By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
Four years after being passed over for the 2010 United States Olympic hockey team, Everett native T.J. Oshie was hoping to be named to the U.S. squad for the upcoming Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Indeed, it would have been hard to overlook the 27-year-old Oshie this time around.
The Everett native and sixth-year National Hockey League forward is having his best pro season for the St. Louis Blues in 2013-14. In 39 games, he has a team-best 27 assists (tied for ninth in the NHL) and 33 points (tied for 34th), and is on track to finish the season with career highs in both statistics.
Those numbers obviously jumped out at Team USA officials, who on Wednesday named Oshie to the 25-man U.S. hockey team for the Feb. 7-23 Winter Games. It will be the first Olympic appearance for Oshie, who was born in Mount Vernon but spent his boyhood in Everett, attending Lowell Elementary School and Evergreen Middle School.
Oshie did not return a phone message on Wednesday afternoon, but earlier in the day he used Twitter to react to the news of his selection.
“Couldn’t be more proud and excited to wear the Red, White and Blue sweater in (Sochi). What an honor!! … Thanks to my family, friends, coaches, and teammates that have gotten me to where I’m at in my career. Couldn’t have made this team (without) you,” tweeted Oshie, who lists Everett as his birthplace on the Blues web page.
Oshie is one of 17 former first-round picks on the U.S. squad, which includes 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders. Thirteen of the 25 players (representing 17 NHL teams) have previous Olympic experience while the other 12, like Oshie, will be making their first Olympic appearances.
Joining Oshie on the U.S. team is Blues teammate and linemate David Backes, who was also on the U.S. team in 2010. It is expected that Oshie and Backes will remain linemates at the Olympics.
Also named to the U.S. team was St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
“The thing I’m proudest of, on the American side, the guys that we have that are qualified have done everything they can to make this hockey club,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper. Added Hitchcock, who will be an assistant coach for the Canadian Olympic team, “Backes, Oshie and Shattenkirk have all had really, really good first halves of the year.”
Oshie, who got his start in hockey with the Seattle Junior Hockey Association, moved to Stanwood when he was in the eighth grade and attended Stanwood High School the following year. He then moved to Warroad, Minn., where he lived with extended family for his last three years of high school as he developed into an elite young player.
In 2005, the year he graduated from high school in Warroad, Oshie was a first-round draft pick of the Blues. Oshie played three seasons at the University of North Dakota before signing with the Blues and spending his rookie year with the team in 2008-09.