Hockey World Cup Betting Update: Projecting Team USA for 2016 WC Hockey
With the March 2 roster deadline approaching, here are the NHL players most likely to be named to Team USA’s hockey World Cup roster in September.
ALLAN MUIRJAN JANUARY 20, 2016
With just six weeks until the March 2 deadline for countries to name their initial 16-man roster, let’s take a look at how the American entry for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey is shaping up:
- Patrick Kane — Max Pacioretty — Tyler Johnson
- Blake Wheeler — Zach Parise — Joe Pavelski
- Kyle Okposo — Bobby Ryan — David Backes
- T.J. Oshie — Jason Zucker — Ryan Kesler
The center is clearly a source of concern. Johnson is a good bet to anchor the top line, but a string of injuries has prevented him from building on his breakout season with Tampa Bay last year. Now that he’s healthy, he needs to show that he’s up to the task with a strong second half. Pavelski may be the team’s best offensive pivot, but it’s his versatility that makes him so valuable.
Backes and Kesler are both unknowns. Both have size and experience on the front lines, but neither has set the world on fire this season. The Rangers’ Derek Stepan could take one of these spots.
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The right side has a lot of speed and skill, but the left side could have some open spots. Pacioretty and Parise are invincible. The most intriguing option is Zucker, whose speed and tenacity make him ideal for penalty kills or when the team requires an energy boost. Ryan, who was famously left off the Olympic team in 2014 after being pursued by Brian Burke, deserves a look, even on his off wing. Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri have also been mentioned.
Phil Kessel is the 13th forward on the roster because, despite his underwhelming performance for Pittsburgh this season, he’s too dynamic to leave off entirely. He has the potential to move into a top-six role. The question is, will he work hard enough to earn that chance? While he’s a strong candidate, Team USA’s brass may prefer someone with a little more versatility in that role, which could open up a spot for natural centers like Paul Stastny, Nick Bjugstad, or even Brandon Dubinsky, a favorite of Team USA/Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella.
- John Carlson – Ryan Suter
- Justin Faulk – Ryan McDonagh
- Erik Johnson – Cam Fowler
- Byfuglien, Dustin
The Americans have plenty of depth in their own end, and a good left/right balance should result in a highly effective unit. Carlson and Faulk can wreak havoc at five-on-five and on the power play, and the right side is beastly. Suter, a legitimate Norris Trophy candidate this season, will play significant minutes and anchor the penalty kill. McDonagh hasn’t been particularly sharp this season, and he could be left out of the first group, but his experience makes him a near-certainty. Johnson is currently out with a knee injury, but he has played well for the Avalanche this season.
Fowler has excellent mobility and offensive instincts, but he is also developing as a strong shutdown defender. Byfuglien is the unknown. Even with a stacked right side and no desperate need for his heavy shot on the power play, his presence alone may be enough to warrant an invitation. His ability to contribute early on is also advantageous. Torey Krug was difficult to leave out. He, Kevin Shattenkirk, Nick Leddy, and Jeff Petry could all end up in the mix.
- Schneider, Cory
- Jonathan Swift
- Bishop, Ben
Quick, who has two Stanley Cups and an outstanding performance in Sochi on his resume, may be the favorite to start for the Americans. But don’t dismiss Schneider, a player whose consistent excellence goes unnoticed while playing for the mediocre Devils. In 28 of his 39 appearances, he has limited his opponents to two goals or less.
Bishop led the Lightning to within two wins of the Cup last spring and has a sub-2.00 GAA this season, making him the only American with more than 20 games to make that claim. This trio provides Team USA with three capable starters and a group that is as deep as any in the tournament.