2022 Olympics Preview: Team USA
Perhaps no country is as excited to see their 2022 Olympic team play as the United States. The sea change in USA hockey in just the past five years has been extraordinary, as a wave of young stars led by the likes of Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel have emerged. American fans are impatient to finally see a roster that they feel can go toe-to-toe with Canada on pure skill.
Continuing my series, I have assembled what I think is the best possible team using a combination of analytics like Patrick Bacon’s Wins Above Replacement model, microstats tracked by Corey Sznajder, and the eye test. These different sources helped me pick not only players who can be counted on to perform the best but should complement each other as well.
I had two priorities for this team, aside from getting the best players on it. The first was to shed this program’s habit of trying to scrape out a medal Miracle-on-Ice style by conceding the skill gap to Canada and going all-in on “heart” and “grit.” This led to embarrassment at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey and would be a tremendous waste of talent considering the influx of skilled American players into the league since then. On that note, priority number two was to go young. I picked only two players who were even on that World Cup team, let alone in Sochi, and 15 of the 25 players I selected are 25 years old or younger. The number of top-end players in their early 20s available to this team is a very encouraging sign of things to come for this country in international competition, and this roster reflects that.
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