For the second consecutive Winter Olympics, the NHL's top stars won't be taking the ice for their home countries. As a result of the NHL's numerous COVID-19 outbreaks prior to Christmas, the league announced in December that it wouldn't be sending its top players to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Instead, the NHL will use what was supposed to be a three-week break to make up previously postponed games, so that the 2021-22 regular season can still finish on time.
So now the United States men's hockey team won't feature the likes of Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane and many other American-born NHL stars. The American talent pool is completely comprised of players that many hockey fans may be a little unfamiliar with.
The United States roster is as follows:
- #4 Drew Helleson (D)
- #5 David Warsofsky (D)
- #6 Nick Perbix (D)
- #8 Jake Sanderson (D)
- #10 Matty Beniers (F)
- #11 Kenny Agostino (F)
- #12 Sam Hentges (F)
- #13 Nathan Smith (F)
- #14 Brock Faber (D)
- #16 Nick Abruzzese (F)
- #19 Brendan Brisson (F)
- #20 Steve Kampfer (D)
- #21 Brian O'Neill (F)
- #23 Brian Cooper (D)
- #25 Mark McLaughlin (F)
- #26 Sean Farrell (F)
- #27 Noah Cates (F)
- #29 Drew Commesso (G)
- #31 Strauss Mann (G)
- #35 Pat Nagle (G)
- #37 Nick Shore (F)
- #39 Ben Meyers (F)
- #42 Aaron Ness (D)
- #51 Andy Miele (F)
- #89 Matt Knies (F)
There will be several collegiate hockey stars, along with some former NHLers, that are currently playing professional hockey overseas. In an effort to get you more prepared for the 2022 Winter Olympics, which begin on Feb. 3, here's a rundown of some of the most important names to know when it comes to the American team.
Matty Beniers, C
If there's anyone that's going to burst onto the scene in Beijing, there's a good chance that it'll be center Matty Beniers. Beniers is a name that some hockey fans may already be familiar with because he was selected No. 2 overall in the 2021 NHL Draft by the Seattle Kraken. At just 19, Beniers is the youngest player on the United States roster. He is currently in his sophomore season at Michigan and has 15 goals and 17 assists in 26 games this season. During his freshman campaign at Michigan, Beniers was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team.
This isn't Beniers' first time representing the United States on a big stage. The Michigan star suited up for the Americans in the 2021 IIHF World Championship and helped his country win a bronze medal. In six games at the IIHF World Championship, Beniers registered a goal and an assist.
Jake Sanderson, D
Despite being one of the younger players on the United States roster, Jake Sanderson should be one of the team's top defenseman during the Olympics. Sanderson was selected No. 5 overall in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Ottawa Senators and is regarded as one of the top defensive prospects that the hockey world has to offer. At 19, he is currently in his sophomore season at North Dakota and is tied for the team lead with 22 points (6 goals and 16 assists) in 19 games this season. In addition, Sanderson, who is the son of former NHL forward Geoff Sanderson, is averaging over a point per contest. Sanderson was even named the captain of the United States' 2022 World Junior Championship team before the event was canceled as a result of COVID-19.
The center position is going to have a Michigan flavor for the United States. Like Berniers, Brendan Brisson also currently plays for the Wolverines and is also in his sophomore season. Brisson also has an extremely high pedigree, as he was selected with the No. 29 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft by the Vegas Golden Knights. Brisson currently has a team-leading 16 goals to go along with 15 assists for the Wolverines. The California native has proved that he isn't afraid of the big moment, as he's registered a team-high five game-winning goals this season. Brisson has an absolute cannon of a shot and has done a great deal of damage via the one-timer during his time in Ann Arbor.
Brisson also has represented the United States before at the international level. The center, 20, played in the 2021 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships when the United States came away with a gold medal.
Nick Shore, C
One of a handful of players that have NHL experience is center Nick Shore. Shore was a third-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings back in 2011 and also spent time with the Calgary Flames, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets. The veteran center registered 59 points around the NHL from 2015 until 2020. Shore is currently playing for HC Sibir Novosibirsk in the Kontinental Hockey League.
Kenny Agostino, LW
Like Shore, winger Kenny Agostino brings NHL experience to the table for the United States. Agostino was originally selected in the fifth round of the 2010 NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins. The veteran winger is most known for being involved in the trade that sent Jarome Iginla to the Penguins and him to the Calgary Flames. Agostino accumulated 30 career points (8 goals and 22 assists) in time with the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues and Toronto Maple Leafs, in addition to the Flames and Penguins. Agostino has blossomed into one of the better players in the KHL as he ranks 14th in the league in points (40) in 46 games during the 2021-22 season.
The goaltending situation for the United States is a bit of a mixed bag. It's unclear who is going to end up garnering the bulk of the starts, but Drew Commesso definitely has the most upside. Commesso was selected in the second round of the 2020 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks and was the second goaltender off the board overall. The 19-year-old netminder is currently in his sophomore season at Boston University and has a 10-8-3 record to go along with a 2.43 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage.
The United States does also have Strauss Mann and Pat Nagle on the roster, who are both far more experienced than Commesso in net. Nagle is currently the goaltender for the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Mann is playing in the Swedish Hockey League. Still, Commesso definitely could see significant time in Beijing, or he wouldn't be on the roster.
Brock Faber, D
Like Sanderson, Brock Faber is a young defensive prospect that could be a huge asset for the United States blue line. Faber was a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2020 NHL Draft and is currently in his sophomore season at Minnesota. The 19-year-old blue-liner has recorded 11 points (2 goals and 9 assists) while registering 22 blocked shots for the Golden Gophers. Faber was also named as an alternate captain for the United States at this year's World Junior Championship before it was cancelled. Faber may not be as well-rounded as Sanderson, but he's a great skater that can still put the puck in the net when he has an open shooting lane.
Brian O'Neill, RW
Winger Brian O'Neill will be the lone member of the American team that is returning to the Olympics squad after competing in PyeongChang in 2018. The 33 year old scored a goal and recorded three assists in five games in the 2018 Winter Olympics, which was good for third on the team behind only Ryan Donato and Anaheim Ducks phenom Troy Terry. O'Neill is currently playing for Jokerit in the KHL and has transformed into one of the league's more dependable offensive playmakers. During the 2021-22 season, O'Neill has registered 42 points (nine goals and 33 assists), which ranks 11th in the KHL.
Noah Cates, LW
Winger Noah Cates is actually one of the veterans that will be playing for the United States in Beijing. Cates was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers. The 22 year old is currently a senior at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and has served as the team's captain for the past two seasons. In 24 games this season, Cates ranks second on the team in points (17) and has seven goals to his credit. Like many others on the United States roster, Cates has previous experience playing at the international level as he recorded a goal and two assists playing in the World Junior Championship back in 2019.
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