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Blackhawks harbor Olympic hopes

CHICAGO IL - JUNE 12:  BrandSaad #20 Chicago Blackhawks celebrates after he scored second period goal against BostBruins Game

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 12: Brandon Saad #20 of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrates after he scored a second period goal against the Boston Bruins in Game One of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final at United Center on June 12, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

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Updated: August 30, 2013 6:40AM

Like most young American hockey players, Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy has seen “Miracle,” and it has stuck with him.

“Seeing ‘Miracle’ when I was younger, obviously that had a huge effect on me,” Leddy said. “It just shows how important putting on that sweater really is.”

Leddy came one step closer to realizing his dream Monday, when he was invited to Team USA’s training camp.

Leddy, 22, and teammate Brandon Saad, 20, are among the youngest players who will be in camp Aug. 26-27 in Arlington, Va.

“It’s the first step being invited to camp, and it’s a really exciting moment for me,” Saad said Friday at the Blackhawks Convention. “To be this young and invited, just to experience it, it’s something I am really looking forward to.”

Saad and Leddy are among a large group of newcomers on the Olympic camp roster. Of the 48 players invited, 16 were born in the 1990s.

Although they are young, Saad and Leddy have international experience. Saad won gold with the U.S. team at the IIHF World U18 Championships in 2010, and Leddy played on the U.S. under-17 and under-18 teams in the Five Nations tournaments in the Czech Republic.

Saad said that experience will help him secure a spot on the Olympic team.

“It helps to be able to represent your country playing against other countries,” Saad said. “I’ll try to take what I know with me.”

For the smooth-skating Leddy, his experience playing one year of college hockey on an Olympic-sized surface at Minnesota might give him an edge.

“Skating is huge part of my game and it’s a huge positive for me, so on a big rink, that can help me out,” Leddy said. “Playing college on a big rink can help me out as well, knowing the angles.”

While Leddy and Saad are new to the Olympic-camp experience, forward Patrick Sharp was invited to his second camp for Team Canada. Sharp failed to make the final cut for the 2010 Olympics.

“If you look at the talent pool in our country, Canada, it’s really deep,” Sharp said. “So you can’t really go wrong with making a decision on players.”

That rich talent pool includes five Hawks, the most players from any team in the NHL. Center Jonathan Toews, defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook and goalie Corey Crawford also received invitations.

“It’s certainly flattering that they look that highly upon our players,” Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said. “When you have success as a team, then the individuals get a lot of attention.”

Of those five players, Crawford is the only new name in the mix.

“Corey jumping in there in goal is nice to see, just for the fact that he’s getting some recognition,” Bowman said. “He was always looked over in the past, and he’s getting the attention that he deserves now.”

Crawford will face tough competition in camp from the Canucks’ Roberto Luongo, the Canadiens’ Carey Price, the Coyotes’ Mike Smith and the Capitals’ Braden Holtby.

Bowman said Crawford’s performance during the Stanley Cup playoffs will give him the confidence he needs to compete for a roster spot.

“Certainly he has had the most success recently of all the other candidates, just winning the Cup,” Bowman said. “I think that’s going to give him some confidence. Now he’s got to carry that over to the start.”

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