Origin Stories: Team USA

Feb 4, 2022 | John Klinck


Breaking Down The Men’s Roster Ahead Of The 2022 Winter Olympic Games

For the second straight Winter Olympic Games, countries competing in the men’s ice hockey tournament have had to scramble to assemble their rosters after not being able to use NHL players.

For the 2022 Games, the NHL had an agreement in place to send the best players in the world to Beijing to compete for their native countries, but like most things in the hockey world these days, COVID-19 got in the way.

When the puck drops on the men’s tournament, the teams will be made up of a unique collection of players — some from college programs, some from the American Hockey League, and some from professional leagues outside of North America.

That makes taking a look at a roster like Team USA’s a fascinating experience, as it’s not your usual names. No Auston Matthews or Patrick Kane on this USA team, but there are certainly some familiar themes at play when scrolling through the list of names.

Want to know what path these American players took to reach the pinnacle of international hockey? Well, let’s take a look.

Of the 25 players on the official 2022 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team roster, 15 currently play for NCAA college hockey programs, eight play for European professional teams and two play for American Hockey League clubs.

It is the youngest U.S. Olympic roster — with an average age of 25.1 — since 1994, which is the last Olympic competition before NHL involvement began. That team, to put it in perspective, was comprised of almost all college players, with five professionals sprinkled in. That one didn’t go so well for the red, white and blue, as Team USA finished in eighth place.

For 2022, only one player returns from the 2018 U.S. Olympic roster – Brian O’Neill of Yardley, Pa., and the Jokerit KHL team. Five of members compete in the KHL, three in the SHL (Sweden) and one in the DHL (Germany).

Every single one of the 25-man roster played NCAA Division-I college hockey; 10 are alumni while 15 are currently in the midst of their collegiate careers. Fourteen NCAA programs are represented on the roster, and it is pretty well spread out — the University of Michigan and the University of Minnesota lead the way with four players apiece.

Here is a full breakdown by school:

University of Michigan – 4
University of Minnesota – 4
Boston College – 2 
Boston University – 2
Harvard University – 2
St. Cloud State University – 2
Yale University – 2
Ferris State University – 1
Miami University – 1
Minnesota State University – 1
University of Denver – 1
University of Minnesota Duluth – 1
University of North Dakota – 1
University of Nebraska-Omaha – 1

So how did all the players get to the college level? Well that’s what we’re here for – to take a closer look through the roster’s upbringing.

Outside of the team’s oldest player — 1987 birth-year goaltender Pat Nagle — every single player on the Team USA roster played at least one season in the USHL. Nagle, meanwhile, played in the NAHL, and back in his junior hockey days, there wasn’t as much of a clear distinction between Tier 1 (USHL) and Tier 2 (NAHL) as there is now.

At least 17 of the them played some form of high school hockey, be it prep schools on the east coast or Minnesota high school hockey (or the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) in the case of Jake Sanderson. He is a dual citizen who eventually parked himself south of the border, ultimately leading Sanderson to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program (USNTDP) and North Dakota.

Speaking of the NTDP, 10 of the players on the roster skated for the Michigan-based training program, whether while it was housed in Ann Arbor, or now in Plymouth.

At least 11 of them skated in a USA Hockey festival/summer camp, which is an important step for youth hockey players across the country. If you’re looking to play at high levels of play, exploring the USA Hockey affiliate’s process for state and national development camp selections is a good step.

Eight players suited up for Team USA at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championships, while six skated in the World Junior-A Challenge, which is selected from top USHL players. 

Diving deeper into their paths, at least four players competed at the prestigious Brick Tournament in Edmonton, while nine had the privilege of skating in the Quebec International Pee-Wee Hockey Tournament. 

“We’re excited about the roster we’ve put together,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, general manager of the 2022 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team and assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, in the press release announcing the roster. “The Olympics are the biggest stage in sports and it was fun to hear the enthusiasm our players have to represent their country. We’re fortunate to have a deep talent pool — thanks in part to all the great work of our volunteers in communities across the nation — and with the mix of players who are part of our team, we’re looking forward to competing for a gold medal in Beijing.”

Olympic hockey action is slated to begin on Feb. 9th, and WHH will have continued coverage of former youth hockey players representing their countries in China. Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitterTikTok and YouTube for more!

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