of put it out of my head because it doesn’t help me. Even when I was younger and colleges were scouting me, I just wouldn’t allow myself to think about it,” said Krug. “I did it once in my last college game when I knew the Bruins were watching me.
“I went out and played a brutal game, and then they still signed me anyway. So I told myself I would never get distracted like that again.”
That said it should be interesting to see if Krug has anything special in store with the US Olympic coaching and management tandem of Bylsma and Shero in the house along with the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.