Felger & Mazz

Felger & Mazz

Felger & Mazz

The 2026 Winter Olympics will take place in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy and if all things go well, NHL players will return to the tournament for the first time since 2014. At the 2014 Winter Olympics the United States of America fell short of the podium after falling to Finland in the Bronze medal game. With a lot of hype surrounding the team entering the tournament, missing the podium and losing to Canada in the semi-finals was seen as a big failure for the American squad. They haven’t won a gold medal in the Winter Olympic games since the “Miracle on Ice” Olympics in 1980 when the USA upset the powerful Russians en-route to a gold medal. The Americans officially captured the gold when they took down Finland 4-2 in the following game.

The 2010 Winter Olympics were the closest the U.S.A came to gold when they fell to the host Canadians in overtime of the gold medal game. They also fell to Canada in the 2002 gold medal game by a final score of 5-2 in Salt Lake City. However, the 2026 team could present the best chance for a gold medal coming back to America for the first time since 1980. 

The team should be loaded with offensive talent with guys like Auston Matthews, Jack Hughes, Matthew Tkachuk, and Jack Eichel leading the way. They also have loads of depth on the defensive side with Charlie McAvoy, Adam Fox, and Quinn Hughes, and goaltending to go along with the talent in front of them. 

Below are my predictions (along with lines and defensive pairing guesses) for who could make the 2026 team for the U.S.A. in the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy as they look to bring home their first gold medal since 1980 in men’s ice hockey.

UPDATED: This projected team was updated from its original predictions on November 4th, 2023. 

  • First Line

    Brady Tkachuk – Auston Matthews – Matthew Tkachuk 

    SUNRISE, FLORIDA - JUNE 08: Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Florida Panthers celebrates the game-winning goal by teammate Carter Verhaeghe during the first overtime period to give the team a 3-2 win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game Three of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final at FLA Live Arena on June 08, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    SUNRISE, FLORIDA – JUNE 08: Matthew Tkachuk #19 of the Florida Panthers celebrates the game-winning goal by teammate Carter Verhaeghe during the first overtime period to give the team a 3-2 win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game Three of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final at FLA Live Arena on June 08, 2023 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Matthew Tkachuk showed that he has the ability to perform on the biggest stage in 2023 when he almost single handedly dragged the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup Playoffs and then followed it up with a terrific playoff performance. I’m matching Matthew up with his brother Brady and putting former MVP Auston Matthews in between them.

  • Second Line

    Jason Robertson – Jack Hughes – Tage Thompson

    BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 31: Tage Thompson #72 of the Buffalo Sabres celebrates his goal during the first period against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on December 31, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MA – DECEMBER 31: Tage Thompson #72 of the Buffalo Sabres celebrates his goal during the first period against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden on December 31, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Rich Gagnon/Getty Images)

    A line that has three guys capable of scoring 40-goals in a season. These three could easily be the top line on this squad as well.

  • Third Line

    Kyle Connor – Jack Eichel – Johnny Gaudreau

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 13: Jack Eichel #9 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrates the Stanley Cup victory over the Florida Panthers in Game Five of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena on June 13, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – JUNE 13: Jack Eichel #9 of the Vegas Golden Knights celebrates the Stanley Cup victory over the Florida Panthers in Game Five of the 2023 NHL Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena on June 13, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Stanley Cup Champion Jack Eichel will anchor the third line alongside sniper Kyle Connor and one of the old men on this team, Johnny Gaudreau. Eichel as a third line center? Not bad.

  • Fourth Line

    Matty Beniers – Dylan Larkin – Clayton Keller

    Mar 12, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin (71) brings the puck up ice against Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) during the first period at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 12, 2023; Detroit, Michigan, USA; Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin (71) brings the puck up ice against Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) during the first period at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    A fourth line that could be a first or second line for a few of the teams in the tournament. It just shows the depth of Team USA.

    Speaking of scratches: Cole Caufield and Brock Boeser are my first two alternates on the offensive roster.

  • First Defensive Pairing

    Zachary Werenski – Charlie McAvoy 

    Apr 13, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) prepares for a face off against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 13, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Boston Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy (73) prepares for a face off against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

    My Bruins bias may be showing here but I think Charlie McAvoy is the best American defenseman. Pairing him with Zachary Werenki (who I’m also biased towards) is my top American duo on the blue line.

  • Second Defensive Pairing

    Seth Jones – Adam Fox 

    Chicago Blackhawks v Seattle Kraken

    SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – APRIL 08: Seth Jones #4 of the Chicago Blackhawks looks on during the second period against the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on April 08, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

    Seth Jones is a tad bit overrated, in my opinion, but he’s still one of the best defensemen in the NHL and he will be paired with Adam Fox to form a solid second pairing on the blue line.

  • Third Defensive Pairing

    Quinn Hughes – Luke Hughes

    New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders

    ELMONT, NEW YORK – OCTOBER 20: Luke Hughes #43 and Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils celebrate Luke’s goal during the second period against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on October 20, 2023 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Quinn Hughes will quarterback the top American power play unit. He’ll be joined by his younger brother Luke to form a solid third pairing.

    My defensive scratches: Jaccob Slavin and Brock Faber

    **As far as Slavin goes, I think he is one of the more underrated d-men in the NHL, so I could easily see him in this lineup. And Brock Faber is having a terrific rookie season, so if he continues this way the U.S. will have a problem of having too many good defensemen. Not a bad problem to have.

  • Goaltenders

    Jake Oettinger – Connor Hellebuyck – Jeremy Swayman

    Jan 30, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger (29) stops a shot by Boston Bruins center Steven Fogarty (29) during the third period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 30, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger (29) stops a shot by Boston Bruins center Steven Fogarty (29) during the third period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

    Any of these guys could be the starter for Team USA. I’ll give Oettinger the starting nod here because I think getting a few more years under his belt will help him get the starting role for the Americans.

  • Kevin Maggiore is a Producer for Felger & Mazz on 98.5 The Sports Hub

    Listen to Felger and Mazz from 2-6 every Monday-Friday on 98.5 The Sports Hub, with hosts Mike Felger, Tony “Mazz” Massarotti, and Jim Murray “Big Jim”. You can listen live in the Sports Hub App and subscribe to their podcasts here. Follow @FelgerAndMazz on Twitter to keep up with the show!

     

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