Final Team USA roster projection for the World Cup

Illustration by Sam Ho

The Americans left some top-notch names, including Phil Kessel, David Backes, Justin Faulk, Kevin Shattenkirk and Tyler Johnson, off the initial announcement of the first 16 members of their roster for the World Cup of Hockey. Life isn't going to get any easier for general manager Dean Lombardi and his executive crew as they make their final seven roster selections this week. Here's how I see Team USA's roster shaping up, with my final seven in bold:


I have to wonder if Team USA's management is feeling a little buyer's remorse about naming Abdelkader among its first 16. With only four spots remaining, a very good player -- or, more specifically, a good player who is having a very good postseason, such as Paul Stastny, Phil Kessel, Backes or even Palmieri, who was tied for fourth among all U.S.-born players in the NHL with 30 regular-season goals -- is going to be left off the list. Johnson is a given to join the squad and will assume a top-two pivot role. Backes' play this postseason, and his experience as a two-time Olympian, should land him on the team, too -- especially given that Pavelski, who can play center, has torn it up while playing on the wing with Joe Thornton in San Jose. For me it came down to Palmieri, Kessel and Okposo, all right-hand shots, for the final two spots. I kept Palmieri and Okposo because of their versatility and grit.


Adding Byfuglien to the initial 16 was an interesting decision, but it speaks to Lombardi's desire to ice a big, imposing squad that will make life difficult for the highly skilled, speedy units they'll face in Sweden, Team North America and, of course, Canada. I like Shattenkirk and Faulk to join this group. They are both veterans of the Sochi Olympic squad and both will add important offense from the back end. The final spot is a bit fluid. If they want more skill, Keith Yandle would be a nice fit. If they need more stability, they might consider Fowler, who played in Sochi. More physicality? What about Erik Johnson, who was part of the silver-medal team in Vancouver in 2010? Paul Martin has had an understated but exceptional season in San Jose for a very good Sharks team and played in Sochi as well. We'll play it safe and go with Fowler -- who adds another left-handed shot to the mix.


The goaltending has been set for a long time, so it was no surprise that all three goalies were named on March 2. Now the bigger question is what their respective roles will be. Bishop has probably earned the start, although his injury during the Eastern Conference finals could prove problematic. Schneider has the numbers to suggest that he should play, and of course Quick has the experience that neither of the other two has, including a playoff MVP turn and two Stanley Cup rings. Team USA's brass has some tough calls to make. My guess here is that all three will see action before things get to crunch time in Toronto.