What do you know: there’s a dearth of hockey news on the Sunday right after the Fourth of July. Unfortunately, that means we have not a whole lot of hockey news for you today.
However, due to the Fourth of July and the potential that NHLers will return to the Olympics, pundits have listed numerous starting players for a 2022 Team USA. Alas, here is who I would start for Team USA:
Left Wing: Kyle Connor – Connor is an all-around solid player and point producer. While skeptics could rightfully say that he’s having a bad year defensively, well, everyone on the Winnipeg Jets is having a bad year defensively. He’s currently 23 years old and has room to develop, while already demonstrating top-end ability.
Center: Auston Matthews – With no disrespect to Jack Eichel, I would pick Auston Matthews here. I think Matthews is a better passer and, until our right winger retires, the offense of this top line is going to be driven through the wings rather than the middle. Plus, in a weird way, it’s well established from his time in Buffalo that Jack Eichel does not need talent around him to produce. Team USA is better off giving Eichel his own line with a supporting cast around him and putting Matthews with the top wingers.
Right Wing: Patrick Kane – Until his game falls off a cliff, there really is not another American right winger who can touch Kane’s first-line spot. Unless Jack Eichel suddenly stopped playing center, right wing is all Kane.
Defense: Seth Jones and Zach Werenski – Sure, John Carlson is better than Werenski, but Team USA has a luxury in that their best defender (Seth Jones) plays 82 games a season with their third-best defender in Werenski. In such a short tournament with essentially no training camp prior as a team, the chemistry of Jones and Werenski, in addition to their top-end talent, makes them the best pairing at the Olympics.
Goalie: Connor Hellebuyck – In a toss-up between Hellebuyck and Gibson, I went with the University of Mass-Lowell product in Hellebuyck. Gibson is a phenomenal goalie, don’t get me wrong. Hellebuyck has dragged the Winnipeg Jets kicking and screaming into the play-in round. Gibson, while a stellar goalie in every right, is currently being outshined by Hellebuyck, and there’s really no debating that fact. However, in two years’ time, we could very well be saying the inverse.
What do you think? Who would you pick?
For smaller D1 schools like Rensselaer, hockey is the premiere program. It’ll be interesting when/if these small schools start cancelling hockey season and how NCAA eligibility is affected.
Some teams are already in a pickle regarding the Seattle expansion draft with some hard choices to make.
I, for one, welcome our new Finnish overlord.