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World Cup

Kane a lock for Team USA World Cup roster

Pavelski, Suter, Quick among those projected

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Pressure on USA for World Cup

USA looks to rebound from disappointing Sochi Games

NHL.com senior writer Dan Rosen with his early outlook for Team USA for the upcoming World Cup of Hockey

  • 01:08 •

It's been 20 years since Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Mike Modano led the charge of Team USA's surge back into the international hockey spotlight and influenced the next generation of American players with a gold-medal performance at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

It's been two years since players from that influenced generation flopped at the 2014 Sochi Olympics by losing 1-0 to Canada in the semifinals before getting blown out of the Bolshoy Ice Dome in a 5-0 no-show loss against Finland in the bronze-medal game.

Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and company have another opportunity this year to match their childhood idols and deliver to the United States a gold-medal 20 years in the making.

The pressure will be on coach John Tortorella, general manager Dean Lombardi and Team USA in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. No, the Americans won't be the favorite. That will be host Canada. But Team USA has gold-medal talent that needs to deliver on the grand stage in Toronto.

What Team USA did 20 years ago was somewhat surprising despite the obvious talent. Anything short of an appearance in the gold-medal round this year will be a disappointment.

Here is what Team USA's roster could look like for the tournament, which will be held Sept. 17-Oct. 1, 2016 (alphabetically by position):

FORWARDS

David Backes, St. Louis Blues, C -- He's the ultimate fourth-line center in an international tournament played on NHL-regulation ice because he can do a bit of everything well regardless of the amount of minutes he gets. Backes has been a mainstay for Team USA for the past decade.

Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Lightning, C - Johnson has been having a tough season filled with injuries and bad luck, but it's not enough to knock him off this team. He is one of the most skilled and smartest American centers in the NHL. Like Pavelski and Kesler, Johnson plays an intelligent two-way game and never lets his size (5-8, 185) hurt him. In fact, his aggressive nature readily offsets any issues he might have against bigger opponents.

Video: PIT@TBL: Johnson scores on Lightning power play

Ryan Kesler, Anaheim Ducks, C -- Kesler's size (6-foot-2, 202 pounds), tenacity and skill make him the ideal No. 2 center for a team that will have to win by grinding away at the opponent. He's a north-south center who excels in all three zones. Kesler's in-your-face game also frustrates opponents. He opens space for his wings and can fill the net too. He was arguably the United States' best forward in Sochi.

Joe Pavelski, San Jose Sharks, C -- Pavelski leads all American players with 119 goals since the 2012-13 season. He is second in the NHL in that span behind Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin. He can play any forward position, and his intelligence in all situations will be vital to the Americans.

Derek Stepan, New York Rangers, C -- Stepan's high hockey IQ and ability to see the ice and make plays in tight spaces could prove to be invaluable to Team USA. He also has intimate knowledge of how Tortorella likes to coach and how Tortorella wants his team to play from their years together in New York.

Max Pacioretty, Montreal Canadiens, LW -- Pacioretty is second behind Pavelski among American goal-scorers since the 2013-14 season with 96. He also has the fifth most points (165) of all American players during that span. He's an elite scorer because his best attribute is his shot, especially his quick release. He's added leader to his resume in recent seasons.

Zach Parise, Minnesota Wild, LW -- It's hard to find a player in the NHL who works harder to score his goals than Parise, who has 79 in 184 games since 2013-14, particularly off his relentless forecheck. He's an elite left wing and a lock to make Team USA. He was the captain of the U.S. team in Sochi and could be again in Toronto.

Bobby Ryan, Ottawa Senators, LW/RW - Ryan's omission from the Olympic roster two years ago brought a lot of criticism, but he has not let the disappointment get the better of him and is an elite goal-scorer. The U.S. team, which struggled to score in Sochi, can't have enough goal-scorers in this tournament. Ryan has 19 goals in 52 games this season.

James van Riemsdyk, Toronto Maple Leafs, LW -- Van Riemsdyk, who is out with a broken foot, is yet another wing with size (6-3, 217), a good shot and the ability to get to the front of the net. It would be tempting to reunite van Riemsdyk with former Maple Leafs teammate Phil Kessel on a line. They've had chemistry.

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks, RW -- Kane has been the best player in the NHL this season. His candidacy for Team USA is not in question. He's always been dynamic, but it seems he has developed a shoot-first mentality this season. It's a big reason for his NHL career-high 32 goals in 56 games.

Phil Kessel, Pittsburgh Penguins, RW -- Kessel has struggled at times this season, his first with the Penguins, but it likely did nothing to hurt his candidacy for the World Cup team. He's among the best pure goal-scorers and skaters available to Team USA.

T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals, RW -- The shootout specialist in Sochi has been a perfect fit on the right side of Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin in Washington. Oshie brings boundless energy to the rink and has the skill to match it. He can play in a top-six role or a complementary bottom-six role without changing his game.

Blake Wheeler, Winnipeg Jets, RW -- Wheeler is yet another wing with size (6-5, 225) in the mold of Pacioretty and van Riemsdyk. He's become a dynamic playmaker coming down the right side. He's having the best season of his eight in the NHL. He could have been an All-Star Game participant this season.

DEFENSEMEN

Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets -- Byfuglien's powerful right-handed shot should be enough to convince Lombardi to take him to Toronto. He can rip it. He would be a major threat on the power play. His shot is the reason why he gets the nod here over fellow right-handed shot Erik Johnson of the Colorado Avalanche. Keith Yandle would be another option if Lombardi wanted four lefties instead of four righties.

Video: DAL@WPG: Byfuglien cuts into Stars' lead

John Carlson, Washington Capitals -- Carlson, a righty, seems like the ideal candidate to play with either Ryan Suter or Ryan McDonagh. Neither is a stay-at-home defenseman by any stretch, but each is a good enough skater to act as a true defensive conscience if paired with Carlson. That's not to knock Carlson's defensive awareness, because it's strong, but he's at his best when he trusts his partner to allow him to get up in the play.

Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes -- Faulk, another righty, could play with either McDonagh or Suter too. He is one of the top skating defenseman in the NHL, can join the rush, and can be a shooter from up top. He's also a threat on the power play, as evidenced by his 12 power-play goals this season.

Cam Fowler, Anaheim Ducks -- Fowler is steady, which might suit Team USA well. He's not flashy, but he can get the puck up the ice quickly and be a threat in the offensive zone. He has Olympic experience and has gone on some long runs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in recent seasons. He's become a leader in Anaheim and he's only 24. His experience should be a factor.

Ryan McDonagh, New York Rangers -- McDonagh, a lefty, moved to the right side to play with Suter in Sochi, impressing even his own coaches in New York, who didn't know he had that ability. Ideally, Tortorella puts McDonagh on the left side and pairs him with a righty who can move the puck and skate just as well. McDonagh is another top skating defenseman.

Kevin Shattenkirk, St. Louis Blues -- Shattenkirk is another candidate to play on the right side of either Suter or McDonagh. He's another strong-skating, puck-moving defenseman. Team USA should have a lot of those, meaning they should be able to start their offense from the back end. Shattenkirk does that well with the Blues while playing 22 minutes per game.

Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild -- Suter is a mainstay on the American blue line, and has been since the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He can play half the game while chipping in offensively and playing smart defensively. He won't have to play half the game for Team USA, and that ideally should make him even more effective in the minutes he plays. Expect Tortorella to lean heavily on him nonetheless.

GOALIES

Ben Bishop, Tampa Bay Lightning -- Bishop is good enough to contend for the starter's job with Team USA. He helped keep the Lightning afloat when they weren't scoring a lot earlier in the season and has lately helped push them forward into solidifying a playoff position. He was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2014 and helped the Lightning reach the Stanley Cup Final last year.

Jonathan Quick, Los Angeles Kings -- Quick was the starter in Sochi. He's also a two-time Stanley Cup champion. He's having a strong rebound season after being average last season, a major reason why the Kings missed the playoffs in 2014-15 and are first in the Pacific Division this season. He has the most experience of the three goalies.

Cory Schneider, New Jersey Devils -- He's established himself as one of the top goalies in the world since the start of last season. Schneider is arguably the biggest reason why the Devils are in playoff contention this season despite routinely getting outshot. He could be a Vezina Trophy finalist this season.

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