(AP) — Without the ability to pick from a generation of young American stars, USA Hockey is leaning on a longtime NHL winger as captain and hopes a diverse roster can capture an Olympic medal.
At the Winter Classic in New York on Monday, the U.S. named veteran Brian Gionta captain as it unveiled its roster for the Pyeongchang Olympics, the first games without NHL players since 1994. There’s no Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau, Auston Matthews, Jack Eichel or Jonathan Quick, so the U.S. men’s hockey team is made up of Gionta, four college players, three from the American Hockey League and 15 playing in professional leagues across Europe.
The team includes former Ferris State University captain and Grand Rapids Griffin Chad Billins, a defenseman.
“We really like our roster,” general manager Jim Johannson said. “It’s a group that brings versatility and experience and includes players who have a lot of passion about representing our country.”
Denver’s Troy Terry, Boston University’s Jordan Greenway, St. Cloud State’s Will Borgen and Harvard’s Ryan Donato are the NCAA players who should give the U.S. a shot of youth. Terry and Greenway won world junior gold with the U.S. last year. Terry and Greenway both played in the USHL development team in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“I get the opportunity to go over there and show everyone what I can do,” Greenway said. “I would have never (thought I’d) been saying to myself I will probably be playing in the Olympics in my junior year of college.”
This isn’t a rag-tag bunch of college kids like the 1980 “Miracle On Ice,” the last time the U.S. men’s hockey team won the Olympic gold medal. The goal was to build a team of varying talents that could compete with two-time defending champion Canada and favored Russia, so much of the roster is seasoned.
With 1,006 games played over 15 seasons, Gionta, 38, has by far the most NHL experience of the 23 players named. A total of 15 players have appeared in the NHL, including AHL star Chris Bourque and European-based forwards Mark Arcobello and Jim Slater and defensemen James Wisniewski and Bobby Sanguinetti.
“I think it’s a great mix of young talent and veteran plyers with a lot of international experience,” said Sanguinetti, who was a first-round pick of the New York Rangers in 2006. “Excited to get together in a month.”
Tony Granato, who played at the 1988 Olympics and now coaches at Wisconsin, will be behind the bench in South Korea. The U.S. lost the bronze medal game to Finland in 2014 and got the silver in Vancouver in 2010.
But this is an entirely different dynamic with the NHL choosing not to send players, as national federations couldn’t pick any player with an active NHL contract. The initial U.S. roster includes the admittedly “semi-retired” Gionta, three players from the AHL in Bourque, Bobby Butler and John McCarthy, five from Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, five from Switzerland’s National League A, three from the Swedish Hockey League and two from multiple levels of Germany’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga.
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