USA medal hunting in Russia
USA medal hunting in Russia
Auston, Americans focus on experience
When the Americans won bronze in the Czech Republic at the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, it was their second bronze in the last three years. Team USA will once again employ its time-tested formula of carrying eager and talented youngsters, experienced veterans and relying on hot goaltending to make it to the playoff round for a shot at a medal. USA will pin its hopes on chemistry and a singular team focus on head coach John Hynes’ system.
Mike Condon took over for an injured Carey Price in net for the Montreal Canadiens and performed admirably. He participated in 55 games as a rookie, which was the most since Ken Dryden’s first season with the club. Keith Kincaid played in 23 games for the New Jersey Devils in 2015-16, backing up Cory Schneider. One of his season highlights include a career high 39 save performance in a 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins. Recently signed Vancouver Canucks prospect Thatcher Demko is the third goaltender. Demko, who starred for Boston College, is seen as a possible future franchise goaltender for the Canucks.
Noah Hanifin was one of the youngest players in the NHL at 18. The Boston native played in 80 games for the Carolina Hurricanes and registered 22 points. Jake McCabe and Chris Wideman also earned full time status in the NHL this season with Buffalo and Ottawa respectively. Conor Murphy, son of former NHL player Gord Murphy, is making his second consecutive appearance with the national team. He played for USA at the 2015 World Championships in the Czech Republic. Despite being eliminated from the NHL playoffs, the Rangers caught a glimpse of their blue line future in Brady Skjei. Skjei played so well in the Rangers five game playoff elimination to the Pittsburgh Penguins that he was given additional responsibilities and playing time. He moves the puck well and is an exceptional skater. He will have the chance to build on that here in Russia.
Team USA will be without Jack Eichel who decided not to play for the Americans in this tournament. Auston Matthews is the player to watch. In this his draft year, scouts from those NHL teams in the lottery for the first overall pick will undoubtedly be on hand to watch him play. The 18-year-old prospect spent the 2015-16 season playing for the ZSC Lions Zurich in the Swiss League and finished second in scoring. Kyle Connor, J.T. Compher and Tyler Motte formed the CCM line for the University of Michigan and are likely to do the same for Team USA. The college trio is expected to play as a unit and the American side will hope to capitalize on their season long chemistry. Recent additions include Luke Glendening and Miles Wood, son of former Buffalo Sabres forward Randy Wood.
Columbus Blue Jackets captain, Foligno slumped to 12 goals this season after scoring 31 in the 2014-15 season. In his breakout season he was named an NHL All Star Game team captain.
John Hynes, long-time USA Hockey coach, will lead the team. Hynes spent six years as head coach of the much-heralded USA National Team Development Program. Previously, he’s coached USA U18 World Championship teams to gold, silver and bronze and was an assistant coach on the 2004 U20 team that won gold. Hynes will be assisted by Todd Richards, whose experience will be a good complement at this level. Richards was head coach of last year’s USA bronze medal winning entry in this tournament. David Quinn, head coach of Boston University, will round out the staff.
Team USA has an intriguing mix of young players with upside and skill sets that will be fun to watch here. Their opening game against Canada will be an important immediate test coming in and how they respond in that game and after – win or lose – will establish their fortunes in this tournament.
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