It may not be the roster that USA hockey fans were looking forward to seeing play in the winter Olympics that are set to begin on February 3. But with the virus playing havoc with the National Hockey League, Plan B needed to be used. Instead of seeing NHL players, hockey fans will see a mix of players from the AHL, college, and Europe representing the Red, White, and Blue. How quickly this group can become a finely tuned unit will be a key to whatever medal hopes this team might have.
John Vanbiesbrouck was the man in charge of putting this team together as team USA general manager. While this must have been at times a difficult task, the former NY Rangers netminder searched far and wide to find talent to fill the roster. The breakdown is as follows: 15 are playing NCAA hockey, eight are playing currently in Europe, and two are in the AHL. Of the 25 that have been named to the roster, one has Olympic experience, and six have played at the NHL level. The average age of this team is 25 years which will make this the youngest team since 1994 when that team was 19 years old. The team will have 14 forwards, eight defensemen, and three goalies to dress.
The man in charge of making the game-day lineup decision will be head coach Dan Quinn. He has coaching experience in both college at Boston University and at the NHL level with the New York Rangers. He will be assisted by Mike Hastings, Brett Larson, Scott Young, and David Lassonde. The roster they will have at their disposal has all played college hockey at the division one level. Ten of these players have spent time with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program. 21 have played in the USHL and one who was a part of the NAHL. An interesting mix to be sure and little time to get them ready for their first game which is set for February 10, when Team USA will take on the host country China. These two teams are in the same group as Canada and Germany.
Let’s introduce some of these players. The lone Olympian is Brian O’Neill who was a part of the 2018 U.S. roster. Today he is with the KHL league and is third in the league in assists with 33 and is 11th in points with 42. Kenny Agostino, also in the KHL, is seventh in goals with 20 and 14th in the league in points with 40. From the college ranks, there is Nathan Smith from Minnesota State who is leading the country in points and is one of nine college players on this team who are averaging a point a game or better this season. From the group of six who have some NHL time, there is Nick Shore who has 299 regular-season games under his belt (18g, 41a, 59 points), and Steven Kampfer who has played in 231 regular-season NHL games (15g, 24a, 39 points). Between the pipes, the leading contender may be Strauss Mann who leads the Swedish league in both goals against average at 1.77, and save percentage at 930%. His competition will come from Pat Nagle who plays for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL and has a 2.74 GA, and a .897 save percentage. Drew Commesso, currently the netminder of B.U. Terriers was scheduled to be a part of the 2022 U.S. National Junior Team before Covid wiped out the tournament brings a 2.67 GA and a 907 save percentage to the group.
Team USA will have their work cut for them once the hockey tournament gets underway. It would appear that the game vs Germany may be the one that decides if this team has a shot at a medal or not. How this team will jell will go a long way toward answering that question.
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