And just like that, the dream of watching Auston Matthews, Quinn Hughes, and Johnny Gaudreau represent the United States at the 2022 Winter Olympics is … well, just that: a dream. NHL players will not participate in the Beijing Winter Games due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead, the United States will turn to the best non-NHLers to fill out their roster, just as they did in 2018. Four years ago, Team USA finished third in Group B and did not medal. Now, some of those same players will have a chance at redemption.
With that being said, let’s take a look at 25 forwards, defensemen, and goalies who could make up this year’s edition of the United States Men’s Olympic Hockey Team.
Projected Roster for the United States
|Mark Arcobello||Andy Miele||Bobby Ryan|
|Michael Mersch||Matt Beniers||Brian O’Neill|
|Kenny Agostino||Peter Mueller||Reid Boucher|
|Cole Schneider||Nick Shore||Ryan Lasch|
|Jordan Schroeder||Carter Camper|
|Jordan Schmaltz||Steven Kampfer||Strauss Mann|
|Jake Sanderson||Nate Prosser||Brandon Maxwell|
|Luke Hughes||Nick Ebert||Drew DeRidder|
|Ryan Gunderson||Jonathon Blum|
Bobby Ryan Leading the Way
After barely missing the cut to make the Detroit Red Wings, Bobby Ryan has sat out the 2021-22 NHL season. Surely, Ryan would have preferred to play in the NHL this year, but representing his country at the 2022 Winter Games is quite the consolation prize.
“I would absolutely throw my name in the hat and see if there was interest from Team USA,” Ryan told The Athletic. (from ‘No, Bobby Ryan doesn’t think NHL players are going to the Olympics — but he’s ‘definitely’ interested’ – The Athletic – 12/21/21)
Ryan and his 569 career NHL points would be an outstanding get for the U.S. He previously competed in the 2010 Olympic Games and would essentially serve as this year’s Brian Gionta – a once great player who can guide an inexperienced group and make the case for one more shot at NHL action.
If Ryan is selected and agrees to go, expect the veteran to play top-six minutes for Team USA and have a role on the power play. He may not have the agility he used to, but Ryan is still a highly skilled player capable of producing.
Analyzing the U.S. Roster
Joining Ryan on the projected roster are five 2018 Olympians: forwards Brian O’Neill and Mark Arcobello, defensemen Ryan Gunderson and Jonathon Blum, and goaltender Brandon Maxwell. In five 2018 Winter Olympic games, O’Neill recorded four points – one goal and three assists. Arcobello added a goal and assist as well.
In addition, a couple of AHL stars will be able to compete. Forwards Michael Mersch and Cole Schneider are not under contract with an NHL team and thus are eligible to join Team USA. The two could provide a scoring punch up front, playing at a point-per-game pace with their respective AHL clubs.
We could also see a handful of college kids head overseas, just as Troy Terry, Jordan Greenway, Ryan Donato, and Will Borgen did in 2018. Matt Beniers, Luke Hughes, and Jake Sanderson are expected to be key contributors for the U.S. World Junior Championship team and could earn themselves spots on the Olympic team with strong performances.
Like Ryan, defenseman Nate Prosser would be one of the elder statesmen on the team. Also a free agent, Prosser skated with the Philadelphia Flyers last season, joining the team for six games after playing most of the 2020-21 season in the AHL. A veteran presence like Prosser could pair well with a rising star, whether that’s Sanderson or Hughes.
Rounding out the skaters are a collection of experienced professionals who have spent the 2021-22 season in Europe. Forward Ryan Lasch leads the SHL in scoring with 36 points in 28 games for Frolunda. In addition, Kenny Agostino and Andy Miele join O’Neill in the KHL’s top-30 scorers. As you can see, while this team lacks NHL talent, they will bring quality players from the international scene.
Finally, former University of Michigan standout Strauss Mann will compete with Maxwell for the starting job in net. The 23-year-old has been impressive for Skelleftea in the SHL this season after turning pro.
Just Missed the Cut
LW Hank Crone, C Alex Broadhurst, C Garrett Roe, C Nathan Smith, RW Matt White, RW Jeremy Bracco, RW Sasha Pastujov, D Scott Morrow, G Dryden McKay.
For the original United States roster projection with NHL players, click here.
Tony Wolak is based in the Washington D.C. area and covers the Detroit Red Wings for THW. As a former junior and college hockey player, Tony has a unique perspective on Red Wings topics.