2016 World Cup Of Hockey Team Preview: Team USA
By: Matt Giusti
Team USA Roster
Head Coach: John Tortorella
Goalies: Jonathan Quick Los Angeles Kings, Ben Bishop Tampa Bay Lightning, Cory Schneider New Jersey Devils
Goaltending Overview: All three goalies that were picked for Team USA have all shown that at any given time they can steal a game on their own. Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has been a guy who has been one of if not the best at his position for 6 years now. The 30-year old Quick has been a vital piece in both of the Kings most recent Stanley Cups. Quick has also shown that he can do it at the international level, putting together a 3-2 record, a 2.17 GAA and a .923 SV% in the 2014 Olympics. Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is another guy that Team USA can count on in a big spot. Before going in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals this past spring, Bishop was putting together a monster postseason with a record of 8-2, a 1.86 GAA and .939 SV%. No disrespect to youngster Andrei Vasilevskiy, but I wonder if that series with Pittsburgh would have turned out different if Bishop was there for the whole thing. Having New Jersey Devils goalie Cory Schneider as the third goalie option further proves how deep the Americans are at this position.
Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien Winnipeg Jets, John Carlson Washington Capitals, Erik Johnson Colorado Avalanche, Jack Johnson Columbus Blue Jackets, Ryan McDonagh New York Rangers, Matt Niskanen Washington Capitals, Ryan Suter Minnesota Wild
Defensemen Overview: When looking up and down at the defensemen for Team USA, I see a good mix of premier shutdown defensemen and defensemen that can bring some offense from the backend as well. The defense will be led by Minnesota Wild defensemen Ryan Suter, who has been one of the best at shutting down the other teams best forwards for almost the past decade. But don’t overlook what Suter can bring on offense, as he put up 8 goals and 43 assists, playing in all 82 games for the Wild. On the opposite side of the spectrum is the Winnipeg Jets Dustin Byfuglien, who provides a tremendous amount of offense. Over the past three years, Byfuglien has potted 57 goals, while also improving on his play in his own end of the ice. Head Coach John Tortorella will have pair of Washington Capitals in Matt Niskanen and John Carlson, who bring two different styles of play to the table. The 29-year old Niskanen is usually asked to play a shutdown role for the Caps and does he ever do a good job of that. Meanwhile, John Carlson brings an above average offensive game and is great guy to have on the power play. And if you want a defensemen who doesn’t wow you with stats but is a great leader and does whatever is asked of him, then Ryan McDonagh of the New York Rangers is your guy. The 27-year old McDonagh has struggled with various injuries over the past few years, but he remains a Top 15 defensemen in the NHL today. Outside of Team Canada, this is best defensive group in the tournament.
Forwards: Justin Abdelkader Detroit Red Wings, David Backes Boston Bruins, Brandon Dubinsky Columbus Blue Jackets, Patrick Kane Chicago Blackhawks, Ryan Kesler Anaheim Ducks, T.J. Oshie Washington Capitals, Max Pacioretty Montreal Canadiens, Zach Parise Minnesota Wild, Joe Pavelski San Jose Sharks, Derek Stepan New York Rangers, James van Riemsdyk Toronto Maple Leafs, Blake Wheeler Winnipeg Jets, Kyle Palmieri New Jersey Devils
Forwards Overview: The forward unit for Team USA is a skilled but also a very gritty bunch, exactly what coach John Tortorella wants. The Americans will be led by this past seasons NHL MVP Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski, who probably would have won the Conn Smyth Trophy if the Sharks would have went on to win the Stanley Cup. The 27-year old Kane crushed all of his career numbers, finishing with 46 goals and 60 assists, in 82 games. The man they call “Little Joe” won’t wow you with overwhelming speed or talent but Joe Pavelski is one of the hardest working players in the league today and he is also a great leader. Like I mentioned above, Tortorella seems to love gritty two-way players and he made sure he has an abundance of those e types of players. Guys like David Backes, Brandon Dubinsky, Ryan Kesler and Justin Abdelkader will not only contribute on offense but they have no problem playing the body every time they’re out on the ice. Mix in skill players like Max Pacioretty and T.J. Oshie, you wont find many holes in this forward unit. People seem to be overlooking these forwards but they make other teams live miserable if they’re firing on all cylinders.
Team Overview: According to Bovada.com, Team USA is the fourth best favorite to win the whole thing at 13-2 odds. But looking at Team USA as a whole, this is a team that has great goaltending, defensemen who can do a little of everything and a great group of two-way forwards who will play hard every night. While I don’t think they will win the gold, don’t be surprised if they are playing in the gold medal game.