January 18, 2022

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Olympic roster to replace NHLers

Olympic roster to replace NHLers

Fifteen US college players and eight from European clubs were among 25 men USA Hockey named Thursday for the Beijing Olympic squad, replacing an originally planned set of NHL stars.

The NHL withdrew in December from next month’s Winter Games due to scheduling issues over Covid-19, having postponed more than 100 contests due to the virus with plans to reschedule many of them during what would have been a February break for the Olympic trip to China.

Instead of millionaire stars and a set of NHL Dream Teams for several top teams, the Beijing Olympics will have talent from lesser leagues, as did the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, when the Olympic Athletes from Russia took the gold medal.

“We’re excited about the roster we’ve put together,” 2020 US Olympic general manager John Vanbiesbrouck said.

“The Olympics are the biggest stage in sports and it was fun to hear the enthusiasm our players have to represent their country.

“We’re fortunate to have a deep talent pool… we’re looking forward to competing for a gold medal in Beijing.”

The only player returning from the 2018 US Olympic squad is forward Brian O’Neill, who ranks third in the Kontinental Hockey League with 33 assists for Jokerit.

KHL standout Kenny Agostino of Torpedo ranks seventh in the league with 20 goals.

Nathan Smith of Minnesota State University, the top point-producer in US college hockey, in on the squad. Other collegians include Sean Farrell and Nick Abruzzese of Harvard, Matty Beniers (the team’s youngest player at 19) and Brendan Brisson of Michigan and Matthew Knies and Ben Meyers of Minnesota.

There will be seven players with NHL experience on the US roster, including KHL Siber forward Nick Shore, who played 295 NHL games over five seasons with Los Angeles, Ottawa, Calgary, Toronto and Winnipeg.

Also on the USA squad is defenseman Steven Kampfer of KHL Ak Bars Kazan, who played 231 NHL games for Boston, Florida, Minnesota and the New York Rangers.

Topping US goaltenders is Strauss Mann, who plays for AIK and leads the Swedish League with a 1.77 goals against average and .930 save percentage.

The Americans play their Olympic opener against China on February 10.