The NHL and IIHF announced on Friday NHL players would be allowed to compete in the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing after skipping the 2018 games in PyeongChang. With the return of the top players on the planet to Olympic play, hockey can showcase the stars of the sport on the biggest stage and continue to grow the game.
“We understand how passionately NHL players feel about representing and competing for their countries,” NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. “We are very pleased that we were able to conclude arrangements that will allow them to resume best-on-best competition on the Olympic stage.”
While there are still arrangements to withdraw players if COVID-19 necessitates, the plan is for NHLers to compete in Beijing. With that in mind, let’s take a look at a potential Team USA Olympic Men’s Hockey Roster. The roster makeup allows for 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and three goaltenders.
This may go without saying, but injuries can absolutely play a factor in roster makeup. This is just an early look, assuming all are healthy.
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USA Olympic Men’s Hockey Roster – Forwards
|LEFT WINGS||CENTERS||RIGHT WINGS|
|Alex DeBrincat||Auston Matthews||Patrick Kane|
|Matthew Tkachuk||Jack Eichel||Jake Guentzel|
|Brady Tkachuk||Max Pacioretty||Brock Boeser|
|Johnny Gaudreau||Kyle Connor||Dylan Larkin|
|EXTRAS:||T.J. Oshie||Blake Wheeler|
While the USA-CAN game will once again be one of the most anticipated events of the Olympic games (should the outcomes line up that way), this Team USA roster balances skill, speed, size, and experience.
For this exercise, Patrick Kane, T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty, and Blake Wheeler are the only returning forwards in this group who competed at the 2014 games in Sochi, Russia. That squad failed to medal despite Oshie’s heroics against Russia in the qualifying round, losing to Canada 1-0 in the semifinals and losing 5-0 to Finland in the bronze medal game.
Jack Eichel’s health is the biggest question mark among the forwards, as he is awaiting neck surgery before being able to return to the ice. If he is not ready to go, Brock Nelson would be a great addition to the roster for additional center depth.
The wingers within this group can move around throughout the lineup as well, and the only one who you can write in with ink instead of a pencil is Kane as the first line right wing. Beyond that, this roster is incredibly flexible, and with bench leadership in Oshie and Wheeler, the young guns will get a chance to shine.
Notable Omissions: Cole Caufield, Jack Hughes, Phil Kessel, Anders Lee, J.T. Miller, Brock Nelson, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, James Van Riemsdyk
|LEFT DEFENSE||RIGHT DEFENSE|
|Jaccob Slavin||Adam Fox|
|Ryan McDonagh||Charlie McAvoy|
|Quinn Hughes||John Carlson|
|EXTRAS:||Zach Werenski/Seth Jones|
I’m beyond excited at the prospect of a Jaccob Slavin- Adam Fox top pairing. Fox won the 2021 Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman while Slavin finished fifth in the 2020 voting. Capable of controlling the play in all zones, this pairing could be one of the top tandems of any team in Beijing.
John Carlson and Ryan McDonagh return from the 2014 Sochi team to bring experience as well and breaking them up to allow Charlie McAvoy and Quinn Hughes to contribute more offensively seems like the right strategy here.
Former Columbus Blue Jackets teammates Seth Jones and Zach Werenski are the extras in this group. Werenski enters the 2021-22 season after undergoing hernia surgery, and while he should be healthy, Columbus may have reservations about sending him to the Games. If Werenski is out, Canadiens defenseman Jeff Petry could be in play here.
Notable omissions: Justin Faulk, Cam Fowler, Torey Krug, Brett Pesce, Jeff Petry, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan Suter
Connor Hellebuyck and John Gibson are virtual locks to make the roster. Hellebuyck was the 2020 Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goaltender and finished fourth in the 2021 voting. Gibson hasn’t received Vezina consideration due in large part to the Anaheim Ducks’ subpar performances in recent years, but he is a lights-out goaltender even with a bad team in front of him. With the squad Team USA has built here, he could push for starting time.
The third goaltending spot may be the biggest surprise on this list. I opted to go with Spencer Knight over Thatcher Demko because Knight looks like the future between the pipes for Team USA. Knight will be just 20 years old at the time of the Games, and while he’s quite young by Olympic and goaltender development standards, he should be up to the challenge. He’s already got international experience, taking bronze at the 2019 IIHF U18 World Juniors and leading the USA squad to a gold medal at the 2021 World Junior Championships.
Notable Omissions: Jack Campbell, Thatcher Demko, Alex Nedeljkovic, Jake Oettinger, Jonathan Quick
How did I do? Who did I leave off that you would’ve added? And who did I include that you would’ve left off? Sound off on Twitter @HockeyVoxDB and let me know what you think!
Thanks as always for reading, and stay tuned for more hockey content soon!