With NHLers officially out of the 2022 Beijing Olympics, rosters for the upcoming tournament have been trickling in over the past few weeks. With no one from the NHL available, each national team had to get creative when assembling their roster. In the teams released so far, we’ve seen a mishmash of NCAA players, former NHLers, as well as various players playing across Europe’s many leagues.
One of the more interesting rosters to come out was that of Team USA. With so many American-born players currently playing college hockey in the NCAA, it gave Team USA a great opportunity to give some players who missed out on the World Junior tournament this season a chance to represent their country in a different tournament.
The American’s roster features 15 players currently playing in the NCAA, including five players from their 2022 World Junior roster. One notable omission is Calgary Flames 2021 first rounder Matthew Coronato. Let’s take a look at how he compares to the players named to USA’s roster and why he deserved a spot.
Breaking down the roster
As mentioned, the roster contains a total of 15 players currently playing in the NCAA with 10 forwards, four defencemen, and one goalie hailing from the NCAA. Let’s take a look at how each of the 10 forwards has done this season in the NCAA compared to Coronato.
Now let’s take a look at how Coronato’s look so far this season in his first year in the NCAA.
Harvard has actually only played 14 games so far this season. Add on the fact Coronato was away for a couple weeks at the World Juniors and the result is that he has only gotten into 13 games this year. That said, he’s still been producing at a solid pace for a rookie 19-year-old in the NCAA. At 12 points he ranks fifth on Harvard for points, although each player ahead of him is at least one year older and has more games played.
If we compare his totals to the selected roster of players, his points per game ranks ahead of 22-year-old 2017 fifth-round pick Noah Cates by as he has just two less points in nine less games played. It’s certainly a curious choice to include a 23-year-old producing at 0.63 points per game in the NCAA on the roster. Coronato has also put up more three points than Sam Hentges although Hentges has played six less games.
If we look at goals scored, Coronato has scored more goals than two 22-year-olds in Hentges and teammate Nick Abruzzese in one less game played. He also has the same amount as Cates in nine less games played. His 0.46 goals per game would rank ahead of four forwards on the roster, three of which are at least three years older than him.
Also of note is the fact that Marc MacLaughlin, a 22-year-old undrafted player who will turn 23 this year has right around the same points per game as Coronato with 22 points in 21 games compared to Coronato’s 12 points in 13 games. He’s also not far behind 23 year old Ben Meyers and his 1.09 points per game.
Knies over Coronato?
Further, the 10 forwards selected are older than Coronato, with eight of them being over 20 years old. It’s understandable that Team USA would want to take an older and more experienced roster to the tournament, however there are still two forwards the same age as Coronato on the roster.
Those two forwards are Matty Beniers and Matthew Knies, both of which were also selected in the 2021 draft. One selection makes sense, the other not so much.
Beniers is an obvious choice, as he was the second overall pick and has an impressive 1.25 points per game as a 19-year-old. That said, his production really isn’t that far ahead of Coronato’s considering he was a top two pick. At Coronato’s current pace he would have just 3 less goals across 24 games.
Knies meanwhile is sitting at the same points per game as Coronato this season, but was massively out produced by him in the USHL last season.
Last year in the USHL Coronato produced 85 points and 48 goals in just 51 USHL games which led to him being a top-13 pick in the 2021 draft. Knies meanwhile put up a much less impressive 42 points in 44 USHL games, and in the end was drafted 57th overall.
In fact in Knies’ 88-game USHL career he scored 87 points and 31 goals. So just two more points and 17 less goals in two seasons compared to Coronato’s single season 2020–21 output.
It’s pretty fair to say that Coronato is by far the more talented and dynamic player compared to Knies. With both players being the same age, it’s certainly a curious choice to have Knies on the roster over Coronato who was picked 44 spots higher at the 2021 draft.
Another noteworthy bit is that both players were on Team USA’s World Junior roster, with Coronato put in a much more prominent role for the Americans compared to Knies as Coronato was on the team’s top line, power play unit, and penalty kill unit. Team USA’s World Junior management team clearly thought that Coronato was the better player, so why did their Olympic management team not think the same?
If we look at each players height and weight we may get our answer. Knies stands at 6’3″ and 210 pounds, while Coronato is a much smaller 5’10” and 183 pounds. That most likely played a big factor in team USA’s selection unfortunately.
Ryan Pike also suggested another potential reason why Coronato wasn’t selected.
Both Abruzzese and Sean Farrell play with Coronato at Harvard so Pike’s reasoning does make sense. With both Abruzzese and Farrell being older than Coronato, perhaps Team USA was looking to reward some older players with an opportunity to represent their country and didn’t want to take another key play from Harvard’s roster.
A big opportunity
Coronato not being selected to represent Team USA at the Olympics is certainly disappointing for Flames fans who also lost the opportunity to watch Coronato at the World Juniors due to the tournament being cancelled. As a 2002 birthday Coronato will be ineligible for the 2023 tournament as well so the Olympics was his last chance for a little while to play for his country.
That said, as Pike mentioned above, with both of Harvard’s top scorers now away for a few weeks to play in the Olympics it opens the door for Coronato to take on a huge role for Harvard as a 19-year-old. In the end, lighting up the NCAA as the go-to forward on his team may be more beneficial to Coronato than playing in the Olympics anyway.