Projecting the 2022 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey roster

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We finally have an Olympic agreement! The NHL, IIHF, and IOC worked out a deal that will allow the league to send players to Beijing, the first time they will participate since the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

Individual federations have until Oct. 15 to submit their “long lists” before announcing final rosters in early January.

Now that we know players will be back at the Olympics, it’s time to give some early roster projections. We’ll re-visit this exercise in December as we get closer to final roster announcements.

The PHT team have submitted our initial rosters for both the U.S. and Canadian teams. Some very tough decisions were made!

First up, the United States. You can see our picks for Team Canada here.

Sean Leahy, NHL Writer

FORWARDS

Kyle Connor – Auston MatthewsPatrick Kane
Matthew Tkachuk  – Jack EichelAlex DeBrincat
Johnny GaudreauJ.T. MillerJake Guentzel
Max PaciorettyJoe PavelskiBrock Boeser
T.J. Oshie, Jack Hughes

Creating a U.S. roster in the past used to be an easy job. But that is no longer a case. While Canada might have tougher decisions, the American program has developed enough stars that some good names will likely be left off the final roster that will head to Beijing in February. The deep talent pool means that my roster sees the likes of Dylan Larkin, Blake Wheeler, Chris Kreider, Brady Tkachuk, and James van Riemsdyk watching from home.

U.S. general manager Stan Bowman will have the first three months of the NHL season to make those tough decisions and find line combinations that could potentially lead to success. For example: Jack Hughes made big strides last season and is likely a lock for future American international teams, but will he be able to do enough through December to earn a spot in the top 12?

DEFENSE

Jaccob SlavinCharlie McAvoy
Quinn HughesAdam Fox
Zach WerenskiSeth Jones
John Carlson, Ryan McDonagh

The blue line might be an area where the U.S. edges the Canadians. It’s a solid top-six with a pair of solid veterans who can serve as extra bodies. McAvoy, Fox, Werenski and Hughes are all 24-year-old and younger, setting up for a promising future internationally for the program. USA Hockey likes players who have been part of previous teams, which gives Jones a boost here — plus the fact that his GM is picking the team.

GOALIES

Connor HellebuyckJohn GibsonThatcher Demko

Both Gibson and Hellebuyck are 28 years old, but lurking in the shadows, maybe forcing a battle if NHL players go to the 2026 Olympics in Milan is Spencer Knight. For now, the two vets will fight for the No. 1 job in Beijing.

USA Olympics
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James O’Brien, NHL Writer

FORWARDS

Jake Guentzel – Auston Matthews – Jack Eichel
Alex DeBrincat – Dylan Larkin – Patrick Kane
Johnny Gaudreau – Joe Pavelski – Max Pacioretty
Matthew Tkachuk – Jack Hughes – Brady Tkachuk
T.J. Oshie, J.T. Miller

One big assumption, and a dangerous one, is that Jack Eichel can at least be close to 100%. This setup would at least move him to the wing, instead of at center, but there’s a huge chance he won’t be available at all.

Beyond that, this is about a mix of fun and symmetry. Specific line designation wasn’t always about who is “the best.” (Jake Guentzel is underrated, but maybe not that underrated.)

Picture a healthy Eichel transporting the puck, then setting up Matthews. Larkin can do the dirty work for the Kane and DeBrincat, who have built-in chemistry. And, of course, the greatest indulgence of all: unleashing the Brothers Tkachuk. Would their skills be too redundant on the same line? Let’s find out, although hopefully that doesn’t translate into an international incident.

DEFENSE

Zach Werenski – Charlie McAvoy
Jaccob Slavin – Adam Fox
Quinn Hughes – Jeff Petry
Seth Jones, John Carlson

Holy smokes, it’s pretty mind-blowing just how far this country’s defensemen have come along. Charlie McAvoy and Adam Fox both had legitimate claims to the 2020-21 Norris Trophy, with Fox actually winning it. Petry’s an outstanding find. My guess is politics would boost both Carlson and Jones up the lineup, and that’s fine enough … maybe Jones will look a bit more like a defenseman worth $9.5M by the 2022 Winter Olympics?

GOALIES

Connor Hellebuyck – Thatcher Demko – John Gibson

If it weren’t for Andrei Vasilevskiy, Hellebuyck would be my reflex answer for best goalie in the world. He’s propped up some truly dismal Jets defenses for multiple seasons; honestly, he’s done so to the point that I worry a bit about an eventual breakdown. Demko basically put on a Hellebuyck costume for the 2020-21 season, so he gets the young upstart spot. On the other end, Gibson’s nomination hinges on him performing at his previous elite level before everything unraveled with the Ducks. Things can change rapidly with goalies, but as of this moment, netminding looks like a significant strength for the U.S.

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Adam Gretz, NHL Writer

FORWARDS

Alex DeBrincat – Auston Matthews – Patrick Kane
Kyle Connor – Jack Eichel – Brock Boeser
Jake Guentzel – J.T. Miller – Max Pacioretty
Matthew Tkachuk – Jack Hughes – Johnny Gaudreau
Dylan Larkin, Brady Tkachuk

Assuming Jack Eichel is healthy and 100% and able to play, there is at least some really outstanding center depth here. Matthews, Eichel, Miller, Hughes, and all the way down to Larkin if you get there is a good enough group to medal with.

I thought the U.S. options on the right side are a little thin because I was trying to turn the page on the old guard of Phil Kessel, Blake Wheeler, and T.J. Oshie, so I am going to play Pacioretty and Gaudreau on their off sides and see how that goes. Not only because I want them on the team because they are among the 12-best American-born forwards right now, but also because the left side is actually really stacked with talent. Is it on Canada’s level? Maybe not. But there are not many counties in the tournament that can match up that left side.

DEFENSE

Adam Fox – Charlie McAvoy
Jaccob Slavin – Jeff Petry
Quinn Hughes – Zach Werenski
Ryan McDonagh, John Carlson

The top-three of Fox, McAvoy and Slavin is sensational. There are two Norris contenders in there with Fox and McAvoy (Fox already won it) and one of the better two-way defenders in the league in Slavin. Petry is no slouch, either to round out the top-four. One of the most underrated players in the league.

I do feel like McDonagh and Carlson will probably play a lot more than I would play them because that is how Team USA tends to work, and Jones will probably make his way onto the roster as well. But this is the group I am going with and I am happy with it.

GOALIES

Connor Hellebuyck – John Gibson – Thatcher Demko

John Gibson will probably be ecstatic to be playing behind a team that can support him, but the story here is Hellebuyck. He can be a game-changer for the United States and give them a chance against any opponent in the tournament. Including Canada. One of the best goalies in the world.

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Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor

FORWARDS

Kyle Connor – Auston Matthews – Patrick Kane
Johnny Gaudreau – Jack Eichel – Alex DeBrincat
Matthew Tkachuk – Jack Hughes – Brady Tkachuk
Jake Guentzel – Dylan Larkin – Blake Wheeler
J.T. Miller, Brock Boeser

You have to love the first line with Matthews centering Connor and Kane. Eichel’s health is still up in the air but if healthy, he absolutely deserves to go. I like the Tkachuk brothers taking care of Hughes, which will allow us to really see how good Hughes is with plenty of room.

DEFENSE

Zach Werenski – Seth Jones
Charlie McAvoy – John Carlson
Adam Fox – Jaccob Slavin
Jacob Trouba, Torey Krug

I would keep Jones and Werenski together as they have spent the last few seasons playing together in Columbus. McAvoy and Slavin provide great defensive play for offensive defenseman Carlson and Fox. 

GOALIES

Connor Hellebuyck – John Gibson – Spencer Knight

Hellebuyck is a no-brainer and Gibson is a lot better than his record of late indicates, on a poor Anaheim team. Knight is the future of the USA in goal and should gain valuable experience just observing.

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