This isn’t your four-years-ago Team USA.
Sure, plenty of the familiar faces are still around; Hilary Knight, Brianna Decker, Kendall Coyne Schofield et al are powers in women’s hockey.
Down two Lamoreuxs and a different American hockey platform, though, and it’s not going to look like the squad that stole a shootout gold medal win, and that’s not just because the Lamoureuxs are retired.
The next generation of American players is terrific. There might be more up and coming young talent than ever before. That’s good news for them — but it means there’s going to be some tough decisions.
LW: Kendall Coyne-Schofield, Alex Carpenter, Hayley Scamurra, Natalie Snodgrass, Hanna Brodt
C: Brianna Decker, Kelly Pannek, Abby Roque, Jesse Compher
RW: Dani Cameranesi, Hilary Knight, Amanda Kessel, Grace Zumwinkle
LD: Kacey Bellamy, Lee Stecklein, Savannah Harmon, Jincy Dunne
RD: Megan Bozek, Cayla Barnes, Megan Keller
G: Alex Cavallini, Maddie Rooney, Aerin Frankel
Honourable mentions: Katie Burt, Britta Curl, Nicole Hensley, Annie Pankowski
For cornerstone players, this is very likely their last Olympics, following the Lamoureuxs out the door from what’s been really the second generation of elite, landscape-changing players on Team USA.
There’s plenty of pressure to keep that ride going for as long as possible, but we’ve seen the Americans undaunted by making tough cuts before. Carpenter and Bozek, both likely to be serious contenders for spots in 2022, were surprise cuts three years ago.
Some of this is obvious: Knight, Decker, Kessel et al will be leading the group once again, if everything goes as planned.
Three players who were instrumental in the gold medal run in 2018 though, have since retired: Meghan Duggan, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and Monique Lamoureux-Morando.
That’s three roster spots to fill, but also three players whose impact will be almost impossible to replace.
On defense, gone are Shelly Picard, who retired, and Emily Matheson, who will be having a child this year. That’s two more slots and two more veteran players who will be difficult to replace.
It gets really interesting with Carpenter. She was one of the biggest surprises to not play in Korea in 2018, but it appears she’s back in favor with the program. She’s been playing overseas in the women’s KHL and putting up video game numbers, but she was also at the 2019 joint USA and Canada camp, where she played often.
She, along with Bozek and Pankowski, were notable additions to the 2019 Worlds roster. A lot has changed since then and there’s even more talent knocking on the door, but Carpenter and Bozek at least seem like they’ve played their way back into serious consideration.
Aside from Dunne and Harmon, it’s a veteran group on defense. Cayla Barnes, for being so young, already has an Olympics under her belt. Former Boston College teammate Megan Keller was there as well, along with several Worlds. Even down Picard and Matheson, USA seems set in that position group.
Some of these have been on the clear track to the Olympics for a while now; namely, Boston University’s Compher, Northeastern goalie Frankel and rising star Roque.
Roque and Compher both played well in the 2019 Rivalry Series with Canada, but Compher missed time last year with an injury. That shouldn’t impact her terribly, as she’s proven time and time again she’s elite.
Dunne is one of the most exciting new defenders. Out of Ohio State, she almost made the Olympic roster in 2014 when she would have been the youngest player to do so. She’s been with the program since 2012; it’s her time to shine.
Frankel made the Worlds roster a year ago, and has appeared to edge out former Boston College goalie Katie Burt. She might not play ahead of mainstays like Cavallini and Rooney, but Franekl has been rock solid again with the Huskies this year and is the clear future of the USA program.
Snodgrass hasn’t had a chance to perform on the international stage as often, but the way she played in her UConn career can’t be overlooked. She’s a bit of a wild card, and maybe it’s too much hype to project her to make the team, but she’s been with the program since 2014 and has consistently been a top scorer in Hockey East.
Her main competition for a role is with Curl, a junior at Wisconsin who has played on the U-18 team, where she had eight points in five games at the World Juniors in 2018.
Zumwinkle is really young, but she’s been consistently with the U-18 and U-22 teams along with scoring 25 goals in two consecutive seasons with Minnesota. She could be fun to watch break out in the international stage.
On the cusp
Burt hasn’t played at the same level she showed she could at Boston College or even in her one year in the NWHL. Inconsistent playing time in the PWHPA seems to have plagued her, and she wasn’t at evaluation camp in October.
She’s still showed a ridiculous amount of talent since she was a 17-year-old in Hockey East, so it’s impossible to rule her out entirely if she plays her way back, but it does appear unlikely at this point.
Then there’s Pankowski.
The former Wisconsin star didn’t make Worlds in 2020 and wasn’t at the October camp, which doesn’t bode well for her.
Pankowski was productive in the 2019 Worlds and the Rivalry Series, so she could always play her way back and it wouldn’t come as a shock, but with all the young stars rising, it’ll be tough.