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Predicting the 2017-18 USA women’s national team

USA Hockey is in Tampa for their national team training camp, the first step in selecting the 2018 Olympic roster.

Who can we expect to see on the 2017-18 national team roster as Team USA gears up for Pyeongchang?
Michelle Jay

Today marks the first day of the USWNT national team selection camp, a week and a half long camp for 42 of the best women’s hockey players in the United States. On May 8, the national team roster will be announced and we’ll have our first good look at what the Olympic team could look like for Pyeongchang.

To clarify: this camp is to select the players who will be on the national team, not the Olympic team. Before the 2014 Sochi Olympics, 25 players were named to the national team in June. That group was then whittled down to 21 before the Olympic Games. So while a spot on the national team doesn’t necessarily gurantee you a spot on the Olympic roster, the odds are high that you’ll make the team.

With that in mind, USA Hockey has their work cut out for them as they try to select 25 or so players from the 42 who will be at camp. We broke down the players into three groups to make things easier as we try to predict who will make the national team: the locks, the bubble players, and the dark horses.

Locks:

These are the players that are guaranteed roster spots on the national team (and honestly, the Olympic roster). Seriously, you don’t have to worry about any of them.

Hilary Knight, Monique and Jocelyne Lamoureux, Meghan Duggan, Kacey Bellamy, Megan Bozek, Emily Pfalzer, Lee Stecklein, Kelli Stack, Alex Carpenter, Kendall Coyne, Amanda Kessel, Brianna Decker, Megan Keller, Alex Rigsby, Nicole Hensley, Jessie Vetter

Bubble players:

These are players that will need to have a strong camp in order to impress those at USA Hockey. For many of them, we’ve seen them come and go on the national team rosters for different events. But can they stick around this time after camp is over?

Kali Flanagan, Shiann Darkangelo, Amanda Pelkey, Zoe Hickel, Gigi Marvin, Maddie Rooney, Jincy Dunne, Kelly Pannek, Dani Cameranesi, Annie Pankowski, Dana Trivigno, Haley Skarupa, Stephanie Anderson, Hannah Brandt, Cayla Barnes

Dark horses:

These are players that almost certainly won’t make the roster, barring a miracle. It’s not a knock on their talent, per say- most of these players are just much younger and more inexperienced than their teammates.

Kaitlin Burt, Shelby Amsley-Benzie, Kelsey Koelzer, Sidney Morin, Jenny Ryan, Clair DeGeorge, Grace Zumwinkle, Caitrin Lonergan, Melissa Samoskevich, Makenna Newkirk

A few notes on the selections:

- You probably only have three goalies on the national team, but I’m having a real hard time leaving Maddie Rooney off this list. Who cares if Jessie Vetter is the oldest goaltender on this roster- she’s almost certainly going to make the national team. But the ONLY way she doesn’t is if Rooney steals the third spot. She didn't get as much playing time as Hensley did at Worlds nor does she have the cred that Rigsby has, but in the time she was in net in Plymouth, she looked good. Robb Stauber is a former goalie coach...does he put Rooney on the team too just to make things interesting? Probably not likely, but she’s a player to keep an eye on this camp.

- Gigi Marvin is a bit of an interesting case. It seemed like her time with the national team was maybe at an end this year, maybe because of her age. We saw her come back at Worlds this year, but she was listed as a forward, though she played mostly defense. She’s listed as a forward and frankly, I think she makes the national team, though I’m a little unsure if she manages to make the Olympic squad too.

- There are a few bubble players that I’m a little unsure of. Players like Amanda Pelkey and Hannah Brandt may be closer to locks than bubble players, but there’s just enough uncertainty for me that I can’t call them locks. Brandt should be, in my mind, so even though she’s on the bubble list, she’s probably closer to a lock than some other players on this list.

- Jincy Dunne is on the bubble players, but before she had her concussion issues a couple years ago, she was also the youngest player to make the 2013-14 national team at 16 years old. For that reason, I put Cayla Barnes on the bubble instead of the dark horses list. Barnes is a phenomenal defender and has been a part of the last three U18 gold-medal teams. She's the future of the blue line for USA, and she could very well make this team so she can get an idea of what it’s like to play at the senior level. Olympic team? Long shot. National team? Entirely possible.

- Youth or experience? We don’t know which way USA Hockey will go with this roster. There’s a lot of talented players fresh out of college, but the core of USAH is starting to get older: mainstays like Marvin, Bellamy, Duggan, and even Knight and Decker are now some of the older players on these rosters. They’ll still make the team, but does USA focus on some of their significantly younger players, or value experience more than raw talent? It’s too early to tell.