The United States didn’t earn a medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics after an embarrassing 5-0 defeat to Finland in Saturday’s bronze medal game.
The fourth-place finish was a shocking result for a U.S. team that was expected to win gold after taking home the silver four years ago in Vancouver. Luckily for USA Hockey, the amount of good young American players at the NHL and AHL levels gives the nation hope for a better finish at the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea (if NHL players participate).
Let’s take a look at the players who could make up the 2018 Olympic roster.
Phil Kessel (TOR), Patrick Kane (CHI), Zach Parise (MIN), Alex Galchenyuk (MTL), Emerson Etem (ANA), Derek Stepan (NYR), Joe Pavelski (SJS), Max Pacioretty (MTL), Bobby Ryan (OTT), Beau Bennett (PIT), Charlie Coyle (MIN), Nick Bjugstad (FLA), James Van Riemsdyk (TOR), Kyle Okposo (NYI), Brandon Saad (CHI), T.J. Oshie (STL)
Team USA should have a good mix of veterans (Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski), players in their prime (Patrick Kane, Derek Stepan, Max Pacioretty, JVR) and hungry first-timers (Nick Bjugstad, Charlie Coyle, Alex Galchenyuk) at forward in 2018. Kane will only be 29 and is likely to still be among the most skilled offensive players in the world.
The additions of Galchenyuk and Bjugstad would give the Americans much-needed playmaking ability and power-play skill at center. Pavelski was the only top-tier offensive center on the 2014 roster, and a lack of goal scoring at this position hurt the Americans in Sochi against opponents — including Canada and Russia — with elite skill down the middle.
Emerson Etem, Brandon Saad, Kyle Okposo, Chris Kreider and Beau Bennett are the future of Team USA on the wings. Each player brings a two-way skill set to the ice, one that includes speed, goal scoring, toughness and a high hockey IQ.
Ryan Suter (MIN), Ryan McDonagh (NYR), Cam Fowler (ANA), Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), Torey Krug (BOS), Jacob Trouba (WPG), Seth Jones (NSH), John Carlson (WSH), Justin Faulk (CAR), Keith Yandle (PHX)
The United States should learn its lesson from 2014 and select more offensive defensemen for the larger Olympic ice in 2018. Veteran stay-at-home defensemen such as Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik should be replaced by young stars such as Torey Krug (leading scorer among rookie d-men) and Seth Jones. These two blue-liners have exceptional speed, powerful shots from the point and remarkable vision. They evade the opposing forechecks with quick, accurate passes and quarterback the power play from the point with tremendous poise. They are perfect players for the Olympic-sized ice.
Four talented young players who made their Olympic debuts in Sochi — Cam Fowler, Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Faulk and John Carlson — will have four more years of NHL experience and should be in their primes when the South Korea Games begin. Ryan Suter and Ryan McDonagh also are likely to make another Olympic appearance as the top shut-down pairing. Jacob Trouba could replace Suter as a shutdown d-man if the Minnesota veteran doesn’t play in South Korea.
The United States’ blue line in 2018 could easily be its best ever.
Jonathan Quick (LAK), John Gibson (ANA), Ben Bishop (TBL), Cory Schneider (NJD) Jack Campbell (DAL)
Jonathan Quick will be 32 in 2018 and should still be among the best goaltenders in the world. After a stellar performance in Sochi (3-2, .923 save percentage, 2.17 GAA), the L.A. Kings goaltender will have a great chance to start in South Korea.
He could face stiff competition from John Gibson, who’s arguably the top goalie prospect in the world and already has gold medal-winning experience with Team USA at the 2013 World Junior Championships. Gibson is expected to be the Anaheim Ducks’ starting netminder when the 2018 Olympic roster is finalized, and it would be surprising if he failed to make the team.
Ben Bishop and Cory Schneider should also be in the mix for a spot on the team. Bishop is arguably the leading Vezina Trophy candidate this season and Schneider has impressed on a bad New Jersey Devils team.
Nashville Predators general manager David Poile was the architect of the 2014 Olympic team. The best candidates to replace him for 2018 are Kings GM Dean Lombardi and Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman. Both men have several U.S. players on their NHL rosters and have shown an impressive ability to build talented rosters that consistently compete for championships. Lombard’s Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012, and Bowman’s Blackhawks won in 2010 and 2013.