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Projecting Team U.S.A. At The Olympics

This past weekend at the NHL All-Star game the league confirmed that we are getting best on best international hockey with NHLers participating starting with the Four Nations tournament next year followed by the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy. With NHL participation confirmed we decided it was time to start projecting the depth charts of the top hockey-playing nations at the 2026 Winter Olympics. To start, we will build out the depth chart for Team USA based on how they have built out their world junior teams with a heavy emphasis on speed and skill using my expertise as a high-level hockey analyst to build the best 23-man roster possible.


Team USA at the 2018 Olympics

 

Center

We are going to start down the middle with the center position and it is a loaded position for the Americans to the point where they can play some of the centers on the wing to juice up the offense.


Auston Matthews (TOR) - The best goal-scorer of his generation, on pace for seventy goals this season, one of the best players in the world who will still be in his prime come 2026. He is a no-doubt lock for the team.


Jack Hughes (NJ) - A perennial MVP candidate before the age of twenty-three on top of being arguably the best young player in the NHL. Hughes will be just entering his prime come the Olympics and he will have a shot at tournament MVP.


Jack Eichel (VGK) - The star center for the reigning Stanley Cup champions, Eichel has been a top 15 player in the world for multiple seasons with health the only thing that can keep him off of the Olympic Team.


Dylan Larkin (DET) - One of the fastest skaters in the world, has been a number one center for Detroit for years and has the defensive acumen to slide in perfectly as the fourth-line center thanks to his impressive skating ability.


Tage Thompson (BUF) - Just entering his prime Thompson is an absolute monster at 6'6" with the skating ability and puck skills of someone who is 5'11". I foresee him slotting onto the wing and being an absolute offensive dynamo for the Americans.


 

Wingers

The Americans will have their choice of high-end wingers to choose from but the wing depth does start to tail off towards the bottom end they will make up for it by moving a Center or two to the wing.


Matthew Tkachuk (FLA) - A top 10 player in the world who is an absolute pest to play against Tkachuk can play offense and defense with the best in the world. Coming off a 100-plus-point season and leading his team to the cup final Tkachuk has exploded the past three seasons which has put him firmly in the discussion for being a top 5 player in the world and a lock for the Americans.


Brady Tkachuk (OTT) - While the Senators Captain isn't the prolific scorer that his brother is he is just as big of a pain to play against while not being that far behind in the scoring department. The Tkachuk brothers will be a matchup problem for any country and both will easily slot into the top six.


Jason Robertson (DAL) - A perennial 40-goal scorer who just entered his prime, Robertson is dynamic in the offensive zone as a play-creator. He will be playing in the top six for the Americans and is expected to put up a lot of points.


Kyle Connor (WPG) - A lethal finisher who just puts up absurd goal totals year after year due to his ability to get lost and find the quiet areas in the offensive zone. Connor gets the puck off his stick in an instant and will be counted on to be a lethal finisher at the Olympics.


Clayton Keller (ARI) - Another elite offensive player who is decent defensively, Keller can play up and down the lineup filling any role that will be asked of him.


J.T. Miller (VAN) - Miller is an elite two-way center or winger who can drive play on offense and can also be elite in a shutdown role. He has exploded in the past few years which has put him firmly on the radar of the Olympic team with age being the only question as he will be 32 years old come 2026.


Jake Guentzel (PIT) - Another perennial 40-goal scorer who has been on one of the best lines in hockey since he entered the NHL as he plays alongside Sidney Crosby. Despite playing alongside Crosby, Guentzel is an elite finisher who is very good defensively which will allow him to play anywhere in the Team USA lineup.


 

Defense

The Americans will come to the tournament with the best collection of defensemen at the Olympics. All of these defensemen can move the puck but they are also elite defensively.


Quinn Hughes (VAN) - The second-best defenseman in the world, the projected Norris Trophy winner this season Hughes is the easiest selection on this team especially since he is just entering his prime.


Adam Fox (NYR) - A top 5 defenseman in the world who already has won a Norris Trophy. Fox is elite defensively and is a dynamic puck mover who just entered his prime. Fox can be the best defenseman at the Olympics.


Charlie McAvoy (BOS) - Another top 7 defenseman in the world who just happens to be American. McAvoy is an elite skater who is exceptional in his defensive zone while driving play offensively. He will firmly be in his prime come 2026.


Jaccob Slavin (CAR) - The best pure defensive defenseman in the world, Slavin can match up with anyone and shut them down. He is also an excellent skater who is very good offensively which allows him to play major minutes and he will be firmly in his prime come 2026.


Brock Faber (MIN) - Another young elite defensive defenseman who has broken out this year to become the number one defenseman on the Minnesota Wild. He is elite defensively and is now just showing that he can run a power play unit. He will just be entering his prime come 2026 which is wild for how good he is.


Zach Werenski (CBJ) - Another number one defenseman who is in his prime, Werenski can carry almost any defenseman on his back to help them become elite. Despite being on a bad Columbus team Werenski how showed that he is a big-game player who possesses the ability to be a goal scorer as a defenseman.


Luke Hughes (NJ) - Luke Hughes will be joining his brothers Jack and Quinn on Team USA even though he is currently a rookie he is just that good. Luke is a dynamic play-creating offensive defenseman who is also very good defensively thanks to his exceptional skating ability. Luke Hughes won't even be in his prime yet by the time the Olympics rolls around and yet he will be on the team.


Jacob Trouba (NYR) - Every team needs a tough gritty player on their team and that is what Trouba will provide. He is the captain of the Rangers who punishes forwards with bone-crushing hits. He probably won't see the ice in the Olympics but he will be good in the room as the eighth defenseman.


 

Goalie

Another area where the Americans are stacked is at the goaltender position where they possess two of the top three current goalies in the world.


Connor Hellebuyck (WPG) - The second-best goalie in the world who has been the best goalie this season as he is on track to win his second Vezina Trophy for best goalie in the NHL. He can carry a team and he is right in his prime. He will be the game-one starter for the Americans.


Thatcher Demko (VAN) - The third-best goalie in the world who has played like the best goalie in the world at times this season. Demko is just entering his prime and is a star who can steal games with regularity. If he keeps playing like he has this season he will have a chance at being the American starting goalie at the Olympics.


Jake Oettinger (DAL) - The best young goalie in the world who is also a top 5 goalie in the world. He is a dynamic goalie who can steal series and is a sixty-plus game starter in the NHL who will be perennially in the Vezina Trophy conversation for years to come. He will be entering his prime come 2026 but he is locked into the number three spot for the Americans.


 

Make no mistake the Americans are loaded and should be considered one of the favorites for the gold medal in Italy with only the Canadians on paper being close to them. With our depth chart completed, next week we will be making our lineup based on what I know about USA hockey and based on my hockey knowledge.

 

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