International Ice Hockey Federation

Americans aiming high

Americans aiming high

Team USA brings youth and experience

Published 05.05.2017 00:24 GMT+2 | Author John Sanful
Americans aiming high
Strong and young forwards: Jack Eichel and Brock Nelson celebrate a goal for Team USA. Photo: Richard Wolowicz / HHOF-IIHF Images
Led by a talented group of young players possessing international experience, USA is seeking to regain form and compete for a senior men's medal.

Since 2013 Team USA has won two bronze medals in World Championship competition. They’ve done it with a mix of younger skaters, mostly from the NCAA American college ranks, and NHL players. Team USA’s competitiveness has been exceptionally high so there is every expectation that this team will accept the challenge and represent their country while learning more about gelling over a short tournament and gaining experience. However, what the Americans have not done yet is break through beyond the bronze medal game. They have just fallen short of getting to that next, exalted level of qualifying for a World Championship final with a chance of winning their first gold medal since 1933. In 2016 they were a goal away from getting into the final game, which is testament to how impressive the Americans have been in recent years in this tournament. 


Team USA has two talented goaltenders who are capable of being number one. Jimmy Howard is returning to the World Championships for the first time since 2012. Howard won five of the seven games he played that tournament, yielding 17 goals. Over a three-year period from 2009-12, Howard won 109 games for the Detroit Red Wings. In his career, Howard has won 199 games for the Red Wings. Connor Hellebuyck made an impressive national team debut in 2015 when he won seven games and led the Americans to a bronze medal at the World Championships in the Czech Republic. Hellebuyck posted a 1.38 goals against average and came up particularly big in crucial games, including a quarterfinal win over Switzerland and in the bronze medal game against then home side Czech Republic. This season, Hellebuyck assumed the starting mantle for the Winnipeg Jets where he started 53 games (appeared in 56) and won 26 of those contests. College standout Cal Petersen is the third goaltender. Petersen played for the NCAA’s University of Notre Dame. He was a fifth round draft choice of the Buffalo Sabres in 2013. 


Connor Murphy, son of former NHL defenceman Gord Murphy, is making his fourth consecutive appearance at the World Championships. Since 2014, Murphy has made steady progress and grown accustomed to the big ice and developed into a fine player at this level. He was named captain this week, further recognition of his growth and experience. At last year’s tournament, Murphy scored three goals and two assists. Noah Hanifin is completing his second full season in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes. Hanifin made his senior men’s team debut in Russia last May. Danny DeKeyser is coming off a disappointing season with Detroit but moves the puck well and can help on the power play. Danny Brickley just finished his second season of college hockey with Minnesota State University. An undrafted prospect, Brickley will likely generate some interest in the offseason from teams should he decide to turn pro. A good showing in Cologne will help his cause. Jacob Trouba should play an important role in generating offense after coming off an impressive season with Winnipeg. Recently, Charlie McAvoy and Trevor van Riemsdyk were added to the roster and should provide skill and depth.


The United States is coming in with an impressive group of forwards. Led by Brock Nelson, Jack Eichel and Anders Lee, the Americans have two thirty-goal scorers and four others who’ve scored twenty or more in a season during their professional careers. After scoring one goal in 18 games this season, Anders Lee caught fire, scoring 33 in the next 63. Keys to his success were driving to the net, using his body and being a presence in front. These attributes are what the Americans will need to compete. Lee’s Islanders teammate Brock Nelson scored six goals and ten points for the 2015 bronze winning team. In three tournaments (2014, 2015, 2016) Nelson has scored 12 goals in 24 games. Dylan Larkin’s production in Detroit dipped from 23 goals in his rookie season to 17 last year. Larkin finished the season strong, despite some mistakes. A move to center and seeing some penalty kill time helped to improve his game. Playing in Germany will offer another chance to further build confidence. Keep an eye on Johnny Gaudreau. The Calgary Flames forward is small but plays big. This type of tournament and ice is made for him. Newcomers Jordan Greenway, Clayton Keller, Christian Dvorak and Andrew Copp will benefit from their international experience and provide depth. 


USA head coach Jeff Blashill completed his second year coaching the Detroit Red Wings. Detroit finished seventh in the Atlantic Division and missing out on the playoffs for the first time in 25 years. The World Championships offer Blashill a chance to right the ship on the season with a strong showing. This is his first time coaching the senior national team. Jack Capuano will join Blashill on the bench. He has head coach of the New York Islanders from November 2010 through January 2017 and won 227 games. Rand Pecknold has coached Quinnipiac University since 1994. He led Quinnipiac to the NCAA Frozen Four finals in 2016 where they lost to eventual winner University of North Dakota. Pecknold is one of American college hockey’s most respected coaches.

Projected results

For years, hockey pundits and enthusiasts have wondered why won’t America’s top NHL players participate at the World Championships when they are available. Perhaps what has been missed is that over the years USA Hockey has developed players who compete at every level, including the World Championships, and are now top flight stars in the league. Zach Parise, Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Seth Jones have all represented Team USA in recent years. There are more than a few players on this team who will occupy a place in future discussions about important American skaters on the international scene. Playing in a competitive group, the Americans will face serious challenges from Russia, Sweden and, yes, the home side Germany. But their goal, as always, will be competing for top four standing in the group and focusing on the playoff round, where anything can happen. 


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