Call them the ‘Miracle Babies,’ call them what you will – but Team USA’s men’s Olympic hockey roster is going to be young and full of promise. With NHLers not going to Beijing, the Americans have instead assembled a youth-heavy crew with some excellent NHL draft picks in their midst, all of whom currently play in the NCAA. Here’s a look at who they are and what they do.
Matty Beniers, C, Seattle Kraken: The University of Michigan sophomore has relevant experience thanks to his presence at last year’s World Championship, even if he played a minor role. Beniers is an excellent two-way center with a great motor and he can be trusted in pressure situations.
Jake Sanderson, D, Ottawa Senators: Hailing from the University of North Dakota, Sanderson was a great defender as a freshman but has taken his offensive game to the next level as a sophomore. Not a lot of flaws with this kid, who has size, skating and skill.
Brock Faber, D, Los Angeles Kings: Faber is an excellent defender thanks to his mobility and smarts and he has been a rock for the University of Minnesota throughout his college career. Has some offense to his game, but Faber’s specialty is keeping the other guys off the scoresheet.
Nick Abruzzese, C, Toronto Maple Leafs: Even though Harvard didn’t play last season, Abruzzese has been playing his sophomore campaign with zero rust, picking up where he left off in his 2019-20 freshman season. Abruzzese is an incredibly smart playmaker who can pile up points.
Matthew Knies, LW, Toronto Maple Leafs: Once Knies figured out who he was in his draft year, he took off. A power forward who is best when he’s physical in the corners and playing a North-South game, Knies has been a point-per-gamer as a freshman with the University of Minnesota and brings enviable size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) to the Olympic team.
Brendan Brisson, RW, Vegas Golden Knights: A dangerous offensive talent, Brisson is best-known for his wicked shot and his vision. It’s also worth noting that he has played on the same line as Beniers at the University of Michigan, so there’s already some great chemistry to use on a team that will have to come together quickly.
Nathan Smith, C, Winnipeg Jets: A consummate two-way player who has been consistently solid with Minnesota State, Smith will be a responsible addition to the squad. Having said that, he’s also been on fire for the Mavericks this season with a career-best 33 points through 22 games.
Noah Cates, C, Philadelphia Flyers: Another player who will be able to fill whatever role coach David Quinn needs, Cates is a player who does things the right way and brings a great motor along with him. He probably could have turned pro this summer, but the University of Minnesota-Duluth is glad he didn’t.
Drew Commesso, G, Chicago Blackhawks: The star netminder for Boston University was also going to be Team USA’s best hope at the world juniors, but he only got to show off for a couple of days, unfortunately. Commesso has poise and size, two traits that will be crucial for success with the entire world watching (OK, maybe not the entire world).
Sean Farrell, LW, Montreal Canadiens: Very swift and very skilled, Farrell did a victory lap in the USHL last season when Harvard cancelled its campaign, but as a freshman with the Crimson now, he’s been an undersized demon with 19 points in 13 games. Teams will have to keep an eye on him in the offensive zone.
Drew Helleson, D, Colorado Avalanche: The Boston College junior brings size and a nice two-way game to the table; his offense has steadily gone up with the Eagles but he will likely be counted on more for his defense in Beijing.
Ben Meyers, C, Free Agent: The captain of the University of Minnesota is a speedy two-way player and one of the most coveted NCAA free agents on the market this year – assuming he leaves after his junior campaign. The Gophers’ leading scorer has also been linemates with Knies.
Sam Hentges, LW, Minnesota Wild: Playing for a very solid St. Cloud State program, Hentges has skill, a ton of high-end experience and will have familiarity with the USA coaching staff as his Huskies bench boss Brett Larson is part of the crew.
Nick Perbix, D, Tampa Bay Lightning: Another St. Cloud State entry, Perbix has size and a nice two-way game on the blueline. Like Hentges, he’s played a lot of important games with the Huskies and that should help on this stage.
Marc McLaughlin, C, Free Agent: A defensive forward out of Boston College, McLaughlin is a hard worker and captain of the Eagles who could easily slide into an important bottom-six role on this team. Stocky kid is a point-per-gamer this season, too.