When the NHL decided to not participate in the upcoming Olympics, the league may have robbed Team USA of its best chance to win a gold medal since 1980. The last time Team USA Hockey took the ice, it was an older unit including the likes of Ryan Callahan, Dustin Brown, and Ryan Miller. And unsurprisingly, the team disappointed; failing to medal as Canada eventually won gold. The 2018 Olympic team is a collection of amateur and ex-NHL players, leaving many to wonder just how good of a squad the country could have produced if pro players were participating.
USA’s Rising Stars
The NHL pulling its athletes from the Olympics could not have happened at a worse time for U.S. hockey. The league has seen an explosion of young superstars since the last winter games. Scottsdale’s Auston Matthews was the number one overall picked in the 2016 draft, and tallied 40 goals in his first season. He was the most-hyped American prospect since….. the year prior. Massachusetts’ own, Jack Eichel was selected behind Connor McDavid in the 2015 draft. The 21-year-old Eichel has more career goals than McDavid so far in his young career. Eichel and Matthews would have joined a Team USA lineup ripe with talent. The Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau is top-five in league scoring this season, and Canucks’ winger Brock Boeser leads all rookies in goals. Veterans like Patrick Kane and Ryan Kesler would’ve provided the perfect nucleus for a U.S. squad looking for its first gold medal in nearly forty years.
Line 1: Johnny Gaudreau – Auston Matthews – Pat Kane
Line 2: Blake Wheeler - Jack Eichel – Phil Kessel
Line 3: Max Pacioretty – Joe Pavelski – Brock Boeser
Line 4: Vincent Trocheck – Ryan Kesler – T.J. Oshie
D1: Ryan Suter – Seth Jones
D2: Zach Werenski – John Carlson
D3: Cam Fowler – Shayne Gostisbehere
G: Jonathan Quick – John Gibson