Sportsnet.ca will be projecting rosters for September’s World Cup of Hockey between now and when teams announce their first 16 selections beginning March 2. Today: United States.
One of the unique aspects of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey is the addition of Team North America, comprised of players who will be 23 years old as of Sept. 1, 2016.
Of course, unique might not be the way Team USA’s general manager Dean Lombardi looks at things, with the March 2 deadline to name his first 16 players less than a week away. Just going by the current National Hockey League scoring figures, Team USA finds ineligible their top scoring left winger (Johnny Gaudreau), the third highest scoring left winger (Brandon Saad), and the second and third highest scoring centres behind Joe Pavelski, Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin.
Watch: World Cup of Hockey Roster Announcement | March 2 at 4 p.m. ET on Sportsnet
Team USA has evolved into a steady, equal competitor for Team Canada on the international stage, but their depth will be tested at this World Cup with so many good young American players lost to the U24 roster. Team Canada loses players as well, but the pool from which the big team draws is much deeper north of the 49th parallel, than it is south.
The one place we’re not real high on this US team is down the middle. Joe Pavelski is a fantastic player, but could well be the first line centre on this team. We’ll give that position to Tyler Johnson for now, but this is a player who has 15 assists this season in 47 games. Think of the No. 1 centres the other teams will have — Anze Kopitar, Sidney Crosby, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nicklas Backstrom, Connor McDavid — and the U.S. comparison is lacking somewhat.
Team USA is stacked on the right side though, with league-leading scorer Patrick Kane and Blake Wheeler, who has become Winnipeg’s most dangerous forward. I’ve got Kyle Okposo and Kyle Palmieri on my team for now, but that doesn’t leave any room for T.J. Oshie, which could be a problem.
Max Pacioretty, Zach Parise and James van Riemsdyk are locks on the left side, all mainstays of any Team USA. After that, Nick Foligno’s poor season in Columbus might sway me over to the steady Justin Abdelkader, who would be better in a checking role. His speed will be needed.
On defence, the U.S. is deep in talent, though it should be said Dustin Byfuglien is the only American among the top 10 scoring defencemen in the NHL at the time of this writing. Ryan Suter is a 29-minute defenceman in Minnesota, and he’ll anchor a strong blue-line with Byfuglien, Justin Faulk, Ryan McDonagh and John Carlson.
In what looks to be a run ‘n’ gun tournament however, they could use an Erik Karlsson, Drew Doughty or Duncan Keith type, something the Americans might have in Shayne Gostisbehere, but he is property of Team North America.
Head Coach: John Tortorella
GM/Executive Committee Members: Dean Lombardi (GM), Paul Holmgren (assistant GM), Brian Burke (Sr. Advisor), Jim Johansson (hockey operations).
Line 1: *Max Pacioretty *Tyler Johnson *Patrick Kane
Line 2: *Zach Parise *Joe Pavelski *Blake Wheeler
Line 3: *James van Riemsdyk David Backes Kyle Okposo
Line 4: Justin Abdelkader Derek Stepan Kyle Palmieri
Extra *Ryan Kesler
1st pair: *Ryan Suter *Dustin Byfuglien
2nd pair: *Ryan McDonagh *Justin Faulk
3rd pair: Keith Yandle *John Carlson
Extra Kevin Shattenkirk
Starter: *Cory Schneider
Backup: *Jonathan Quick
Reserve: *Ben Bishop
* Denotes Group of 16 named on March 2.
Names that could still make things interesting:
RW Phil Kessel, RW Bobby Ryan, LW Nick Foligno, RW T.J. Oshie, C Nick Bjugstad, C Charlie Coyle, D Cam Fowler, D Torey Krug, D Matt Niskanen, D Erik Johnson.