As the next part of our series looking at predicting rosters for the 2022 Olympics. Yesterday we looked at Team Canada today we look at Team USA. After losing in the finals in 2010, and getting close again in 2014, this may be the year for the Americans to break through. We have seen an excellent era of American hockey since 2014, and they have develloped some bonafide superstars in the last few years.
The next version of the American roster will be defined by a couple of storylines. The first is the big time skill in the top six. Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel will give this team the best one two punch at centre outside of the Canadians. They will be joined by a super talented crew of snipers on the wing that could really make this team dangerous.
The second and perhaps more important story is the depth the Americans will have on defence. There are so many great young American defensemen who are suited for the modern game. Outside of perhaps Sweden, this will be the best blue line in the tournament.
Lastly, there will be chances for whoever picks the American roster to keep line mates and defence partners together all over the roster, not to mention the possibility of two sets of brothers. This has been a priority for teams in the past and could happen again here.
Lets get into the roster, starting with the forwards. Like the Canadian side, we will go through locks and bubble guys.
One of the best young American players ever, Matthews can hang with the big boys. He might be the best shooter in the world.
Pretty Similar to Matthews. Eichel hasn’t found team success in the NHL, but he has been a beast himself. He had 73 points in 68 games this season.
One of the few elder statesmen on the team, Kane is an icon in American hockey. He isn’t on the team for show though, he had 84 points this season in just 70 games. Despite not being a captain for the Blackhawks, Kane could wear the “C” for this team.
I know this season was not the one people were expecting from Gaudreau, but I still think he is a lock on this team. He was dynamite playing with the talented Team North America at the 2016 World Cup, and could be scary playing with the level of skill on this team. Up and down this lineup there are big time shooters like Matthews and Eichel, who could make things happen with a feeder like Johnny.
Most Likely Will Make it
He probably should be in lock territory, but Tkachuk will almost certainly join his teammate Gaudreau on this team. A bonus for the Americans with Tkachuk, is that a lot of their forwards are more skilled players. Having Tkachuk will help them hang with teams like the Canadians who will try to make the game more physical.
I think Wheeler is going to make this squad. He wasn’t quite on his recent pace this season for points, but he gives another big body, and a veteran presence on a young team. Like Kane, Wheeler would be a candidate to wear the “C”.
Larkin is one of the guys that will help provide depth and match up with the Canadians. He can absolutely fly, and will be one of the key penalty killers for the team. Defence in the modern age is about speed, and Larkin can hang with the best in the tournament.
Three years ago he had 31 goals. Last year he had 34. This year 38 (in 71 games). And he kills penalties. Put him on the team.
Another guy who will be a lot of fun to watch when paired with some of the elite passers in this group, Boeser is another big body but can also skate. He probably isn’t quite in the Matthews / Eichel territory, but his wrist shot is one of the most dangerous in the game.
Miller was outstanding this year for the Canucks, scoring 72 points in 69 games. I think there are a big three down the middle for the Americans, but Miller would not be a bad option on the fourth line.
He had a good bounce back season this year with 32 goals and 66 points. He will need to keep the production high if he wants to make this team, but as it stands now he has a good chance at being in the forward mix.
These last three guys are more projections on where we might be in two years. Brady has put up solid but unspectacular point production in his first two years, scoring 45 and 44 points respectively. I think it helps that he is versatile and could play in the bottom six, where he would probably make his impact. And finally gives the Americans to create the ultimate pest line by putting a centre between two Tkachuks.
I like this guy for several reasons, not the least of which is his ability to play with Patrick Kane. He had a bit of a down year this year, but scored 41 goals as a 21 year old last season. If he bounces back he could be on the team.
It probably was not the rookie season he was hoping for, but the Americans could use Hughes to take the next step to superstardom before the next Olympics. We had Alexis Lafreniere on the Canadian squad, and same idea applies here: he is on the team for what he might be in two years, not what he is now.
The heavy favourite to win the Norris this year, Carlson put together a pretty impressive season with 75 points in 69 games. He’s on the first pairing, and will run a lethal power play for this squad.
He has taken a lot of heat for his regressing play, but his advanced numbers are still pretty good and last season he finished eighth in Norris voting. If he can avoid a major drop off over the next few years then he will be a good candidate to be on the squad.
I am going to do these next two pairings as just that. These guys play tons of minutes together in Columbus, and have formed one of the best young pairings in the NHL. Their familiarity with each other is a plus, but both guys would probably make the team regardless. They are young and can really skate, must have assets for this club.
Pesce and Slavin do not play together in Carolina, but their familiarity as teammates make them an ideal pairing. There are more flashy selections out there, but these guys can play big minutes and both of them have great advanced statistics.
A perfect seventh defensemen, someone who can come in and provide a spark to their team. Hughes is a favourite to win the Calder, no easy feat for a defensemen.
Another very deep group, there are a lot to choose from here.
I think the job is Helleybuck’s to start. He has been lights out for the Jets, with a .922 SV% this year. He will have some competition but probably gets the first shot.
Bishop will be waiting in the wings if Helleybuck falters. He was right behind Helleybuck with a .920 SV% this season.
There were a lot to choose from here, but I think Gibson gets the nod as the third string. His numbers weren’t great this year, but he was playing on a horrible Anaheim team, and should improve with a better squad in front of him.
Here is the roster in whole. Let me know what you think! Shoutout to TWC’s Karim Kurji for the awesome graphics!
Feature Image: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images