With NHL on Olympic sidelines, USA may turn to college ranks

Minas Panagiotakis / Getty Images Sport / Getty

The 2018 Winter Olympics could set the stage for the next Miracle on Ice.

The hockey phenomenon, when a ragtag group of U.S. collegiate players captured gold in 1980 in Lake Placid, N.Y., could be the storyline once again when the Olympics heads to Pyeongchang next year.

"We look at it like we will be able to compete with anybody there," Jim Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, told Kevin Allen of USA Today. "We are going to be a very competitive team, regardless of who we are playing."

While NHLers won't be in Pyeongchang, Olympic squads could include those playing professionally in Europe plus players on minor-pro deals in the AHL.

The American team could have a distinct advantage, though, as it could dip into its pool of talent in the U.S. development system, where many up-and-comers have moved through the ranks with the national development program and now play in the NCAA.

"No other country has that type of player available to them," USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher told Allen. "This tournament could highlight each country's depth, and we think we have greater depth than we've ever had."

Related: Projecting Team USA's men's hockey roster at the 2018 Olympics

While it's not known which players will make up the American squad, Johansson noted USA Hockey could also recruit veteran defensemen playing in Europe to create a team that defends well and is difficult to play against.

"Most of the dynamic offensive players are in the NHL," Johansson added. "I think it's going to be low-scoring hockey. We are going to try to keep games under control."

If the upcoming U.S. edition wins gold in Pyeongchang, they'll be the first American squad to do so since the collegiate talent won it all in 1980. The Americans have medalled twice since, taking home silver in 2002 and 2010.

With NHL on Olympic sidelines, USA may turn to college ranks
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