Who Will Be in the All-American Olympic Hockey Team
With the NHL and NHLPA reaching a new collective bargaining agreement, it looks like NHL players will be able to participate in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. Players were unable to play in the 2018 Pyeong Chang Winter Olympics, as commissioner, Gary Bettman refused to create a break in the NHL schedule for the games. The new collective bargaining agreement, however, looks like it will allow for a break in the schedule so players will be able to participate in the Olympics without missing any of the NHL season.
As many people know, there are more Canadian players in the NHL (42.6%) than any other nationality. The second most popular nationality is of course American (26.1%). In this article, we will look at what the starting forward line, defensive pairing, and goalie would look like for the 2022 US Men’s Olympic Hockey Team if they were to be held this year.
J.T. Miller, Left Wing
This spot was a toss-up between Miller and Kyle Connor, but I decided Miller was the better all-around player. Jack Eichel is certainly a better player, but his ability as a center is much better utilized spread out throughout the lineup. Miller had a breakout this season in his first year in Vancouver. Miller recorded a career-high in goals (27), assists (45) and points (75). Not only has Miller become quite the playmaker, he is quite good at putting his body on the line. With 123 hits and 38 blocked shots, J.T. Miller would be a great physical addition to this otherwise technically skilled first line.
Auston Matthews, Center
Matthews is one of the NHL’s rising stars, as he has quickly become recognized as one of the premier centers in the NHL. In the 2019-2020 regular season, Matthews recorded career highs in goals (47) and points (80). Matthews also finished second in the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Memorial Trophy race as he finished one goal behind Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak. Matthews has quickly grown into his leadership role for a Maple Leafs team struggling to accomplish much after getting to the postseason. Barring any career-altering happenings, the 22-year-old Matthews will absolutely be one of the team leaders in Beijing, quite possibly alternate captain.
Patrick Kane, Right Wing
The personification of US Hockey over the past decade has without a doubt been Patrick Kane. Over the past decade, Patrick Kane has played in 25 games for Team USA in two Olympics and two World Cups of Hockey. Over that span, Kane has recorded 11 goals and 20 assists. This past regular season, Kane had a bit of an off-year if you can even call it that.
This season, Kane recorded 33 goals and 51 assists in only 70 games. At 31 years old, Kane will be 33 in 2022, so they will in all likelihood be his last Olympics. I would hope that as a symbol of USA Hockey’s appreciation for Kane’s play international competition, that Patrick Kane will be the captain for the US Men’s Olympic Hockey Team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics.
John Carlson, Defenseman
While he has been a bit iffy on defense lately, John Carlson has emerged as one of the most offensively talented defensemen in the NHL. Carlson recorded career highs in both goals (15) and points (75) this season. Carlson’s point totals led both the Capitals and all NHL defensemen, making him a finalist for the Norris Trophy.
Carlson’s only Olympic competition came in the 2014 Sochi Olympics in which he recorded one goal and one assist in six games. While Carlson made the 2014 US Olympic team, he didn’t earn his reputation as one of the NHL’s best defensemen until the 2017-2018 season. It will be interesting to see if Carlson can be a leader on the US Olympic team since he’s seemingly reached his full potential.
Quinn Hughes, Defenseman
Quinn Hughes has been widely recognized as one of the rising stars in the NHL. While small, at only 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing in at 170 lbs, the 20-year-old is an incredibly talented defenseman. Quinn Hughes recorded 8 goals and 45 assists in his rookie season this year; moreover, he is second among defensemen in points this postseason with 10 points, second to only Miro Heiskanen.
Though it is doubtful he will win the award, Quinn Hughes was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy for his exceptional play in his rookie season. Quinn Hughes and his career are both incredibly young, but I am near sure he will do great things in his NHL career, and he will be in Beijing in 2022.
Connor Hellebuyck, Goalie
Over the past decade, Jonathan Quick has been the stalwart goaltender for the US Men’s Hockey Team; however, Quick has more than faltered over the past few years and needs to be replaced. In terms of his replacement, I am a big fan of Connor Hellebuyck’s.
In the 2019-2020 regular season, Hellebuyck recorded a save percentage of .922 and a GAA of 2.57. Some people may have put Ben Bishop in this spot over Hellebuyck, but Connor Hellebuyck isn’t even halfway through his career, and Bishop will be getting ready to retire by the time the 2022 Olympics roll around when he’ll be 35. Hellebuyck’s numbers may not be exactly perfect, but I don’t think he has quite met his full potential. I think if Hellbuyck is given a couple more years to develop his talent with a struggling Winnipeg defense, he could be a more than apt goaltender for the US Olympic Team in 2022.
Pierson Scheinberg is a student who lives in California, and attends the College Preparatory School. Pierson lived in Baltimore, Maryland until August 2017 when he moved to the Bay Area. Pierson is an avid golfer who enjoys watching all sports. He is a writer and sports analyst for At the Buzzer.