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 plyers 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.