Capitals

Quick Links

United States unveils Olympic hockey team roster for 2018 Winter Games

usatsi_10511680.jpg

United States unveils Olympic hockey team roster for 2018 Winter Games

Veteran winger Brian Gionta will serve as captain of the U.S. Olympic hockey team at the Winter Olympics, which will be the first without NHL players since 1994.

USA Hockey announced its roster Monday at the Winter Classic in New York. It includes college players Troy Terry from Denver, Jordan Greenway from Boston University, Will Borgen from St. Cloud State and Ryan Donato from Harvard.

"We really like our roster," general manager Jim Johannson said. "It's a group that brings versatility and experience and includes players who have a lot of passion about representing our country."

Without the ability to name NHL stars like Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau, Auston Matthews and Jonathan Quick, the U.S. roster is a mix of players from the NCAA ranks, European professional leagues and the American Hockey League. AHL star Chris Bourque and a handful of former NHL players now in Europe, including Mark Arcobello, Jim Slater, James Wisniewski and Bobby Sanguinetti, are expected to help Gionta on the leadership front.

"I think it's a great mix of young talent and veteran players with a lot of international experience," said Sanguinetti, who was a first-round pick of the New York Rangers in 2006. "Excited to get together in a month."

Tony Granato, who played at the 1988 Olympics and now coaches at Wisconsin, will be behind the bench in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as the U.S. seeks its first Olympic gold medal since the 1980 "Miracle On Ice" team. The U.S. lost the bronze medal game to Finland in 2014 and got the silver in Vancouver in 2010.

But this is an entirely different dynamic with the NHL choosing not to send players, as national federations couldn't pick any player with an active NHL contract. The initial U.S. roster includes the admittedly "semi-retired" Gionta, three players from the AHL in Bourque, Bobby Butler and John McCarthy, four from college and 15 currently playing in leagues across Europe.

Ryan Zapolski, who plays for Finnish-based Jokerit in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, is the only goaltender on the roster so far, with two more to be added later in January. Granato said after the pre-Olympic Deutschland Cup that Zapolski had the tools to be the Americans' starting goalie even though it was too early to name him as such.

Two-time defending gold-medal-winning Canada is expected to announce its roster on Jan. 11. Because NHL players aren't going, Gionta called the tournament "wide open," something Canada coach Willie Desjardins and others have said in recent months.

To that end, the U.S. roster is a blend of youth and experience that also takes into account the wider, international-sized ice that the tournament will be played on.

"We have a decent amount of players that are already used to playing in Europe on the big ice, which can be helpful," said defenseman Ryan Gunderson, who's currently playing in Sweden. "(We have) some younger, college guys, which I'm sure will bring a lot of skill and energy, then proven AHL players that can produce, as well. Gio, of course, has experienced the Olympics before and will lead the way."

Gionta, 38, put up 588 points in 1,006 regular-season games over 15 NHL seasons for the New Jersey Devils, Montreal Canadiens and Buffalo Sabres. He played for the U.S. at the 2006 Olympics and has been practicing with the AHL's Rochester Americans to stay in shape for Pyeongchang.

The U.S. faces Slovenia in its Olympic opener on Feb. 14.

Quick Links

What was the best moment of the Caps' season so far?

usatsi_10438034.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

What was the best moment of the Caps' season so far?

The bye week is a good opportunity to evaluate what happened over the course of the first half of the season and start to look forward. Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir and Capitals correspondent JJ Regan answer the biggest questions surrounding the team at the bye.

Today's topic: What was the best moment of the Caps' season so far?

El-Bashir: Through the Caps' first 45 games, there have been some great goals, scintillating saves and thrilling overtime sessions. But the biggest moment, to me, wasn’t really moment at all. It was the day or so after the Caps cratered in Colorado, 6-2, on Nov. 16, because they came back a totally different team vs. Minnesota on Nov. 18.

Following that blowout loss to the Avalanche, Coach Barry Trotz had a “man-to-man talk with the group” and challenged each individual to look himself in the mirror. When a coach does that, there are typically two ways a season will go—to the top or down the drain. Trotz wasn’t sure which response he’d get, but he didn’t have to wait long for an answer. “The way they came out [against the Wild] told me everything I needed to know,” Trotz said to me and Rob Carlin on the Caps Extra Podcast (11/29).

RELATED: WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE SEASON SO FAR?

The really good stuff begins around 13:00, and it’s definitely worth a listen if you haven’t heard it:

    

Including that 3-1 win over the Wild, the Caps are 18-5-2 in their last 25 games and have shot straight to the top of the Metropolitan Division standings. Their 38 points are tied with the Golden Knights and Bruins for most in that time frame. 

Meanwhile, Alex Ovechkin has accrued 15 goals and 15 assists in those 25 games. Only four players—John Tavares, Nathan MacKinnon, Claude Giroux and Sidney Crosby—have more points during that time period.

Indeed, every season has a turning point. For the Caps, it happened, collectively, after bottoming out in the thin air of the Mile High city.

Regan: There have been several moments that have stood out from the first 45 games of the season, such as Nathan Walker becoming the first Australian to play in the NHL and scoring in his first game on a night in which Alex Ovechkin also scored four times. Jay Beagle’s buzzer-beater against the Carolina Hurricanes will also stand as one of the best moments of the season when it is all said and done.

But I will go a bit more sentimental with my pick and choose Ovechkin’s hat-trick performance in Toronto for Alex Luey.

That night could not have been any more special. Ovechkin invited Luey, a 13-year-old cancer survivor, to attend the game with his family after he heard his story. Luey and Ovechkin were virtually inseparable for the night as Luey was on the bench for warmups and then was with Ovechkin for all of his postgame interviews.

That alone would have been a touching story, but it got so much better.

MORE CAPITALS: CHECK OUT THIS WEEK'S NHL POWER RANKINGS!

Ovechkin promised Luey he would score for him before the game. He more than delivered with a hat-trick performance in a 4-2 win over Toronto in what was a magical night for both him and the Luey family.

You couldn’t write a story so perfect and if you did everyone would think it too unbelievable. Yet it happened and it was by far the best moment of the season.

We may be only 45 games in, but this one will be hard to top.

Quick Links

Caps prospect watch: Colby Williams suspended 3 games for high hit

colby_williams.png

Caps prospect watch: Colby Williams suspended 3 games for high hit

Capitals prospect defenseman Colby Williams has been suspended three games by the AHL for a high hit he delivered to Danick Martel of Lehigh Valley on Saturday.

Per a statement released by the league on Tuesday:

Hershey Bears defenseman Colby Williams has been suspended for three (3) games as a consequence of an illegal check to the head of an opponent in a game at Lehigh Valley on Jan. 13.

Williams was suspended under the provisions of AHL Rule 21.1 after being assessed a match penalty. He missed Hershey’s game vs. Lehigh Valley on Jan. 14, and will also miss Hershey’s Wednesday (Jan. 17) at Springfield and Saturday (Jan. 20) vs. Lehigh Valley.

The hit came in the second period of Saturdays' game. Martel skated after a loose puck in the neutral zone, but Williams cut him off with the brutal hit. The hit appeared high and Martel was down on the ice for several moments. He ultimately had to be helped off by trainers. Hobbs was assessed a match penalty and ejected from the game.

You can see the hit here.

Martel suffered a broken jaw on the play.

The suspension is a tough one for Williams. He was held out of Sunday's game and will also miss Hershey's games on Jan. 12 and the Outdoor Classic on Jan. 20 at Hersheypark Stadium. Missing that game will certainly sting.

CHECK OUT THIS WEEK’S UPDATED CAPS’ PROSPECT RANKINGS HERE

Other prospect notes:

  • Riley Barber scored his 12th goal of the season on Saturday. He is now tied for the team lead in goals with Chris Bourque.
  • Travis Boyd picked up an assist in Sunday's loss to Lehigh Valley. The assist is the 100th career assist for Boyd who has played in 193 AHL games.
  • Garrett Pilon made his debut with the Everett Silvertips after getting traded from Kamloops last week. Head coach Dennis Williams offered glowing praise after his first game on Wednesday saying, "I think Pilon is going to get better and better. I think I might have to harp on him to shoot pucks a little bit more." Pilon responded with a hat trick on Saturday, just his second game with the Silvertips. In four games over the week, he recorded four goals and one assist.
  • Brian Pinho scored a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win over Boston College on Friday. He now has 10 points in his last six games. “Brian always does the right thing,” said Providence coach Nate Leaman. “That’s part of him coming in and playing the wing the first year and learning what it takes. Having a lot of older guys ahead of him. But he had a lot of older guys to look up to when he got to the program. Now, I think Brian is that older guy and I think he’s doing a terrific job being that leader that our team needs. He’s really comfortable with that right now.”

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in his week's updated rankings.