NEW YORK -- U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame goaltender Mike Richter likes the makeup of the 16 players announced Wednesday by Team USA for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
"This is not just a very talented team, but it's going to be really fun to watch," Richter told NHL.com. "You have guys like T.J. Oshie, Patrick Kane, Zach Parise and Joe Pavelski, who are so talented.
"But Derek Stepan is the key to the whole thing because he played for the University of Wisconsin."
Richter, of course, also played collegiately at the University of Wisconsin. He won a gold medal representing the United States at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, so he knows a little something about the international game.
Richter and fellow American-born defenseman Brian Leetch discussed the Team USA roster while attending an Ice Hockey In Harlem fundraiser to honor Hockey Hall of Fame member Mark Messier on Wednesday.
Ice Hockey in Harlem is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping underprivileged children by offering physical, educational and mentorship opportunities. Messier, a six-time Stanley Cup champion and 15-time NHL All-Star, was being honored not only for his achievements on the ice, but for his philanthropic efforts with Ice Hockey in Harlem and throughout New York.
"The goaltending with [Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, Cory Schneider] is going to be strong again," Leetch said. "The U.S. has been fairly strong in international tournaments, but when I was playing we always went in hoping our goaltenders could steal some games. Ever since the 1996 World Cup (when Leetch served as captain) and moving forward, we've been able to put a team together that felt like we could compete for a championship."
Video: Leech on his involvement with Ice Hockey In Harlem
Richter also gave the U.S. goaltending group a A-plus grade.
"I have the highest regard for these three goalies," he said. "This U.S. team has speed, maturity and the defense looks spectacular, but I would start in goal like any championship coach would. You need solid goaltending and all three of these guys are fantastic.
"The problem for Team USA is not in the lineup I'm looking at now, it's in the lineup of every other team they're going to be playing, because they will be this good as well."
Leetch said the team on paper looks to be very versatile, as was the one he played for in 1996 that defeated Canada in a best-of-3 series.
"All the forwards could play different roles and most of these guys are all penalty killers, power-play guys or last-minute-of-the-game guys," Leetch said. "I think it's important to have a deep versatile team that has players that can play wing, the penalty kill and the power play. Everyone knows you're going to put Patrick Kane out there on the power play. You need people to move up and down the roster."
Richter said it will be vital for the Americans to mesh rather quickly if they plan on winning the tournament.
"There are only a couple of teams I played for in my life where I had as much fun as the 1996 World Cup team," Richter said. "Having that camaraderie, that feeling of wanting to play for each other is important in a short tournament. It will be crucial for this group as well."