On Mar. 2, all World Cup teams will have to announce an initial 16-man roster, laying the foundation of their country’s World Cup of Hockey bid. Below, I project the USA World Cup roster for the 2016 tournament.
Joe Pavelski – Derek Stepan – Patrick Kane
Max Pacioretty – Paul Stastny – Bobby Ryan
Zach Parise – Ryan Kesler – Blake Wheeler
Chris Kreider – Tyler Johnson – T.J. Oshie
Possibilities: Nick Bjugstad, James van Riemsdyk, Kyle Okposo, Brock Nelson, Jason Zucker
I don’t love the idea of the extra forward being Phil Kessel, simply because the U.S. center depth pales in comparison to Canada. It’s hard to see the extra forward being anyone but a center. But if the roster has Joe Pavelski on wing, he can act as additional center depth if Kessel draws into a wing position.
Of those in that “Possibilities” group I think Kyle Okposo is the borderline guy who the U.S. could use. With Dean Lombardi’s history of roster construction and the kind of rosters that John Tortorella likes, it’s easy to see how Okposo finds his way onto the team. Since leaving college, he’s played for the U.S. in three World Championships, but never on the big stage of the Olympics or World Cup. He’s maybe able to jump in there in place of Bobby Ryan.
I love the idea that Brock Nelson or Jason Zucker could claw their way into the discussion, but it’s tough to see them coming into the lineup for real. Putting them in the lineup could signal a shift in philosophy for USA Hockey, who has traditionally fielded bigger teams that focus on muscle rather than speed and offensive prowess. Zucker and Nelson as depth players would be a step toward that and possibly an understanding that there’s a lot of that kind of talent coming down the pike with Jack Eichel, Johnny Gaudreau, Brandon Saad, Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Zach Werenski and Dylan Larkin potential pieces of U.S. best-on-best rosters in the future.
Nonetheless, with the history of U.S. roster construction, the players available, and Lombardi at the helm with Tortorella on the bench, it seems unlikely.
Ryan Suter – Justin Faulk
Torey Krug – Kevin Shattenkirk
Ryan McDonagh – Erik Johnson
Possibilities: Cam Fowler, Paul Martin, Keith Yandle, Nick Leddy, Brooks Orpik, Dustin Byfuglien, Jeff Petry
Here’s maybe where the U.S. team is deepest.
I’m throwing in three guys who weren’t a part of the Olympic roster. Kevin Shattenkirk gives the team two serious power play threats on the blue line along with Justin Faulk. Torey Krug gives them a puck mover who has some versatility and a younger player to start forging the defensive group of the future.
It’s a tough call, because Cam Fowler, Dustin Byfuglien and Jeff Petry are all worthy and his list doesn’t include a ton of penalty killer specialists. Yet, with Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Suter, Justin Faulk and John Carlson, there’s plenty of defensive skill present.
Possibilities: Craig Anderson, Ryan Miller, Jimmy Howard
Realistically, there’s no reason to announce all three goaltenders on the initial roster. In fact, it’s probably a very bad idea. Nonetheless, this trio is nearly a lock. It’s hard to imagine how they get unseated. So they not only get the nod on the roster, but are a part of my 16-player announcement.
More World Cup Roster Projections:
Team Canada World Cup Roster Projection
Team Czech Republic Roster Projection
Team Europe World Cup Roster Projection
Team Finland World Cup Roster Projection
Team North America World Cup Roster Projection
Team Russia World Cup Roster Projection
Team Sweden World Cup Roster Projection
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.