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.

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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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    Ovechkin, and Ovi Jr., take the ice at All-Star skills night

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    SUNRISE, Fla. — When you’ve got the second-most goals in NHL history, you’re evidently permitted to bring a guest onto the ice for the All-Star Skills competition.

    That’s why there were two No. 8 Washington jerseys out there Friday night.

    Capitals star Alex Ovechkin took the ice with his Metropolitan Division teammates – and his oldest child, 4-year-old Sergei.

    Sergei, named for Ovechkin’s late brother, was wearing an Ovi Jr. jersey. The kid has built a bit of a following in recent weeks, after scoring a goal at a Caps practice in December and playing a role in helping the Washington crowd celebrate his dad’s 800th goal.

    It was Ovi Jr.’s first chance at being part of an All-Star weekend. His father hasn’t participated at All-Star since 2018, either because of COVID-19 or injuries. The last time his dad played in an All-Star event, Sergei hadn’t been born.

    Alex Ovechkin has 812 goals. He only trails Wayne Gretzky’s 894 in NHL history.

    And later in the night, Ovi Jr. got to center a line alongside his dad and Pittsburgh great Sidney Crosby. They each got an assist on a goal that Sergei scored – beating Roberto Luongo, the Florida great who came out of retirement for All-Star weekend.

    Said Ovechkin after his son scored: “I think he’s really enjoying it.”

    WELCOME HOME, LU

    Luongo got to be part of one more All-Star competition.

    In a building where a banner bearing his No. 1 jersey hangs – he’s the only former Panthers player to have that distinction – Luongo was a celebrity goaltender during the Breakaway Challenge during the Skills Competition on Friday night.

    He stopped his lone shot in the breakaway, off the stick of Toronto’s Mitch Marner. On one hand, Marner is the Maple Leafs’ leading scorer this season. On the other hand, he was also wearing a white suit, sunglasses and a light blue T-shirt to keep with a “Miami Vice” theme.

    Luongo was up to the challenge. Marner tried to beat him to the glove side, but Luongo got enough of it to make the save – then flopped forward to cover up the rebound, the smile clearly seen through his mask.

    “You got too close,” Luongo told Marner.

    Later, Luongo told ESPN during the telecast of the event that “this is my house. This is my home right here. The crease is my home.”

    Luongo’s pads paid tribute to his career – the design paid tribute to his time both as a member of the Panthers and the Vancouver Canucks.

    He also took part, and scored a goal, in a Florida alumni game on Wednesday night.

    REMEMBERING JIMMY

    Sergei Ovechkin – who knocked a shot into an open net during a stoppage of the skills events – wasn’t the only child who got a great view of the night.

    Philadelphia forward Kevin Hayes has his 3-year-old nephew Beau with him for All-Star weekend. Beau’s father was Jimmy Hayes, Kevin Hayes’ brother.

    Jimmy Hayes was 31 when he died in 2021 with fentanyl and cocaine in his system. He played for four NHL teams, including Florida.

    Kevin Hayes is part of an All-Star weekend for the first time.

    ANTHEM POISE

    “The Star-Spangled Banner” was performed by the South Florida Gay Men’s Chorus, and group crushed it – never minding that the crowd, representing several different fan bases, was going to shout some term specific to their team at various points in the lyrics.

    Florida fans shout along with “red” and “Knight,” one a nod to one of the team’s primary colors, the other for goaltender Spencer Knight. There also were some shouts from other fan bases; some St. Louis fans, for example, could be heard singing “home of the Blues” instead of “home of the brave” to close the song.

    And “O Canada” performer Hannah Walpole had some shouting as she sang as well, particularly when she reached the “true North” portion of those lyrics – something typically heard at Winnipeg games.

    SLAP SHOTS

    Cale Makar, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner from the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, was the first participant in the Fastest Skater event – the opening competition of the night. He fell coming around the second turn. … Tampa Bay’s Pat Maroon, one of the broadcasters on the event, reported that he was “freezing” by working at ice level. “I’m used to the gear,” said Maroon, who was in a blazer and open shirt Friday night. … A big hit for those used to the regular colors of FLA Live Arena – and basically all other hockey arenas – was the ocean-water-shade of blue used for the blue lines and the creases. The faceoff dots at the circles on either end of the ice aren’t the standard solid red this weekend, but depict an image of the sun instead.

    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.