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USA Hockey Facing Challenge of Assembling Olympic Roster Without NHL Players

13 Dec, 2017

By: Michael Popke
NCAA Standouts, Other League Players, Expected to be Among Team USA

The roster for USA Olympic men’s hockey team will be announced during the NHL’s 2018 Winter Classic at Citi Field in Queens, N.Y., on Jan. 1. But no NHL players will be part of that them, after the league’s controversial decision to bypass the Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, in February.

Forbes.com reported on the irony and chronicled how USA Hockey, sans NHL players, is struggling to build a roster:

U.S. Olympic coach Tony Granato used November’s Deutschland Cup as an opportunity to evaluate a group of his veteran Olympic hopefuls, most of whom are playing with teams in Europe or the U.S. minor leagues. The group, which included past Olympians Brian Gionta (2006) and Ryan Malone (2010), went 0-3 in the tournament, losing 2-1 to Slovakia, 5-2 to Russia and 5-1 to Germany.

It’s expected that Team USA will augment the players it keeps from the Deutschland Cup roster with a handful of NCAA players. Junior forwards Troy Terry (Denver) and Jordan Greenway (Boston University) are two likely candidates — 20-year-olds who were standouts on the gold medal-winning 2017 U.S. World Junior squad. In September, Terry and Greenway were tagged to represent men’s hockey at the Team USA Media Summit in Park City, Utah.

“If you looked at the three games, we played well enough to win all three. It didn’t happen,” Granato told the Wisconsin State Journal. “So from that standpoint, there [were] a lot of good things to be excited about. The disappointing part is we lost the games. The good part is they didn’t mean anything.”

USA Hockey recently announced that Team USA’s final 25-man roster “will be comprised of college players, American Hockey Leaguers and Americans playing professionally in Europe.” For details about the selection process, click here. And for a list of all leagues allowing players to skate for Team USA, click here.

While there's no shortage of good players, consideration also has to be given to the disruption teams in the AHL and others will experience if their rosters are gutted of standout athletes. In addition, it has the potential to decrease spectator interest (and therefore economic impact) for the affected teams' games.

“When you hear the NHL guys aren’t coming, you think, ‘Who the heck is going to play?’” Granato told USA Today. “But when you see the talent pool, you go, ‘Wow, there are still some exciting players with great international experience.’”

Granato and Team USA will be facing stiff historical odds. The United States has not won Olympic Gold since 1980’s “Miracle on Ice,” and SBNation.com claims “Team USA would’ve been loaded,” with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, Ryan Suter and Justin Faulk.

“The Olympic men’s hockey tournament should still be fun to watch in February, particularly if a ragtag group of American kids can come together to shock the world like it did 37 years ago,” SBNation.com concluded. “A gold medal is a gold medal.”

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