Prospects to power Team USA at 2022 Beijing Olympics
The United States’ entry into the 2022 Beijing Olympics will most definitely have a youthful feel.
Team USA will feature 13 prospects at the international tournament, including Matthew Beniers, the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft.
“I’m just so honored, humbled and exited for this experience to play for the Olympic team,” Beniers said, according to NHL.com. “It’s something every kid growing up, as a hockey player, dreams of. You watch the movie “Miracle”, you watch the Olympics every time you get a chance, and just being named to this team is an honor. I’m so excited and can’t wait to get started with these teammates and coaches and hopefully bring back gold.”
Beniers has 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 22 games as a sophomore at the University of Michigan this season.
He’s one of a handful of players to represent Team USA at the 2022 World Juniors on the roster, joining Ottawa Senators prospect Jake Sanderson, Chicago Blackhawks prospect Drew Commesso, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Matthew Knies, and Los Angeles Kings prospect Brock Faber.
Here’s a rundown of the prospects set to represent the United States at the Olympics.
NICHOLAS ABRUZZESE, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
2021-22 stats: 13GP | 5G | 16A | 21P
Drafted: Toronto Maple Leafs (4/124, 2019)
Nicholas Abruzzese is the first of two selections from a loaded Harvard Crimson squad. He is a versatile forward that plays a responsible game in all three zones while being able to significantly contribute offensively.
MATTHEW BENIERS, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
2021-22 stats: 22GP | 12G | 14A | 26P
Drafted: Seattle Kraken (1/2, 2021)
Matthew Beniers is the biggest name on this forward list and the first of five returnees from the 2021 World Juniors gold medal team. He should be tasked with important minutes as their top center and on both special team units. He is so strong on the puck and has shown incredible chemistry with Brendan Brisson where they will hopefully be paired up in China. Beniers is a special talent with a knack for performing on the biggest of stages so look for him to continue building upon his USA Hockey legacy.
BRENDAN BRISSON, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
2021-22 stats: 23GP | 14G | 13A | 27P
Drafted: Vegas Golden Knights (1/29, 2020)
Brendan Brisson is having a breakout sophomore campaign for the University of Michigan Wolverines riding shotgun with Beniers. He has great speed and plays a strong two-way game, making him a key complementary piece for this team. Oh, he can score too, with 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) in 23 games this season.
NOAH CATES, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA-DULUTH
2021-22 stats: 20GP | 6G | 8A | 14P
Drafted: Philadelphia Flyers (5/137, 2017)
Noah Cates was a key member of the 2019 USA World Juniors team that lost in a gold medal heartbreaker to Finland in Vancouver. He is a great leader and key offensive contributor for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs. His size, physicality and experience will be invaluable for this young squad.
SEAN FARRELL, HARVARD UNIVERSITY
2021-22 stats: 13GP | 8G | 11A | 19P
Drafted: Montreal Canadiens (4/124, 2020)
Sean Farrell is another member of the Crimson that is going to look great donning the red, white and blue for the first time. He’s more than deserving of his first opportunity to play for Team USA internationally. He had an unbelievable year with the Chicago Steel of the USHL last season — putting up north of 100 points. He isn’t the biggest player, but could be relied upon as a key offensive contributor.
SAM HENTGES, ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY
2021-22 stats: 7GP | 4G | 5A | 9P
Drafted: Minnesota Wild (7/210, 2018)
Sam Hentges is a Swiss-Army knife that is capable of playing every forward position anywhere in the lineup. The St. Cloud University senior possesses solid size and is a veteran of over 100 NCAA games. His experience and versatility will make him a nice piece for this team as a versatile depth forward.
MATTHEW KNIES, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
2021-22 stats: 20GP | 7G | 13A | 20P
Drafted: Toronto Maple Leafs (2/57, 2021)
Matthew Knies has created a ton of buzz this season thanks to his size, speed and heavy style of play. He has seamlessly stepped in as a key contributor for a strong Minnesota Golden Gophers team playing alongside Ben Meyers. He will look to use his imposing frame and skillset to impact the game on both ends of the ice.
MARC MCLAUGHLIN, BOSTON COLLEGE
2021-22 stats: 19GP | 14G | 6A | 20P
Status: Undrafted Free Agent
Marc McLaughlin has so many priceless intangibles in his game that make him such an intriguing player. His ability to score at the clip he does while remaining so responsible defensively is uncanny. Last season, he was rewarded for his efforts being named the Best Defensive Forward by Hockey East. This season, his fourth at Boston College, has been his best offensively scoring at a torrid pace to more than double his total of 10 last season. This is a palyer that many are excited to see in Beijing and how he is utilized by the USA Hockey coaching staff.
BEN MEYERS, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
2021-22 stats: 20GP | 9G | 14A | 23P
Status: Undrafted Free Agent
Ben Meyers has been a favorite undrafted player in the NCAA for a few years now. He can do it all. He is capable of chipping in offensively, shutting down the opposition’s top forwards while playing in all special teams situations along with providing stellar leadership. Whoever signs Meyers could be unearthing a gem. Every NHL GM will be lining up to sign him upon the completion of his third season as Gopher.
NATHAN SMITH, Minnesota State University (Mankato)
2021-22 stats: 22GP | 13G | 20A | 33P
Drafted: Winnipeg Jets (3/91, 2018)
Nathan Smith has played a key role for Minnesota State — the top-ranked team in the NCAA this season. He plays in all situations and is tremendous at capitalizing on his chances to bury the puck. He has a nose for the net and possesses elite puckhandling ability that will be important for this team. Smith also has good size and can play all forward positions, making him a versatile option. He will look to further prove why he is a Hobey Baker favorite in China.
BROCK FABER, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
2021-22 stats: 20GP | 2G | 9A | 11P
Drafted: Los Angeles Kings (2/45, 2020)
Brock Faber was another key piece on the 2021 World Juniors gold medal team, and has taken a step forward with the Minnesota Golden Gophers this season. He isn’t the biggest defender, but he plays an incredibly smart game. He should be in a shutdown or support role on the back end for this team.
DREW HELLESON, BOSTON COLLEGE
2021-22 stats: 18GP | 2G | 12A | 14P
Drafted: Colorado Avalanche (2/47, 2019)
Drew Helleson is a hulking defender that played big minutes for the 2021 World Juniors gold medal team on the top-pairing with Jake Sanderson. He continues to blossom offensively and is capable of playing in all situations. He is going to be a key defender for this team, and does have some untapped offensive potential with 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 18 games this seaosn.
NICKLAUS PERBIX, ST. CLOUD STATE UNIVERSITY
2021-22 stats: 18GP | 1G | 11A | 12P
Drafted: Tampa Bay Lightning (6/169, 2017)
Nicklaus Perbix is a hulking stay-at-home defensemen that makes great breakout and outlet passes for his forwards. He has above-average skating ability for his size and utilizes his incredible reach to separate defenders or break up plays. Big shutdown defenders are always at a premium, so his intimidating presence on the blue line will be key for this team.
JAKE SANDERSON, NORTH DAKOTA UNIVERSITY
2021-22 stats: 17GP | 6G | 16A | 22P
Drafted: Ottawa Senators (1/5, 2020)
Jake Sanderson is arguably the best defensemen that isn’t currently playing in the NHL, at least in terms of prospects. He will be relied upon heavily by this team to log big minutes at even-strength and on both special teams units thanks to his elite skill level. He’s producing at an incredible clip — 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 17 games this season — and his well-rounded game will be on display.
DREW COMMESSO, BOSTON UNIVERSITY
2021-22 stats: 19GP | 2.67GAA | .907SV%
Drafted: Chicago Blackhawks (2/46, 2020)
The United States appeared set to ride Drew Commesso at the 2022 World Juniors, and he looked ready to go after a rocky start with the Boston University Terriers. The talent level is there, and he has looked great in his last 10 games. He will look to challenge for playing time at the Olympics.
STRAUSS MANN, SKELLEFTEA AIK (SHL)
2021-22 stats: 13GP | 1.77GAA | .930SV%
Status: Undrafted Free Agent
Strauss Mann was a brick wall in his three years at the University of Michigan, establishing himself as one of the NCAA’s top netminders. He wasn’t picked up after leaving Michigan, and now he has the chance to showcase himself at the Olympic level. Strauss doesn’t have the imposing size that NHL teams basically demand today, but his positioning and quickness make up for that. His stats look sparkling, but it is important to keep in mind that most SHL goaltender’s numbers are inflated. Nevertheless, he could be the No. 1 netminder in China.