It has been a while since we've continued our series on the Wild Olympic hopeful's international track record. We've covered the hopefuls from Finland, Sweden, and Switzerland, and now look to re-boot this series this week with the focus being America. And who better to look at than the former #9, and current bearer of #11, Zach Parise.
Zach Parise is everything that the ideal American image is on the ice. Relentless, gritty, goal-oriented, and really good at everything. So let's see what he's done in the past, and look ahead to see if he has what it takes to lead Team USA to Gold.
World Junior Championships
Parise's only U-18 appearance was a good one, as he scored 7 goals and 10 points in 8 games. Not bad, right?
Not bad, but he went on to do better in the U-20 WJCs. In 2003, he got his feet wet with 4 goals and 4 assists in 7 games, which was also very good, but not as good as his 2004. He absolutely went off, scoring 5 goals and 11 points during his 8 games, carrying Team USA to their first WJC Gold medal, and winning a ton of hardware for himself as the Tournament MVP.
Parise's first two years of World Championship play saw him ride the pine a lot- he only played in 4 games over those years. But in 2008, he finally got regular playing time, as well as assistant captainship, and rewarded Team USA with a 5 goal, 3 assist performance in 7 games. The USA didn't medal, or even get close, however.
Parise went to Vancouver as an assistant captain in 2010, and the United States went, as you all better damn well know, all the way to the Gold Medal game vs. Canada, scoring 4 goals and 8 points along the way. He also scored perhaps the most clutch goal ever (this side of Eruzione) for Team America, netting the game-tying goal with 24 seconds left in regulation. It was one of the most exciting goals I've ever seen as a hockey fan. Sidney Crosby scored in overtime to give Canada the Gold, and USA the Silver, but Parise made the All-Tournament team, and more importantly, his play, and his goal, should hold be remembered in US Hockey history.
Outlook for Sochi
Up there with Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, and (spoiler!) Ryan Suter, Parise is as big of a lock for the Olympics as you can get. He's got elite talent- perhaps only Patrick Kane surpasses him in that regard- and he won't be a guy that coaches even consider leaving off if they want to shy away from building an "All-Star team" instead of a "hockey team". Hard work would have been Parise's middle name had father J-P Parise possessed any ability to predict the future, and that always endears one to coaches.
You will see Parise in the Olympics- quite possibly as a captain- and he's got an outside shot at looking like the best player there.