When naming their first players to the World Cup roster, USA Hockey held out on a handful of guys that fell into one of two categories. The first was skaters who have been national team regulars but are maybe hitting the point in their career where they are about to fall out of favor. The other was the rising tide of young players who have made their case over the last year or two.
Like every other national hockey federation — and a couple of made up ones — USA Hockey will be selecting the final players for their 2016 World Cup of Hockey roster on May 27. Unlike other final rosters, there might not be many surprises. A lot of those expected names have been so good in recent weeks that it will be hard to turn them down.
Here’s a projection of who should be getting into those spots now.
Team USA’s Projected Final Roster Spots
Johnson is the only newcomer to the national team here. He seemed like a lock after last year’s postseason. A slow start to the year may have been a big part of what kept him off the team’s initial roster announcement. But he turned it up at the end of the season and has been key to the Lightning’s deep playoff run. His 17 points in 15 games is tied for fifth in postseason production.
Kessel and Backes are national team staples that were hit and miss throughout the year. Both have showed up in a big way during the playoffs and give the U.S. some fire power and depth to run with other teams. Kessel’s 17 points in 17 games is also tied for fifth and he leads all Penguins in scoring.
Stastny hasn’t been as sensational as the other two, but he’s been good and played his role well. A key for him, Johnson and Backes will be their ability to play center and the U.S.’s lack of center depth. Getting some versatility there could be a boon for the team when their depth down the middle just doesn’t compare to Canada.
That list leaves a few players snubbed and on the outside, like Kyle Okposo, Chris Kreider, Bobby Ryan and Nick Bjugstad, but many of those fringe players struggled late in the season and may have sealed their fate.
While their forward group is good, it lacks the bevy of high-end scoring talent that Canada, North America, Russia and even Finland will carry. Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski are the extent of their 40-goal guys. So, having a few defenders capable of potting a goal or two could be benefit the attack. John Carlson and Dustin Byfuglien are already on the team and offer that, but they can get more still with Faulk and Shattenkirk.
Honestly, with the season Faulk had, it’s amazing he wasn’t on the first announcement. Faulk has to be a lock. Shattenkirk should be close to that.
Krug is the fringe inclusion, but offers some versatility. Though, it’s easy to see U.S. brass using that last spot for a stay-at-home veteran type like Paul Martin. Other guys in the discussion should include Erik Johnson, Cam Fowler, Keith Yandle and Nick Leddy.
Team USA World Cup Roster Projection
(projected additions in italics)
Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning
Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings
Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils
Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets
John Carlson, Washington Capitals
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes
Torey Krug, Boston Bruins
Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers
Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild
Justin Abdelkader, Detroit Red Wings
David Backes, St. Louis Blues
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks
Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals
Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiems
Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild
Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks
Paul Stastny, St. Louis Blues
Derek Stepan, New York Rangers
Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.