USA Hockey announced the names of the first sixteen players selected to represent America in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Eleven of the sixteen already spent some time on the ice as part of Team USA as Olympians, the rest have proven their mettle in other arenas, and all of them show promise that Team USA will go deep into the competition for the World Cup this fall.
Dean Lombardi, general manager of Team USA, was quick to declare USAH was faced with some tough decisions this year. At a press conference following the announcement, he described the process as a tough one for all the right reasons.
“We have a lot of talented characters to choose from. It was difficult to leave some players off. It is imperative that we get this right, leave no stone unturned. We’re extremely proud of the players we’ve selected.”
This edition of USA’s men’s national team is as notable for its inclusions as who didn’t make the cut. Phil Kessel, Bobby Ryan, and Cam Fowler, known quantities to Team USA, were passed over for players who showed promise and are having better seasons. When questioned about the decision to exclude Kessel from the World Cup team, Lombardi reminded the attending press of the reality that there are only so many spots on the roster. According to the Team USA general manager, the question of what each player brought into the mix was as important as their individual abilities.
Among the players making their debut as a part of Team USA is Winnipeg Jets defenseman, Dustin Byfuglien. Assistant general manager Paul Holmgren pointed out that Bufyglien is a good choice because he will bring a “bigger physical presence to the World Cup.” He added that the Roseau, Minnesota, native demonstrated a deeper commitment to the game by working on his conditioning and showing improvement as a player leading up to the selection for Team USA.
Defining roles was a continuing thread in the conversation about Team USA. When asked about who will wear the C on his sweater, Lombardi said, “We started to micromanage this back in August. This leadership is not going to be defined by letters. I think there needs to be a transition to a degree of leadership. Giving out letters is not what it’s all about.”
If the list of exclusions yielded a few surprises, the names of the returning veterans showed seasoning and familiarity with the system is an important part of building the perfect beast that will face International Ice Hockey Federation juggernauts from Russia, Sweden, and Canada.
What about Canada? The team situated just north of the 49th Parallel seemed to be the elephant, er, moose in the room. Was USAH taking Canada into account as the team to beat in September? When asked if Team USA management was building its squad with that goal in mind, Dean Lombardi was forthcoming about the prospect of America’s homegrown prospects when to came to a puck drop with Canada. “Canada has always been the watermark. Its history speaks for itself. So much has been defined by Canada. They’re clearly the favorites, as they should be. You’d better be prepared to beat them.”
Team USA head coach, John Tortorella, addressed the mindset of the squad going into the third edition of the World Cup of Hockey.
“It’s about winning. Be the best… That’s how you have to think all the time in this situation. The only thing you are thinking about is how to get it done. That’s the mindset as we build towards September. The only thing I can think about is winning.”
The identities of the players filling the seven vacancies on the roster will be announced by June 1. Here is the current roster, where you’ll see them on the ice at the World Cup, and where you can find them when they’re not wearing Team USA laundry.
Between the pipes:
Jonathan Quick* – Los Angeles Kings
Ben Bishop – Tampa Bay Lightning
Corey Schneider – New Jersey Devils.
On the blue line:
Dustin Byfuglien – Winnipeg Jets
Ryan Suter* – Minnesota Wild
John Carlson* – Washington Capitals
Ryan McDonagh* – New York Rangers
Winging it to the left:
Justin Abdelkader – Detroit Red Wings
Patrick Kane* – Chicago Blackhawks
Max Pacioretty* – Montreal Canadiens
Zach Parise* – Minnesota Wild
Wings on the right:
Ryan Kesler* – Anaheim Ducks
T.J. Oshie – Washington Captials
Joe Pavelski* – San Jose Sharks
Derek Stepan* – New York Rangers
Blake Wheeler* – Winnipeg Jets
No centers are stuck in the middle at press time.
[*Indicates previous status as members of Team USA in the Olympics.]
[Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images]