USA Hockey named David Leggio and Brandon Maxwell as the final two goaltenders for its Olympic team Thursday, hoping their experience in Europe and international play makes a difference.
Leggio and Maxwell join a team that already includes Ryan Zapolski, who is expected to be the starting goalie going into the Olympics. None of the three has ever played in the NHL during the regular season or playoffs but have several seasons under their belt in European professional leagues.
”They’re both very experienced in Europe and understand the game over there,” U.S. general manager Jim Johannson said. ”That led to our final decision that these guys are both pros, they’re both very experienced on the Europe ice and they have capabilities and abilities to keep your team in the game.”
Zapolski, Leggio and Maxwell were the three goalies the U.S. had at the Deutschland Cup tournament in November. Johannson said recently that five players were in the mix for the final two spots.
The 33-year-old Leggio has played the past three seasons in Germany and has been with the U.S. at two world championships. Maxwell, who is 26, has played three-plus seasons in the Czech Republic after being a sixth-round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 2009.
”Brandon Maxwell, he’s an elite puck-handling goaltender,” Johannson said. ”It potentially gives you another weapon on your breakout or alleviating pressure from your defense with his abilities with the puck. In David Leggio we got a guy that’s been, No. 1, a great teammate everywhere he’s been but also a very steady, consistent performer.”
U.S. captain Brian Gionta said Leggio and Maxwell were ”great team guys” at the Deutschland Cup.
The 31-year-old Zapolski has a 1.61 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in 34 games for Jokerit in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League. He’s the front-runner to be in goal when the U.S. opens the Olympics Feb. 14 against Slovenia. Coming out of the Deutschland tournament, coach Tony Granato expressed confidence in Zapolski as the Americans’ No. 1 goaltender and that has not changed.
”He’s the guy that’s had the best year of the three, and he’s been really solid all year playing in the KHL,” Granato said. ”We’re excited at the depth. They all have great track records playing internationally. They’re used to playing on the big sheet, they’ve worn the U.S.A sweater.”