College players make up two-thirds of the U.S. Olympic hockey roster for Beijing, a significant increase from 2018, when the NHL also opted out.
USA Hockey unveiled its 25-player roster on Thursday with 15 college players, headlining 2021 Seattle Kraken’s No.2 pick Matty Beniers and 2020 Ottawa Senators No.5 pick Jake Sanderson . Brendan Brisson, a Beniers, Michigan teammate and a 2020 Vegas Golden Knights first-round draft pick, has also been named to the team.
The United States changed less than four years ago when Troy Terry, Ryan Donato, Jordan Greenway and Will Borgen were the only NCAA players on a squad mostly made up of older professionals playing in Europe. Donato led the USA in goals, Terry in assists, Greenway was one of the best players in the tournament and their contributions raised the level of confidence this time around to draw on more college players .
“It took that hesitation away,” said Scott Young, who is back as an assistant, this time under coach David Quinn. “We weren’t afraid to be young. We weren’t afraid to go young and hungry.
This includes in the net. Recent Michigan graduate Strauss Mann, who plays in the Swedish Hockey League, is expected to be the starter. Joining him is Boston University’s Drew Commesso, who was a goaltender for the United States at the World Junior Championship, which was called off four days later.
Sanderson, Beniers and University of Minnesota defenseman Brock Faber are the other junior world championship players who have been named to the squad. The other NCAA players are Nick Abruzzese and Sean Farrell of Harvard, Ben Meyers and Matthew Knies of Minnesota, Nathan Smith of State of Minnesota, Noah Cates of Minnesota-Duluth, Mark McLaughlin and Drew Helleson of Boston College and Sam Hentges and Nick Perbix of St. Cloud State.
Forwards Brian O’Neill, Kenny Agostino, Andy Miele and Nick Shore and defensemen Steven Kampfer, Aaron Ness and David Warsofsky are American players with NHL experience.
“We have good players everywhere, whether it’s in the NHL or college hockey,” Sanderson said earlier this week. “I’m super excited to play with these guys, right after playing (a lot) of them in college. We just have to go out there, do our best, and expect the best.
USA Hockey executives and coaches knew they needed older players to run the tournament, which begins February 9 and ends February 20. The United States will face off against China on February 10.
“We think we have enough strength and enough men to balance that out,” Young said. “You don’t want to go too much in one direction anyway, but we think we’re going to be quick, we think we’re going to be able to put pressure on teams and play real fast and we think we’ve got a lot of skills. the matches get a little bigger, stronger, rougher, we also have big and strong guys. “
O’Neill is the only one to return from the 2018 squad, which lost to the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals.
“We hit a post with two minutes left and then we ended up losing in the shootout (with a chance) to go to the semi-finals,” said Young. “It was so close for us to go and play for a medal. We expect to be successful.
Defenseman Brian Cooper, who plays in Sweden, and goaltender Pat Nagle, who plays in the American Hockey League with Lehigh Valley, complete the American roster.
KREJCI FOR THE CZECH
Longtime Boston Bruins center David Krejci heads the Czech squad, which also includes former NHL forwards Michael Frolik, Tomas Hyka, Vladimir Sobotka, Roman Cervenka, Lukas Sedlak and Michal Repik and the defenders Jakub Jerabek, Tomas Kundratek and Libor Sulak.
Krejci, 35, played 1,088 games with the Bruins in the previous 15 NHL seasons and decided to return to his homeland to play in front of his friends and family. He is one of four players for the Czech Extraliga squad, while 12 are from the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League.
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