The NHL is being run amuck with COVID cases lately. Due to this – as well as the strict quarantine laws in place in China – the likelihood NHL players don’t participate in the Olympics is growing higher by the minute. More than just a shred of doubt is present so imagine my surprise when i saw a tweet that inspired me to do something I’ve always wanted to do:
To bring back the International squad many resonated with – a true team of youth and skill that united both Canadian and American hockey fans with their exhilarating pace. That was Team North America. Without further adieu, lets build a new roster with the 2022 time frame in mind.
The 2016 team
Very important to remember that to be eligible for the tournament the player had to be either Canadian or American as well as aged 23 or under. Sean Monahan had initially been named to the team, but was injured and replaced by Vincent Trochek. Not shown in the tweet above: Dylan Larkin, Colton Parayko, Connor Hellebuyck. General Managers were Peter Chiarelli and Stan Bowman, Head Coach was Todd McClellan with Jon Cooper, Peter DeBoer, Dave Tippett and Jay Woodcroft as assistants/associates.
It was a special team with extremely talented players, and if we fast forward 5 years almost every single player named is playing a crucial role on their team – except Matt Murray, who at the time of picking this team was fresh off a Stanley Cup championship.
Note: All charts were grabbed as of Feb. 14/15, 2021 – any games that have occurred on or after these dates may result in the charts changing on either HockeyViz.com or Evolving-Hockey.com and appearing different to what you read here.
Both the most clear cut section, but still not without debate. Carter Hart is the clear-cut number one goalie going forward, but we are allowed to take 3. This leaves 4 other goaltenders with NHL experience vying for 2 spots: Jeremy Swayman, Spencer Knight, Jake Oettinger, and Stuart Skinner. All 4 of those goaltenders have seen NHL action this season. Dustin Wolf was thought about, but ultimately I wanted those that have seen NHL shooters regularly already in their careers.
Using HockeyViz.com we can see which players this season have been adept at stopping high danger chances, and see the strengths of each goaltender. Only one has allowed more goals against than expected – young Spencer Knight. It’s not like he’s been allowing them from far out either, most of his goals have come from in tight against him. In an International competition going up against the best of the best a player currently letting in goals from that location is not ideal therefore i have chosen to leave Spencer Knight off the final roster.
What Jake Oettinger has done so far this year has been impressive. He’s caught his own GM’s eye as well – as such the Dallas Stars put Anton Khudobin on waivers (he has since cleared, but remains on the trade market). Stuart Skinner has put up decent save numbers himself, but his NHL body of work is limited, meaning we only have a decent NHL sample from this year to work with. Swayman has posted similar numbers and he’s held them now for over two seasons.
After gathering all the evidence, numbers, and basic thoughts the final three goalies for this version of Team North America will be Carter Hart, Jake Oettinger, and Jeremy Swayman. No there’s no Oilers hate going on here – I’m a huge Lethbridge Hurricanes fan and it hurts me to leave Skinner off, but the other two just have longer resumes (and good numbers). No bias allowed either way.
Before we move on though – here’s why Carter Hart is starting.
But the goaltenders can only do so much, the team in front of them needs to be able to play strong defence as well for them to be able to compete.
The defence takes a huge hut because two right-shot D become ineligible at the worst times. Charlie McAvoy turns 24 December 17th 2021 and Adam Fox on February 17th 2022. Both of those guys being able to play would have given Team North America a stacked defensive group that could go head-to-head with any international squad. Alas, we must move on looking at those that do qualify (the cutoff was made to be Feb 28th 2022 – any player aged 23 and under by that date would be eligible for this roster).
With more than 5 players to consider (It really made the goaltending choice easier to make) I first decided to see which players would be locks. That gave me LHD’s Quinn Hughes and Jakob Chychrun, and then for RHD the only one was Cale Makar. In picking Makar though it opened up the door for another established NHL player that would form instant chemistry with him – as such Samuel Girard makes the team as an extra D, one which can play on either side. His numbers alone justify him for consideration, but having natural chemistry with Makar is a bonus. Leaving two spots open for regular shift work on the right side, a plug-in guy for the 7th D and a specialist for the 8th spot.
There will be a section at the end for all those that were in consideration – and if you have concerns about why I left players off feel free to contact myself on twitter (@Flash_33) to defend your case for your favourite player. As for now with the D and F I will just be discussing those that made it – and why they made it.
I’m one of those people that usually believe in playing the best players and handness doesn’t matter, to an extent. I see the benefits a balance can have in regards to breaking the puck out, keeping zone play alive (very important), and defending rushes. So for sure another right-handed defenceman was needed for my top 4, but after that i needed to prioritize having players that have shown skill at effectively playing strong defence against top competition.
Evan Bouchard, the 9th overall pick from the Edmonton Oilers in 2018, has started to see regular top 4 minutes with the Oilers this year. While the Oilers themselves play questionable defence Bouchard has been a rare positive gear added to the functioning of the machine. He still remains more of an offensive threat than a prominent defensive defender, so pairing him with Chychrun is almost needed.
Dante Fabbro of the Nashville Predators has been a net front nightmare in 2021-22. Strong metrics for him, though some of it comes from an overall strong team commitment to defence. He is another RHD that has been seasoned with multiple years at the NHL level and would provide Quinn Hughes with a steady partner that can allow him to work his magic when over the boards.
I envisioned Sam Girard as more of a floater, as well as an extra option for the right side. I know I mentioned him possibly playing with Makar earlier, but i’d rather have young Bowen Byram play there and use Girard as i need him. Byram is young, extremely talented, and can be a hidden X-factor for this team. He also has pre-established chemistry with Makar making this an easy decision.
Last but certainly not least I decided to take a risk. In a best on best tournament i want some real high-end skill players, as many as you can take while still making a commitment to defence. 1st overall in 2021 – I’d be ridiculous to leave Owen Power on the sidelines. My expectations for him aren’t to carry the Defence, we can leave that to Makar and Hughes, but after his start to this season at Michigan in the NCAA there was no way I could leave him off.
Where to start other than my instant team locks. Jack Hughes, Nick Suzuki, Robert Thomas, Jordan Kyrou, Jason Robertson, Clayton Keller, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, and Drake Batherson. All established professionals at this point in their careers it allows a strong base to be built. Having the strength to be able to add a whole line from Ottawa was a gift – the fact that all three of those players won’t be tasked with top line minutes will help them all as well.
Jack Hughes is a tremendous playmaker. With speed, good hockey IQ, and even better hands he slots in as Team North America’s number one C. Giving him a scorer that could match his speed was no problem as Jason Robertson has shown over the last two years he’s a top line scoring threat at the NHL level. This gave me a playmaker and a scorer, but I wanted someone else that could take draws while also being a scoring threat – thus Robert Thomas found a home.
Pierre-Luc Dubois seems back to his old self, and he’s doing a fantastic job of creating offence. A big, physical presence down the middle he creates space down low and in around the net for scoring chances. Now the best pure finisher I’ve picked is listed as an extra – but the two guys that flank Dubois are fast and creative. Clayton Keller may be in a sinking Arizona ship right now, but he’s got no help. Going back and looking at his numbers from when Arizona was trying and it’s clear he belongs on this team. He’s a dual threat and can play either the left or right side should he need to go. The last complimentary piece is Jordan Kyrou from the Blues. His passing ability should allow him to find Keller in open space with speed or Dubois in tight around the net.
The added benefit to the Ottawa boys being added is they already form their own line. Brady Tkachuk and Drake Batherson also do something no other combo of forwards in the league do – they hit everything that moves. Combine that with the sleek scoring sense of Josh Norris and this line can do some damage. They’ll have a better defensive support cast on this team than they do on Ottawa and i would be excited to see what kind of havoc they could cause.
Nick Suzuki may be playing on a Montreal team that is crumbling around him, but if he wasn’t playing then Montreal would be blown out every night. He’s the shutdown man for this team, and as such we’re going to give him other wingers that have shown some defensive proficiency so far. Oliver Wahlstrom has experience playing in a defensive system under Barry Trotz, he also has the added ability of playing Center in a pinch. The other side we see Alex Newhook, who can also take face-offs if need be. All three of these players have better defensive metrics than their teammates and as such create our 4th “shutdown line”.
Now it’s time for the wildcards. I was not about to leave the wonder-kid Trevor Zegras off this roster. World Junior MVP in 2020 and already making trick plays in the show in 2021. He’s still extremely young by NHL standards, but his defensive play hasn’t been a complete hindrance yet. Add him and noted goal scoring guru Joel Farabee and we’ve added a couple specialist tools to the roster. Farabee has had a nose for the net to start his career, but lacks in defensive awareness. He’s a good addition as a possible power play player, but should be avoided being assigned any hard defensive responsibilities.
The final roster
J. Robertson (DAL)
J. Hughes (NJD)
R. Thomas (STL)
C. Keller (ARI)
P. Dubois (WPG)
J. Kyrou (STL)
B. Tkachuk (OTT)
J. Norris (OTT)
D. Batherson (OTT)
A. Newhook (COL)
N. Suzuki (MTL)
O. Wahlstrom (NYI)
T. Zegras (ANA)
J. Farabee (PHI)
B. Byram (COL)
C. Makar (COL)
Q. Hughes (VAN)
D. Fabbro (NSH)
J. Chychrun (ARI)
E. Bouchard (EDM)
O. Power (BUF)
S. Girard (COL)
C. Hart (PHI)
J. Oettinger (DAL)
J. Swayman (BOS)
Should anybody get injured beforehand, or deny the opportunity to go, one would need a reserve list of replacements. These would be my “Final cuts” if there were a selection camp – which i would love to go and asses myself for what it’s worth.
LW: Alexis Lafreniere (NYR) – not quite so solid on defence, offence has yet to come. Potential is there, but more proven players were chosen.
C: Kirby Dach (CHI) – Heavily considered, If any of the players with size couldn’t make it Dach would be the choice. // Cole Sillinger (CBJ) – Cole has one of the best shots i’ve seen from a teenage player, and he’s been playing good defence. He’s earned his reserve title over some others with his play this year.
RW: Owen Tippett (FLA) – He’s come a long way since his first stint in the show right after his draft. He’s got an alright scoring touch and plays alright defensively, just couldn’t edge Wahlstrom due to Wahlstrom’s past history playing C.
LD: Mario Ferraro (SJS) – Seriously debated having him over Power, but the potential Power brings far outweighs the defensive presence Ferraro could have brought
RD: Noah Dobson (NYI) – he’s been gaining more and more responsibility, but doesn’t have the same impact Bouchard does offensively or Fabbro does defensively. // Jaime Drysdale (ANA) – He’s still young and tends to give up a lot defensively, I decided to go with Power over him, but it was not an easy choice.
G: Spencer Knight (FLA) – while Skinners numbers have been better, Knights potential makes him my injury replacement choice. He would only see action should Oettinger or Swayman get injured.
Cal Foote (TBL), Nicholas Hague (VGK), Mikey Anderson (LAK), K’Andre Miller (NYR), Maxime Comtois (ANA), Matthew Boldy (MIN), Dawson Mercer (NJD), Quinten Byfield (LAK), Jack Quinn (BUF), and Cole Caufield (MTL)
Others that qualify for consideration
Stuart Skinner (EDM), Dustin Wolf (CGY), Calen Addison (MIN), Connor Timmins (ARI), Andrew Peeke (CBJ), Ty Smith (NJD), Jake Bean (CBJ), Jake Sanderson (OTT), Cameron York (PHI), Jack Rathbone (VAN), Thomas Harley (DAL), Tyler Benson (EDM), Payton Krebs (BUF), Jacob Pelletier (CGY), Nicholas Robertson (TOR), Brandon Hagel (CHI), Alex Formenton (OTT), Dylan Holloway (EDM), Michael Rasmussen (DET), Adam Beckman (MIN), Max Jones (ANA), Dylan Cozens (BUF), Barrett Hayton (ARI), Matt Beniers (SEA), Shane Pinto (OTT), Casey Mittelstadt (BUF), Morgan Frost (PHI), Tyson Jost (COL), Connor McMichael (WSH), Sam Steel (ANA), Nolan Patrick (VGK), Alex Turcotte (LAK), Cody Glass (NSH), Cole Perfetti (WPG), Seth Jarvis (CAR), Dillon Dubé (CGY), Arthur Kaliyev (LAK), Kailer Yamamoto (EDM), Dylan Guenther (ARI), Philip Tomasino (NSH), Jack Studnicka (BOS) — and Shane Wright (2022 draft eligible) and Connor Bedard (2023 draft eligible)
No seriously I had thoughts about bringing Bedard for the sole purpose of using him on the power play alone. This whole thing is about fun and what could be more fun than possibly watching a 16 year old kid rip home a power play goal against NHL players? Eventually I went with players that could play a regular shift over him, but he did cross my mind while doing this exercise.
This version of Team North America does not have anywhere near the same firepower as the first one. While I think it would be awesome to see Makar and the Hughes brothers match up against top competition this roster is lacking in McDavid, Matthews, Eichel, and Mackinnon level players up front. While I do believe this combination of players could still create offence, their defensive play would be suspect the entire tournament. Carter Hart is familiar with attempting to bail his team out, but he’d have his work cut out for him against the powerhouse teams if TNA wanted to make any serious noise.
It is worth noting that should this event have been held in the summer of 2021 then Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, and Alex Debrincat would have all been eligible, to go along with Fox and McAvoy from earlier. Now those 5 editions alone would change the outlook of everything all together, but alas they did not meet the criteria.
Just a reminder…
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