NHL player-free U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team features youngest roster in decades

With NHL players staying home from the Beijing Olympics, USA Hockey selected a men’s roster that will be comprised of 15 college players, eight players who have been playing in Europe, and two players from the American Hockey League.

The average age of the 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders who will represent Team USA will be 25.1 years old, the youngest team since 1994. Only one player, forward Brian O’Neill, will return from the 2018 men’s team that finished seventh in Pyeongchang, Korea.

Brendan Brisson of Manhattan Beach and the University of Michigan, a first-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2020, is part of the college contingent.

The NHL last month decided not to let players represent their homelands in Beijing, citing “current circumstances” related to the spread of COVID-19. NHL players had competed in five straight men’s Olympic hockey tournaments, starting in 1998 at Nagano, Japan, and through the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia. Drawing on its domestic league, the KHL, Russia won the gold medal in 2018.

The roster, announced on Thursday, includes five Americans who are playing in the KHL. Among them is former Kings forward Nick Shore, who plays for Novosibirsk. Shore also is among the seven players named to the team who have NHL experience.

“We’re excited about the roster we’ve put together,” Olympic team general manager John Vanbiesbrouck said in a news release. “The Olympics are the biggest stage in sports and it was fun to hear the enthusiasm our players have to represent their country. We’re fortunate to have a deep talent pool — thanks in part to all the great work of our volunteers in communities across the nation — and with the mix of players who are part of our team, we’re looking forward to competing for a gold medal in Beijing.”

The team will be coached by former New York Rangers coach David Quinn. Had NHL players participated, Mike Sullivan of the Pittsburgh Penguins would have been the coach.

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