According to hockey analysts, Team USA is in a ‘transition’ state and many players who should have been named to Team USA were ineligible because of the age restriction due to Team North America.
Here’s the problem with that line of thinking . .
If team North America didn’t exist, sure players like Johnny Gaudreau & Shayne Gostisbehere [BTW both of whom contradict the USA’s claim to seek a “Heavy & Gritty” identity] along with Auston Matthews and several other players MAY have been available and MIGHT have made the team BUT . . .
This would also mean players like Connor McDavid and Nathan MacKinnon would have been available to Team Canada.
It’s possible some of the younger age-restricted players [assuming they’d have been selected] might have helped Team USA, but taking Team North America out of the picture also would mean increasing the skill and speed of Team Canada [not that they’d need it . ..]
Hence the existence of Team North America as an excuse for the lack of availability of skilled American hockey players creates a double edged sword.
Snub or not, Phil Kessel is injured, so his name is moot at this point.
If USA Hockey truly was going after a bigger heavy-hitting team MAYBE there’s a justification to leave out Tyler Johnson. This doesn’t mean I agree he shouldn’t have been there, just that he physically might not fit the “identity” Team USA management claims they were going after.
Here’s where the roster selection starts to fall off the rails for me . . .
Left off the American roster was one of the fastest skaters in the league, at 6’3″ and 226lb, he’s a natural left-winger that already has an established chemistry with one of the team’s existing centers.
He hits & hits hard, so there’s no questioning his grit. And it’s well know it’s only taken a few seasons to get under the skin of several starting goaltenders for other WCOH. Most notably Team Canada’s Carey Price, Team Finland’s Tuukka Rask and Team Europe’s Jaroslav Halak. Being a teammate with Sweden’s starting netminder certainly can’t hurt when it comes to knowing a goalie’s weak spots.
But hey – what do I know?
Check out what some of his peers have to say about him . . .
“He’s a huge difference maker. He has a huge influence on the game for us, the way he can skate, the way he can hit and shoot, the physicality. When he’s putting all three of those together, it’s a tough combo to defend for anyone.”
— Ryan McDonagh [World Cup of Hockey Team USA Defenseman]
“When he gets the puck wide with speed like that, he’s one of the toughest players to defend, and I hope I never have to do it, because it looks miserable…He’s so tough on his skates. If you try to engage him,
you’re going to lose.”
— [Defenseman] Marc Staal
“I don’t think it’s fun for a D-man to go back and get the puck and hear him run — not skate, because it looks like he’s running — at you. That’s when he’s at his best.”
— [Pittsburgh Penguin & World Cup of Hockey Team Sweden] Carl Hagelin
“He’s the fastest player I’ve ever played with, by far, and I’ve played with some pretty fast players. He also might be the strongest.”
— [NHL Veteran NHL Defenseman] Dan Boyle
“He’s kind of a freak of nature, really. He’s just so big and fast”
— Dan Girardi
“He’s a unique specimen. The guy is just an absolute freak of an athlete. He’s so strong and so quick, he gets up to top speed in one or two strides, it’s absolutely crazy. When he really fine-tunes his game it’s something special…He creates so much chaos for others, the defense. He can burn you wide and now he’s starting to show his speed off, and then turn up and create lots of space and confusion. When he does that, he’s a special type of
— [Defenseman] Kevin Klein
“Probably one of the strongest guys I’ve ever played with. So fast, great skater. Probably the hardest wrist shot I ever faced. Probably hurt me a couple of times a week in practice with his wrist shot. That’s impressive, to see the amount of power that’s behind that guy.”
— [World Cup of Hockey Team Sweden Goaltender] Henrik Lundqvist
“He’s an animal…He’s just too strong and too fast and too big. When he wants to take it over like that, you can’t stop him.”
— [World Cup of Hockey Team North America] J.T. Miller
“He’s such a powerful forward…But that speed that he has also scares the opposition. I mean, you can hear him coming down on him on the ice, and when I say ‘hear’ I mean you can really hear those strides.”
–– Coach Alain Vigneault
“I haven’t seen a guy with his speed, his shot power, the way he trains, the way he works out … I’ve never seen a guy like him. He’s got all the tools to be a star.”
— [Two Time Gold-Medal Olympian for Team Canada] Rick Nash
Skill and Stats aside – the apparent direction of Team USA’s roster selection – everything about this 6’3″, 226lb 25-year old is the epitome of the gritty hard-nosed identity Team USA claims it was trying to create.
Adding to that is his undeniably incredible speed & skill, how is it possible Chris Kreider would be overlooked for Team USA’s “Gritty” World Cup of Hockey roster?
Which leaves me wondering . . .
Would we have seen this sexy Massachusetts native wearing The Red, White & Blue this week if John Tortorella wasn’t part of Team USA’s coaching staff ?
Quotes from Player Biography Available:
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