World Cup of Hockey: Team USA preview (Puck Daddy)

Puck Daddy
Yahoo
Yahoo

The World Cup of Hockey is back, with the NHL-backed tournament scheduled for the next few weeks in lovely Toronto. Yahoo Sports will offer on-site coverage from the event; but first, here’s a look at the six nations and the two made-up teams that will battle for the funny-looking trophy.

USA

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Schedule
Sat., Sept. 17 vs. Team Europe, 3:30 p.m. ET
Tues., Sept. 20 vs. Canada, 8 p.m. ET
Thurs., Sept. 22 vs. Czech Republic, 8 p.m. ET

Vitals
Career NHL Games – 12,707
Career NHL Goals (Skaters) – 2,726
Career NHL Assists (Skaters) – 4,377
Career NHL Points (Skaters) – 7,103
Career NHL Wins (Goaltenders) – 506
Average Age – 29.5
Average Height (Inches) – 73.7
Average Weight (Pounds) – 209
Stanley Cups – 6

Forwards

Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski, Blake Wheeler and Max Pacioretty were the only U.S. players to finish among the top 50 scorers in the NHL last season. This wasn’t a roster built to fill the net with goals, but was instead constructed with the idea of grinding out hard-fought 2-1 victories.

John Tortorella and the USA Hockey brass see the U.S. as a team that will be tough to play against. Hence why we see the likes of Justin Abdelkader and Brandon Dubinsky on the roster. The “miserable” Ryan Kesler suits that style as well, but you’d also expect him to be here; not so much with Abdelkader and Dubinsky.

In order to make some noise in the tournament, the U.S. can’t rely just on their top dogs. They’ll need a complete team effort and get plenty of production from their depth, which is something many have questioned whether that will come to fruition.

Tortorella used Dustin Byfuglien up at forward in their final exhibition game against Finland, a position he hadn’t played in three years. The Winnipeg Jets D-man wasn’t too fond of the move, which is telling just how much help the U.S. needs up front.

Defense

Expect Ryan Suter, John Carlson and Ryan McDonagh to eat a lot of minutes as they usually do. It will be interesting to see how the Johnson boys, Erik and Jack, respond to their inclusion to this roster.

Matt Niskanen hasn’t repped the U.S. since the 2009 World Championships, but will be a key asset on the power play if he makes Tortorella’s final six.

Byfuglien will help with offense from the back both at even strength and on the power play. Same for Kevin Shattenkir… oh wait, he’s not on the team. Weird, huh? OK, well, then he’ll get some puck moving help from Justin Faul… oh, he’s not on the roster either?

Goalies

Perhaps the strongest aspect of the team. Jonathan Quick will get the start for Saturday’s opener against Team Europe, but if he should struggle, the U.S. can be confident in a potential switch to either Ben Bishop or Cory Schneider.

With teams playing three games in four days, it’s incredibly important to have depth up and down your roster, and goaltending is one area the U.S. has an advantage in compared to some of the other teams in the tournament.

Grade The Jerseys

NHL
NHL

Adidas smartly got rid of the weird reflective stars that were on the Nike Sochi jerseys, which gives them bonus points. It’s a traditional look with the whites featuring the diagonal USA similar to their vintage look. Even with the stripes on the sides, the look kind of works. Solid B+ here.

Special Teams

The power play has potential to be a strong unit in the tournament. From the offense that can be supplied from the back, as we mentioned earlier, to being to put Kane, Pavelski, Oshie, Parise and Pacioretty on units could play a potentially vital role in determining the team’s success.

Down man is where we’ll see how good of a decision including the likes of Dubinsky and Abdelkader come in. Tortorella sees specific roles for each of his players, and those two see a lot of penalty kill time with their respective NHL clubs. Same for Ryan Kesler, David Backes, Derek Stepan and Blake Wheeler.

The U.S will see some dynamic power plays in their group games. Staving off those extra man situations could go a long way toward survival.

Coach

Tortorella’s style came through in the selection of the roster. “Grit,” “sandpaper” and “jam” are all things you’d hear when talking to the coach about his team. Will that translate into success? Not many think so, but Tortorella isn’t one to stray from what he believes in.

Getty Images
Getty Images

They’ll Make It Out of Group Play If … they focus on beating Team Europe and the Czech Republic. Beating Canada is always nice, but seeing as how their two exhibition games were quite intense and injury-filled, it’d be better to get out of the Canada game healthy and prepare for what could be a win-or-go-home date with the Czechs.

They’ll Flop At The World Cup If … something terrible happens to all three goaltenders. Despite their flaws, the U.S. should be able to gobble up six points against Team Europe and the Czechs in order to advance.

Prediction

The U.S. will get out of Group A with a second place finish but their dreams of winning a second World Cup 20 years after their first will end at the hands of Sweden in the semifinals.

Previous World Cup previews
Czech Republic
Canada
Team North America
Finland

Sweden

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Sean Leahy is the associate editor for Puck Daddy on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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