Who Else Should Make Team USA's 2016 World Cup of Hockey Roster?
Sixteen players were named to the United States’ World Cup of Hockey squad on Wednesday, and most of the picks came as no surprise to the armchair critics. Dan Rosen of NHL.com reported the selections.
The addition of Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader did surprise many, but there was nothing wrong with that. USA general manager Dean Lombardi clearly wants to have a balanced lineup—not just a collection of All-Stars. Abdelkader figures to do well on a team coached by John Tortorella, bringing speed and grit to a USA lineup that probably lacked a bit of the latter in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Here are the 16 players named on Wednesday:
- Goalies: Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick and Cory Schneider.
- Defensemen: Dustin Byfuglien, John Carlson, Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Suter.
- Forwards: Abdelkader, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Derek Stepan and Blake Wheeler.
This is a group notable for some of the people not named. No Phil Kessel, no David Backes, no Erik Johnson. But those three—and four others—can still be named to the 23-man final roster.
Here are my suggestions as to who those final seven should be. If anyone disagrees, hit the "comment" button and let your voice be heard. My criteria for inclusion are based on what the current team may be missing. A little more skill here, a little more grit there, etc.
One note: Only defensemen and forwards will be named here. It’s hard to argue that any of the three goalies named shouldn’t be there, so we won't.
7. Defense: Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues
No, he has not had a great season so far with the Blues. After a plus-19, 44-point regular season in 2014-15, Shattenkirk is a minus-16 through 56 games with 10 goals and 33 points.
But I’ll still take him on my team in a short tourney. He’s got good leadership qualities, is used to being on winning teams and is very good on the power play. His Corsi percentage is a more than respectable 51.9. His foot speed is questionable, so he’d need to be used carefully in a tournament full of stars.
But he’s a pretty smart player who can do a lot of nice things at the offensive end, so he should make his way onto the final roster.
6. Forward: Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators
Yeah, yeah, we know: He’s a little too soft in the corners at times, his desire seems to wane at times, etc.
But he puts up points, and the Americans will need as much offense as they can get to beat Canada, Russia or Sweden. He’s got 21 goals and 48 points for the Sens so far.
No, his defense isn’t great and he and Torts might mix like oil and water. In a short tournament, though, he is the type of guy who can get hot in a hurry and make a big difference.
5. Defense: Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes
While Carlson and Suter are nice guys to have on the point for the power play, Faulk would bring more dynamism offensively while not sacrificing too much at the other end.
Faulk entered Thursday with 15 goals and 34 points for the Hurricanes, with 12 of his goals coming on the power play.
Special teams are important in any game, but especially so in tournaments like this. Suter’s offensive game has gotten a bit stale over the last couple of years, so give me a guy like Faulk to add more speed and excitement from the USA blue line.
4. Forward: Charlie Coyle, Minnesota Wild
Part of the Americans’ problem in the last few international tournaments has been their weakness up the middle. The Canadians just keep killing everyone with guys such as Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby at center.
Not that the 24-year-old native of Weymouth, Massachusetts, is at the caliber of those four, but Coyle is starting to really come into his own as a strong two-way pivot.
He has 21 goals this season for the Wild and adds a lot of size (6’3”, 218 lbs). He has been criticized in the past for not using his body enough in the tough areas, but he has worked hard at overcoming that perceived weakness.
He can be a real pain to play against sometimes, and that’s the kind of guy Tortorella likes.
3. Defense: Erik Johnson, Colorado Avalanche
The former No. 1 overall pick hasn’t had the kind of season in Denver that many expected. With only 22 points through his first 56 games, Johnson’s production has been lower than hoped.
Add in a minus-nine rating and 42.7 Corsi for percentage, and you have a player who at first glance wouldn’t seem to deserve a spot on the team.
But some of those numbers are deceiving. He has often been asked to cover up for the defensive mistakes of lesser partners in Colorado or essentially become a fourth forward at times by coach Patrick Roy when the team is behind.
He’s big (6'4", 232 lbs), still skates very well and likes to play in big games. Unfortunately, there haven’t been many of those with the Avalanche.
2. Forward: Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins
Look, Kessel and Tortorella could be a very bad mix. Torts wants grinders, he wants gamers, he wants guys not afraid of leaving some blood on the ice. Kessel has not been known for those kind of things in his career.
But the Americans need to be able to put the puck in the net too. He led the Americans in scoring in Sochi, and it’s not like his game has drastically fallen off. No, he’s not having a great first season with the Penguins, but 19 goals and 40 points after his first 62 games isn’t horrible.
Kessel’s speed and skill still make defenders back off, and one thing Canada showed in Sochi was that the USA offense was a little too easy to shut down.
The worry is that it will be the case again, based on the first 16 selections. Kessel’s addition would ease some of that worry.
1. Forward: Brock Nelson, New York Islanders
It would be a bad oversight to leave the 24-year-old left winger from Warroad, Minnesota, behind.
First off, he’s big (6’3”, 206 lbs) and can skate. He has 21 goals so far for the Islanders, already surpassing the 20 he scored in 82 games last year. He works hard and has a good attitude. Torts would love him.
He’s just the kind of younger forward who would be a nice replacement for a guy like David Backes, a mainstay of previous U.S. teams who is starting to slow down.
Advanced statistics courtesy of Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.
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