The U.S. Olympic men’s hockey roster, in the NHL’s absence, is its youngest since 1994, thanks to 15 current NCAA players, including the first teens on the Olympic team in 30 years.
“The thinking definitely wasn’t a keg party at a frat house,” U.S. general manager John Vanbiesbrouck joked. “This is for the here and now. Not once were we thinking of a distant future. We responded quickly [to the NHL withdrawal on Dec. 22], we picked a path and a core group.”
Defensemen Jake Sanderson and Brock Faber, forwards Matty Beniers and Matthew Knies and goalie Drew Commesso, 19-year-olds on the recent world junior championship team, would be the first teens to play for the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team since Scott Lachance and Keith Tkachuk in 1992, according to Olympedia.org.
Beniers will be the youngest man to play for the U.S. Olympic hockey team since 1984, when the roster included future NHL stars Pat LaFontaine (18), Eddie Olczyk (17) and Al Iafrate (17).
Commesso would be the youngest U.S. goalie to play in Olympic history, according to Olympedia.
Forward Brian O’Neill is the lone returnee from the 2018 Olympic team — which also didn’t have NHL players and had four collegians — that lost in the quarterfinals to the Czech Republic. O’Neill has played for Finland-based Jokerit in the KHL since 2016.
O’Neill is among seven players on the 25-man roster who have played in an NHL regular season game, with forward Nick Shore having the most experience (299 games).
Pat Nagle, a 34-year-old goalie for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL, is the oldest player on the team. Nagle, who has never played an NHL regular season game, has played for 10 minor-league teams, including the Comets (Utica, N.Y.) and the Komets (Fort Wayne, Indiana), according to hockeydb.com.
2022 U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey Team Roster
Goalies: Drew Commesso, Strauss Mann, Pat Nagle
Defensemen: Brian Cooper, Brock Faber, Drew Helleson, Steven Kampfer, Aaron Ness, Nick Perbix, Jake Sanderson, David Warsofsky
Forwards: Nick Abruzzese, Kenny Agostino, Matty Beniers, Brendan Brisson, Noah Cates, Sean Farrell, Sam Hentges, Matthew Knies, Marc McLaughlin, Ben Meyers, Andy Miele, Brian O’Neill, Nick Shore, Nathan Smith
Of the pros, five play in Russia (KHL), two in Sweden, one in Germany, plus two in the AHL.
The average age is 25 years and change, beating the 2010 team as the youngest since NHL participation began in 1998.
Former New York Rangers coach David Quinn was elevated to U.S. Olympic head coach on Dec. 27, replacing Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan after the NHL withdrew.
The NHL announced its withdrawal from Olympic participation on Dec. 22, citing the coronavirus pandemic significantly impacting its regular season. At the time, it had canceled 50 games. It also did not participate in 2018 after a lack of concessions from the IOC, IIHF or the NHL Players’ Association to entice participation in PyeongChang.
The U.S. is the second of the 12 nations to name its Olympic men’s hockey roster after the Czech Republic. It is grouped with Canada, Germany and host China.
The top team from each of the three groups, plus the best second-place team overall, advance directly into the quarterfinals. The rest advance to a play-in game for quarterfinal berths.
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