By Mike Meyer
As we inch closer day by day to the World Cup of Hockey, it’s time to take a look at the United States Forwards. The team will have their work cut out for them, but with some good chemistry and effort, can certainly make it deep in the World Cup of Hockey. Prelim’s have already started and it’s time to start getting to know who is going to be out on the ice. It’s time for a roll call.
Name: Justin Abdelkader
Weight: 218 lbs
Team: Detroit Red Wings
Known for more of his physical style of play, Abdelkader is an interesting addition to the United States roster. As a surprising late addition, Abdelkader brings a bit more than just a physical presence to the lineup. After leading the Detroit Red Wings in hits (207), penalty minutes (120), and 42 points in his 2015-16 campaign, Justin seems to be determined to prove he can be more than just a muscle on the ice. At 29 years old, he saw the 10th most amount of minutes for the Red Wings, and managed to be ranked within the top 5 for both power play and even-strength goals. A last-minute choice for this squad could prove to be a useful tool in the upcoming tournament, if deployed correctly.
Name: David Backes
Weight: 221 lbs
Team: Boston Bruins
The former Captain of the St. Louis Blues will look to sport the red, white, and blue once more before trading in his blue and yellow in to the black and yellow of the Boston Bruins. Ready to kick off his 2016-17 season, Backes will be looked to for his leadership abilities and physical presence on the ice that he has always been highly regarded for. The two-time Olympian should certainly still have enough left in the tank at 32 years old to make a strong impression on the opposition. While looking to build on his 0.57 point per game and 3 hits per game pace from 2015-16, Backes will also look to build off of his 4 points (3G, 1A) in 6 games from the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Name: Brandon Dubinsky
Weight: 216 lbs
Team: Columbus Blue Jackets
Brandon Dubinsky is a strong, physical Center who plays a big and physical game. Played 10 games for USA in World Championships between 2008 & 2010. Registered 10 (3 Goals, 7 Assists) of his 13 points (6 Goals, 7 Assists) throughout 6 games in 2010. Coming off of a 17 goal, 48 point season through 75 games season. Strong, physical Center who plays a big and physical game.
Name: Patrick Kane (A)
Weight: 177 lbs
Team: Chicago Blackhawks
2007: OHL All-Rookie Team, First All-Star Team, Rookie of the Year, CHL Rookie of the Year
First overall selection in 2007 NHL Draft.
2008: NHL All-Rookie Team, Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year)
2010: Winter Olympics Silver Medalist
Stanley Cup Champion: 2010, 2013, 2015
NHL All-Star: 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016
Conn Smythe (Playoff MVP): 2013
Art Ross Trophy (Most Points): 2015-16
Ted Lindsay (Most Outstanding Player): 2015-16
Hart Memorial Trophy (MVP): 2015-16
NHL Career total 663 points (251 Goals, 412 Assists) in 658 games. This lands him good for 1.01 Points Per Game during his career as a Blackhawk. Throughout International play, Kane has again notched a point per game pace of 19 points in 19 games. Despite the unfortunate finish for the United States, Kane’s most recent appearance in the 2014 Olympics, earned him an additional 4 assists in 6 games. I’m sure that Patrick would love to continue to add to this list of accomplishments and trophy’s while helping his country along to another top placement in the World Cup of Hockey. Love him or hate him (depending on your team allegiance), Kane is a must have on this squad and (like every game) should be considered an immediate threat every time he steps on to the ice.
Name: Ryan Kesler
Weight: 202 lbs
Team: Anaheim Ducks
Kesler is an effective two-way, shut-down forward who, at 32 years of age, can still contribute to this United States group. Whether he is blocking the puck in his defensive end on the penalty kill, or dishing a set up pass for a goal, Ryan Kesler’s name will be heard at this tournament. With his size, Kesler can add a presence in front of the net during even strength and power play time to screen or deflect pucks. He may not be the 60-75 point per season player he used to be, but Ryan Kesler should still be relied on for roughly a 0.67 point per game pace throughout the regular season and in the World Cup Tournament.
Name: T.J. Oshie
Weight: 189 lbs
Team: Washington Capitals
Before his historic success in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, T. J. Oshie was said to have ‘just made the final cut’ to suit up for the United States squad. The same late decision, Oshie, went on to lead the United States team to an eight-round, 3-2 shootout victory after his repeated shootout attempts over Russian goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky. Though it is unlikely that something to that magnitude would ever occur in the World Cup of Hockey, Oshie will be looked at to bring his two-way abilities and energy to the rest of the lineup and locker room.
Since 2010, he has played 22 International games and managed 14 total points (7 goals, 7 assists). To play Devil’s Advocate, Oshie’s point totals to seem to come in patches. Though he did manage 4 points in his 3 games in the 2014 Olympics, T.J. only managed a lone goal through 4 games in the 2013 Ice Hockey World Championships. Hopefully T.J. will be able to take some lessons he learned from Sochi, and from his first year in Washington to carry over into the upcoming tournament.
Name: Max Pacioretty
Weight: 213 lbs
Team: Montreal Canadiens
Scoring 30 goals and 34 assists, Pacorietty lead the Canadiens throughout the 2015-16 not only in points, but as their team Captain as well. A consistent 60+ point scorer over the last 3 seasons, Max is has been more know to have his deadly shot score on even strength, rather than on the power play. A consistent and lethal shot on even strength will come in hand every moment for the United States throughout this tournament. Look for Max to get time in the Top 6 and still plenty of time to convert on every opportunity.
Name: Kyle Palmeri
Weight: 185 lbs
Team: New Jersey Devils
Palmeri is currently coming off his first season a New Jersey Devil and a career high 57 points in 82 games. Ready and waiting to show the world of hockey what he can do, Palmeri may not be able to get the ice-time with the talent and depth at rightwing in front of him. The 25-year-old is the youngest player amongst his forward companions, but should certainly be more than capable to handle the work load, should it be given to him. Though Palmeri has shown success in New Jersey, his 13.5% shooting percentage from 2015-16 was above his career average (11.8%). Though I do not see this as much of a caution as Kyle was able to muster up on average 0.74 extra shots on goal per night, and extend his ATOI (Average Time On Ice) by nearly 4 minutes from his time in Anaheim while compared to New Jersey. It is just again a word of caution toward his success and projections in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey Tournament.
Name: Zach Parise
Weight: 196 lbs
Team: Minnesota Wild
Struggling through an MCL sprain at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, a back injury at the end of the season, and an aggravation of the injury once more that would ultimately ended his playoffs early, Minnesota Wild’s Zach Parise is said to be ready to go for the 2016-17 season. We will likely get a good look as to how ready he actually is in the upcoming World Cup of Hockey Tournament as he should likely fall in the Top 6 amongst the forward lines. Regardless of his rough outing in the 2014 Olympics where he managed only 1 goal in 6 games, internationally, Parise has been a reliable strength for the United States over the last decade. Scoring a total of 19 points in 23 games, he has been consistent for a 0.82 points per game pace, which closely matches his 0.81 point per game pace over the last three seasons with the Wild. A figure that the United States will likely need on their side. Despite the risk for of injury for a player, and irritation of old injuries, Parise should get every chance to succeed in the upcoming tournament.
Name: Joe Pavelski (C)
Weight: 190 lbs
Team: San Jose Sharks
After a successful 2015-16 season, the San Jose Sharks Captain looks to add more to the legend that is: The Big Pavelski. Three consecutive seasons now, Joe Pavelski has played all 82 games and posted at least 70 points in those games. Pavelski has been as good as they come averaging just under a point per game pace over those last 246 games. And not only that, throughout the 2015-16 season, Joe managed the 5th most goals in the NHL (38), the most Game Winning Goals (11) and 6th in total points (78). In his most recent outing with Team USA, Joe was able to once again manage just under a point per game pace with 5 points (1G, 4A) in 6 games during the 2014 Winter Olympics. With his performance over the last three years in both regular season and international play, Joe has earned every reason to play with the best on the top line for the United States.
Name: Derek Stepan
Weight: 196 lbs
Team: New York Rangers
Derek Stepan has all the necessary tools, the skillset and history to be in the United States squad. Over the last 3 seasons, he has played 222 games for the Rangers, racked up 165 points, and if he can stay healthy, has all the tools to be a 60 point scorer over an 82 game season. Stepan though may be too far buried in the depth chart though to get that chance. Likely to fight for a spot in the lineup with former teammate Brandon Dubinsky, Stepan may be inserted only on a timeshare basis. If the coaching staff does intend to lean on physical presence and grit, count Dubinsky in and Stepan out. However, if the cards favor skillset in a matchup, Stepan could very well land time as a 4th liner behind a deep and skilled group of centermen. Stepan brings to the table 8 International appearances and 7 points in those games. If a slip up does occur, expect for Stepan to step in.
Name: James van Riemsdyk
Weight: 217 lbs
Team: Toronto Maple Leafs
A Fractured foot in January 2016 left van Riemsdyk out for the remainder of the 2015-16 season. On pace for a 60 point season after scoring 29 points in 40 games (14G, 15A), James has been one of the few bright lights amongst a dismal Toronto squad over the last few seasons. He led the Maple Leafs during the 2014-15 with 56 points in 82 games (27G, 29A) and will look to lead the charge once again after the World Cup Tournament. In his most recent international appearance in the 2014 Olympics, van Riemsdyk was once again one of the few good notes from a disappointing United States squad after putting up 7 points in 6 games (1G, 6A). Look for James van Riemsdyk to be an underrated asset that the United States holds in their corner.
Name: Blake Wheeler
Weight: 225 lbs
Team: Winnipeg Jets
Recently named Winnipeg Jets team Captain, Wheeler seems ready and prepared to get the ball rolling on the 2016-17 season. After coming off a career high 78 points in 82 games (26G, 52A), it’s time for Wheeler to prove that he can do it again. Expecting for Wheeler to see his fair share of ice-time, Wheeler (like the rest of the 2014 United States Olympic Team) should be looking for a bounce-back tournament after managing only 1 assist in 6 games. Over the last 3 seasons with the Jets, Wheeler has suited up for 243 games and collected 208 total points, bringing him to a 0.86 PPG pace. Despite his large stature, Wheeler is known for his speed and puck handling skills and should look to use those skills to his advantage to help lead the United States deep in the tournament.
How would you draw the lines?
** pictures were obtained from nhlpa.com