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World Cup: Projected USA roster

Strong playoffs put Lightning's Johnson, Penguins' Kessel on short list

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

Some very difficult decisions remain for Team USA's management group as they contemplate what their final roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey looks like.

Team USA has to name seven more players to the roster Friday to round out a lineup that already has 16 players, which were named on March 2.

With all three goalies named in the initial wave of 16, the Americans likely will name four forwards and three defensemen this week to get to 23 players for the tournament, which begins Sept. 17 in Toronto.

Many of the players on the bubble, including forwards Phil Kessel of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tyler Johnson of the Tampa Bay Lightning, and defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk of the St. Louis Blues and Paul Martin of the San Jose Sharks, have made the decision-making process even more interesting with dominant showings deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: PIT@TBL, Gm4: Kessel puts the Penguins on the board

Here's NHL.com's projection of the final seven players on the roster:

THE FINAL 7

F: Tyler Johnson (Tampa Bay Lightning), Phil Kessel (Pittsburgh Penguins), David Backes (St. Louis Blues), Kyle Palmieri (New Jersey Devils).

D: Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes), Cam Fowler (Anaheim Ducks), Paul Martin (San Jose Sharks).

G: None

Johnson has been dynamic this postseason, scoring 17 points in 16 games. He has three game-winning goals among his seven playoff goals. He has shown the ability to handle top-six minutes on what will be an all-star team.

Backes (6-foot-3, 221 pounds) brings the size and the snarl general manager Dean Lombardi wants to be the hallmark of this team. Backes leads the postseason in hits, averaging five per game.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm2: Backes drops Janmark with big check

It has been impossible to ignore Kessel this postseason as he rewrites his narrative with clutch performance after clutch performance. He has nine goals and 18 points in 17 playoff games. 

The final spot was a tough decision, basically coming down to Paul Stastny of the Blues, Kyle Okposo of the New York Islanders and Kyle Palmieri of the New Jersey Devils. Palmieri won the day for his offensive upside.

On defense, there are several ways management can go. It seems obvious Faulk and Fowler are givens. Faulk is a bit of an offensive specialist that can do some serious damage on the power play. Fowler, 24, already has played 414 NHL regular-season games. He is solid at each end of the ice.

The last position comes down to a decision among Shattenkirk, Martin and Keith Yandle of the New York Rangers. Martin gets the nod because of his ability to complement any defensive partner and be the defensive conscience of any pair. He has been an unsung, but invaluable, part of San Jose's playoff run. 

Potential lineup

Forwards 

Max Pacioretty - Derek Stepan - Patrick Kane

Zach Parise - Tyler Johnson - Phil Kessel

Joe Pavelski - Ryan Kesler - Blake Wheeler

Kyle Palmieri - David Backes - T.J. Oshie

Justin Abdelkader

Defensemen 

Ryan McDonagh - John Carlson

Ryan Suter - Justin Faulk

Cam Fowler - Paul Martin

Dustin Byfuglien  

Goalies 

Jonathan Quick

Ben Bishop  

Cory Schneider

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