With the NHL season underway, anticipation for the 2022 Winter Olympics is growing. NHL players will get a chance to suit up for their countries in the Olympics for the first time since 2014. This series will dive deeper into the projected hockey rosters of each country.
Team USA has already named three players to their 2022 Olympic roster. Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, and Seth Jones will be suiting up for the red, white and blue in Beijing. While these players were already considered locks, many of the other roster spots are up for debate.
Here are my projected forwards, defensemen and goalies for the Team USA 2022 Olympic hockey roster:
Projected Team USA Olympic Hockey Roster
Matthew Tkachuk – Auston Matthews – Patrick Kane
Although the lines are clearly subject to change, this first line would be pretty lethal. Patrick Kane remains one of the most skilled forwards in the league and should have no problem setting up one of the NHL’s best goal scoring threats in Auston Matthews. Add Matthew Tkachuk’s ability to grind in the corners, win battles, and have a net front presence all while having first line skill and you have one of the best lines at the Olympics.
Kyle Connor – Dylan Larkin – Brock Boeser
The Jack Eichel loss at second-line center for team USA is a huge one. With Dylan Larkin taking Eichel’s spot at 2C, this line becomes one of the fastest in the Olympics thanks to bonafide speedsters Kyle Connor and Larkin. This line’s fast play should push defenders back, which should open up a lot of space for marksman Brock Boeser, whose coming off his third 20+ goal-scoring campaign.
Alex DeBrincat – J.T. Miller – Jake Guentzel
USA’s third line has a little bit of everything. Obviously, Alex DeBrincat profiles as the major scoring threat on this line after coming off his second-best NHL campaign. Jake Guentzel’s speed and smarts, meanwhile, allows him to play a bit more of a two-way game. Lastly, J.T Miller adds a bit more of a physical presence paired with good net play.
Johnny Gaudreau – Jack Hughes – T.J. Oshie
With the subtraction of Jack Eichel, the fourth-line center spot opens for team USA. It’s likely that this center role will either be given to the hot-hand or be strictly matchup based. With the step Jack Hughes took last season, however, paired with his skill, speed, and puck carrying ability, he earns the fourth-line spot. The former first overall pick will also get the chance to play alongside more high-end skill than he does in New Jersey, which should help his case. In this instance, he’ll play with another undersized yet speedy and crafty winger in Jersey born Johnny Gaudreau. Much like the center position, the fourth-line right wing position could easily go between T.J Oshie or Max Pacioretty.
Zach Werenski – Seth Jones
Why not reunite the former Columbus Blue Jackets pairing of Zach Werenski and Seth Jones?. It wasn’t long ago that both players had eclipsed the 40+ point mark during the 2018-19 season. Both possess great size, skill, and awareness, while also having chemistry due to time spent together in Columbus.
Adam Fox – Charlie McAvoy
Having the former Norris trophy winner on your second pair can’t possibly be a bad thing. Much like Jones and Werenski, Adam Fox and Charlie McAvoy have played together dating back to their time with the NTDP. Both possess very high hockey IQ and can contribute on both ends of the ice.
Adam Fox is a Ranger.
That's all. pic.twitter.com/q6bzZb8wbP
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) November 9, 2021
Quinn Hughes – Jacob Slavin
This is a great pairing as Quinn Hughes’s tendency to join the rush offensively will pair perfectly with Jacob Slavin’s defensive style. Team USA is gifted with a lot of elite offensive defenseman, therefore, they are very lucky to have one of the best defensive defenseman in the NHL on their side in Slavin. Whether Slavin is on the first, second, or third pairing, he should get big minutes, especially in critical matchups.
There probably isn’t much of any dispute who the number one guy in the crease will be for the red, white, and blue. Connor Hellebuyck has been arguably the best goalie in the NHL over the last 2-3 seasons. The 2020 vezina winner has failed to post under a .910 save percentage over the last four years.
Because he plays for a struggling Ducks team, John Gibson doesn’t quite get the recognition he is deserving of. The Ducks’ netminder has never posted more than a 3.00 GAA or a save percentage below .903.
There aren’t a ton of options for the third-string netminder for team USA, however, Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko could compete for the role. He’s a bit inexperienced when compared to the two ahead of him in the pecking order, but he’s proven he’s reliable starting goalie at the NHL level.
PP1: Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, Alex DeBrincat, Matthew Tkachuk, Adam Fox
PP2: Brock Boeser, J.T. Miller, Johnny Gaudreau, T.J Oshie, Zach Werenski
Notable Exclusions: Anders Lee, Jeff Petry, Phil Kessel, Brady Tkachuk, Torey Krug, Blake Wheeler, James van Riemsdyk, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, Ben Bishop, Matt Grzelcyk, Brett Pesce, Jason Robertson, Vincent Trocheck.
Although I believe many if not all my projected players will make the U.S. Olympic roster, I would swap one or two guys, starting with Anders Lee for Max Pacioretty. I am a huge Anders Lee fan. Lee brings leadership and an ability to win battles down low and in front of the net. He always gives a 110% and adds needed grit and size to the red, white, and Blue’s bottom-six.
1️⃣3️⃣ and 2️⃣7️⃣ on the 2-on-1… BOOM.
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 8, 2021
I would also insert Torey Krug for Ryan McDonagh. There is no mistake McDonagh has been great for the Bolts over the last few years in helping them reach the cup in back-to-back seasons. He’s also a bit older, however and slower than Chychrun. The Coyotes defenseman brings more skill and a new age defensive game to the US team. Chychrun is already standing out on a bad Arizona team, imagine how good he could look with USA.
As evidenced by their World Juniors success, USA hockey is continuing to ascend in the world hockey rankings and will undoubtedly come into the Olympics as one of the top teams. This Team USA projected hockey roster boasts a depth of scoring and speedy wingers, top-line centers, number one defenseman, and elite goaltending.