When USA Hockey announced their Olympic hockey rosters a few days ago, two of the three teams looked complete, but the men’s roster only had one goalie. USA Hockey has said they will name two more soon.
Since that time, and before the roster was official, many people have speculated that the USA might draw on the junior team goalies for their second- and third-chair netminders for the Olympics. The timing of the delay in announcing the full roster certainly makes that seem plausible, and the team General Manager is scouting the tournament and says there are five players they are choosing from.
The difficulty for the USA stems from the fact that very few American goalies play in Europe. Their announced number one, Ryan Zapolski, is a 31 year old having a stellar year for Jokerit in the KHL. While this season is really impressive, he has never played at this high a level before. He couldn’t crack the AHL in North American pro hockey.
When the NHL clarified that no player on an NHL contract, not even an AHL player on a two-way, could play in the Olympics, that meant the USA had to look to either Canadian Junior or the NCAA for backup to Zapolski.
Tony Granato, the coach of the US Olympic Men’s team, is an NCAA coach, so looking there is natural for him. There are some NCAA skaters named to the squad as well, so obviously it’s the route the team has chosen to flesh out their limited prospects from the European leagues.
But why Joseph Woll? He’s not the best NCAA goalie. And he and Jake Oettinger were not having their best seasons before they broke for the World Juniors either.
If you just judge by all-situations save percentage in this season, names like Jake Kielly or Sean Romeo stand out. They’re both older and more experienced as well. But the funny thing about judging just by save percentage in a recent set of games is, if you do that, you’d rank Jeremy Swayman over Woll and Oettinger too, and he’s the number three on the junior team and never got out of the backup’s seat.
It could be that Woll and Oettinger, with two years of WJC experience behind them, are considered the best choices simply because they have that international tournament experience. When Zapolski was that young, the USA had Cory Scheider in net, so he’s never had this experience before. It might just be junior-aged players that the US team needs.