Following a pair of heartbreaking losses to Canada in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, the men's and women's U.S. hockey teams will look forward to 2018 as their next chances to claim gold.
While the men's hockey team still has bronze to play for against Finland on Saturday, their chances of reaching the top of the podium are gone. The women are fresh off a devastating overtime loss to Canada in the gold medal game where they held a 2-0 lead in the third period.
There are plenty of questions for each team as they look forward to future competition, up through the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. While a ton is guaranteed to change between now and then, there are some immediate takeaways to make when looking toward the future.
Let's break down what that will look like for each team.
In 2010, the best American players were young and their potential was untapped. This year, many of them were in their primes and should still very much be around four years from now.
If the depth is right come 2018, the U.S. should have no problem putting together one of the best rosters—if not the best—in the world once again due to their many star players.
Of course, the men still have work to do in Sochi. They'll play Finland for bronze on Saturday, and per USA Hockey, head coach Dan Bylsma is ready:
Patrick Kane, at 25, has been one of the most dangerous players in the tournament. James van Riemsdyk has made huge strides and is proving to be a decent contributor at 24, so he will be at that peak prime age along with Kane come Pyeongchang.
Ryan McDonagh could be the team's best blueliner come 2018. The 24-year-old Rangers defenseman had himself a great Games this year and played his best during America's semifinal loss to Canada, when nothing was going right for the U.S.
Also look for Predators rookie D-man Seth Jones to break the roster by then. The 2013 fourth overall pick is currently 19, so expect for him to be firmly established as a prominent defenseman by then.
Some of the most notable players, however, will be past their primes in 2018. Captain Zach Parise will be 34 years old. T.J. Oshie will be 31 and David Backes will be 33.
Just as well, goalie Jonathan Quick will be 32. Ryan Miller was just 33 heading into this tournament, and he was picked over for the starting spot for Quick—far from surprising, but still worth noting as Quick will be of a similar age come 2018.
But ages like that aren't overly alarming. If anything, that much experience and two straight Olympic Games ending with bitter losses to Canada will give this team just what it needs to get past their ultra-talented and pesky rival.
Thanks to featuring a number of star players, the key to this team has slowly shifted from youthful talent to experience. Players like Parise, Backes, Kane and Oshie will be leading this team as far as these past experiences will take them.
The women's team has a bit more continuity in the international spotlight for their 'A' team, so to speak, as they compete in the World Championships every year—usually against Canada in the final.
They will defend their gold medal from the 2013 World Championships in 2015, since they do not hold top-level championships during Olympic years.
When that event in Malmo, Sweden, comes, they will have to hold off a Canadian squad that will surely still be seeking revenge after their painful 3-2 loss in 2013 in front of their home fans.
Even with a gold medal around their necks from Sochi, Canada will be a tough beast to conquer in Sweden for the Americans.
Age-wise, the best American players are relatively in good shape for 2018. Star forward Meghan Duggan is 26, and so is defender Kacey Bellamy.
Some young players might emerge as stars by the time 2018 rolls around. Amanda Kessel and Brianna Decker are both just 22 years old and are already noticeable contributors to the American squad.
Goaltending could emerge as an issue. Jesse Vetter was spectacular in Sochi, shutting out Canada for nearly 57 minutes before giving up two goals in the final three-plus minutes. But she's 28 and will be a 32-year-old come Pyeongchang. She can certainly start, but it's not by any means guaranteed.
Of course, the main focus for the Americans—as it will be for the men, too—will be their neighbor up north. It's pretty much a given that they will face off in the final in women's, so if they can't figure out a way to get past them when Olympic gold is on the line, Canada will continue to add to its four straight gold medals.
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