While the defense for Team USA remains in flux as USA Hockey awaits a final medical decision on an undisclosed blueliner, the forwards and goaltenders are set.
The U.S. still has good speed up front, though appears to lack notable scoring depth. The top two lines should be able to contribute a great deal offensively, but getting down in the lineup, it might be tough to find any amount of consistent production. As long as the bottom-six brings something along the lines of sound defense and/or physicality, it should be an effective group.
The U.S. has a perceived strength in goal as John Gibson should be a sound starter for Team USA. He has WJC experience and has all the physical tools for success.
Once the defense gets finalized, the U.S. should have a good enough group to reach the medal round and potentially do some damage if everything comes together.
The U.S. will open tournament play Dec. 27 against Germany at 9 a.m. ET.
Coming up after the jump, capsules on each of Team USA’s three goaltenders and 13 forwards
John Gibson — Pittsburgh, Pa. — The big netminder has WJC experience and has been terrific in the OHL this year. He’s Team USA’s projected starter and should carry the mail in net. The one time IIHF U18 gold medalist and the directorate award winner for best goaltender of the tournament shines in big situations. Coming off an injury is a bit of a concern, but when Gibson is at the top of his game, he’s one of the best goalies in this age group.
Jon Gillies — Concord, N.H. — A 6-5 behemoth in net, Gillies has good technique and athleticism. As a 1994-born, he’ll be eligible for next year’s tournament so being part of this team gives him valuable experience. He might slot in as the No. 2 for this team, but with only two goalies dressing, expect him and Garret Sparks to both see time in the pads, if not on the ice much.
Garret Sparks — Elmhurst, Ill. — In the midst of a terrific season with the Guelph Storm, Sparks covers a lot of the net and has some really great athleticism. He seems to excel with more shots against, which is obviously a good thing for a goalie. He’ll probably trade off with Gillies, but gives the U.S. a solid 19-year-old goalie on the roster with a lot of work completed already this year.
Riley Barber — Livonia, Mich. — A play-making right winger, Barber can create with his feet and good puck skills. He’s the nation’s leading scorer among freshmen in college hockey and will have to fill the scoring void left by Stefan Noesen, who is ineligible for the tournament. He saw time with Vince Trocheck and Alex Galchenyuk, so the U.S. staff must believe he can be a top-six guy.
Cole Bardreau — Fairport, N.Y. — A feisty centerman with good speed, Bardreau will likely stay between Ryan Hartman and Blake Pietila. Bardreau has good defensive instincts and can do well in a penalty-killing role. His speed makes him tough on the forecheck and despite his relative lack of size, he plays a very physical game. He’s undrafted, but he can absolutely play. The U.S. was smart to bring this unheralded forward onto this team to fit a very specific role.
Tyler Biggs — Cincinnati, Ohio — A big power-forward-style right winger who gets after opponents physically and can contribute offensively, Biggs should see time in a bottom-six role. Biggs isn’t overly skilled, but he has a good shot and a powerful stride. Even though he lacks quickness, Biggs finds a way to get where he needs to be. He’ll have to compensate on the bigger ice sheet, but the U.S. can use his grit and his ability to rise up in the big games.
Alex Galchenyuk — Milwaukee, Wis. — Perhaps Team USA’s most skilled player overall, Galchenyuk can play on the wing or at center. He can create offense from anywhere and has a nose for the net. As he gets more familiar with his teammates, he should be a weapon. He’s played with a few different guys in camp, but wherever he ends up playing, he’ll be relied on heavily for scoring.
Johnny Gaudreau — Carneys Point, N.J. — A magician with the puck, Gaudreau has the ability to break games open with his quickness and skills. He has high-end finishing and distribution ability. Playing mostly with J.T. Miller and Rocco Grimaldi, Gaudreau should see time on the power play and be another guy the U.S. is dependent on for scoring.
Rocco Grimaldi — Rossmoor, Calif. — Easily Team USA’s fastest forward, Grimaldi has a chance for a big tournament on the big ice. He can get teams on their heels and draw penalties with his feet and low center of gravity. On top of that, he has high-end puck skills and a deadly release. Team USA will need him to bring his consistent offensive presence to have success.
Ryan Hartman — West Dundee, Ill. — Hartman was extremely effective in both zones and bringing the physical game as a right wing. Along with that physicality, Hartman has good offensive skills and can bring a little more pop to Team USA’s grinder line. He fits his role well, but his versatility allows the U.S. to use him in a variety of ways if needed.
Sean Kuraly — Dublin, Ohio — A good two-way center, Kuraly has size and speed that makes him effective in both zones. He has some good offensive abilities including a good shot and the aforementioned speed. Kuraly can bring the physical game when needed and is solid on draws.
Mario Lucia — Plymouth, Minn. — A good winger who can play on either side and contribute offensively, Lucia has shown no ill effects of the broken leg he suffered earlier in the year. Lucia has terrific finishing ability and has shown good distribution skills as well. He slotted in as a 13th forward in yesterday’s exhibition, but very easily could get a regular role in the top six.
J.T. Miller — East Palestine, Ohio — The lone pro on Team USA’s roster, Miller can play center or wing effectively. He will need to help create space for Gaudreau and Grimaldi, if he stays on that line. Miller has a good shot and good skills of his own to contribute goals and has some defensive ability. His size and strength allow Miller to play a physical game, which along with his speed, makes him tough on the forecheck. He could be one of Team USA’s big leaders as the lone returning forward from last year’s squad.
Blake Pietila — Brighton, Mich. — Another member of Team USA’s so-called “Grind Line,” Pietila fits his role well. His aggressiveness on the forecheck and ability to contribute the odd goal is key for the U.S. attack. His defensive value is certainly prevalant as he has the speed to help shut down opposing lines. Pietila has good strength which makes him tough on the walls and in the corners. He was solid in both pre-tournament games and will need to continue excelling in his role.
Vince Trocheck — Pittsburgh, Pa. — A solid centerman, Trocheck can contribute at both ends of the ice. He has good puck skills and speed to go along with solid defensive sense. He can be effective on both the power play and penalty kill. Trocheck can distribute the puck well and has fairly good finish. He’s having a big year in the OHL, so the U.S. will need that production to translate into success for Team USA.
Jim Vesey — North Reading, Mass. — Vesey may have lucked out a bit in making the final roster, after Stefan Matteau appeared to have sealed up a spot only to get cut. However, Vesey does bring some valuable tools to the table by way of his offensive instincts and solid size and speed. He should help give a little scoring pop to the bottom six. Vesey may not always get a regular shift, but he’ll be an important cog.
Stay tuned for more reaction to Team USA’s roster and pre-tournament coverage coming soon.