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Who makes the final cut for Team USA World Cup of Hockey roster?

The final World Cup of Hockey roster will be announced for the United States Friday evening, and honestly nothing would come as a surprise at this point. 

The good news is Dean Lombardi, who seems to be a pretty shrewd observer of the game and does a good job identifying talent, is the team's general manager. We also know 16 of the 23 players already on the team, which makes it a little easier to guess at what Lombardi might be going for with his club.

Near as I can tell, there's no Great Panel Of American Hockey Minds to gather around and conspire against the relatively few actually super-talented players the country has produced. No one to reveal prophetic dreams presaging disaster if Phil Kessel were to make the team. That works in America's favor.

The bad news is John Tortorella is inexplicably still the coach of the team, and that makes it a lot tougher to: a) win, b) guess what kind of roster construction they're actually going to go for here, and c) play remotely entertaining hockey.

That, obviously, works against both the Americans and the viewers.

But with all this in mind, here are my picks for the most likely USA roster at the World Cup of Hockey this fall:

(Ed. note: bolded names have already been selected)

FORWARDS

Max PaciorettyJoe PavelskiPatrick Kane

Zach PariseTyler JohnsonPhil Kessel

Kyle OkposoDerek StepanBlake Wheeler

Justin AbdelkaderDavid BackesT.J. Oshie

Extra:

Ryan Kesler 

This team really messed up pretty badly out of the gate by naming Justin Abdelkader and Ryan Kesler, two checking-line players at best, to this roster back in March. That leaves home prospective — and better — American players like James van Riemsdyk (third in points per game among U.S.-born left wings over the last three seasons) and other guys who aren't great but you'd certainly prefer over Abdelkader and Kesler in terms of how many points they can put on the board for you.

I mean, the fact we're burning a few of the seven extra roster spots on Phil Kessel and Tyler Johnson is just baffling, but here we are. These are two players whose résumés really ought to have spoken for themselves back in March, but whose strong playoff performances make it impossible to be ignored any longer by Lombardi and Co.

The U.S. at least has the benefit of a fairly deep right wing situation, with Okposo, a natural on that side, shuffled to the left as a result. (At least insofar as I don't see a coach like Tortorella making accommodations for Okposo over veteran internationals like Oshie and Wheeler). 

Finally, David Backes had a strong playoff and is exactly the kind of player Tortorella would love anyway, so he's the fourth and final addition up front.

The rest of the players that were already selected are perfectly reasonable picks by the brass. There aren't really any serious holes in the lineup, per se, but just about anyone you worry about there doesn't seem like a worse idea than giving Ryan Kesler any minutes at all.

God, why is Abdelkader on this team? That's flat-out inexplicable.

DEFENSEMEN

Dustin ByfuglienRyan Suter

Kevin ShattenkirkRyan McDonagh

John CarlsonNick Leddy

Extra:

Alex Goligoski

I think this is a strong top-six group that should give most countries (non-Canada division) some matchup problems. The existing picks here — Byfuglien, Carlson, McDonagh, and Suter — are probably about as rational a foursome as you'd come up with out of the U.S. talent pool.

The two additions to the top six are Kevin Shattenkirk, who was very good in these playoffs for St. Louis, and Nick Leddy, who was a sneaky-good defender over the course of the last two seasons. I'm not sure I necessarily trust he or Carlson against the world's best, but if they're your third pairing, you're probably in pretty good shape.

The extra defender's spot was an interesting one, because there are a number of options you can choose from there. Keith Yandle is the guy who should have been on the Sochi roster two years ago, but a perceived rough time on Broadway likely derailed his candidacy. You might want to use Torey Krug as a power play specialist, but you can't trust him to shut down anyone at all. Meanwhile, Goligoski emerges from a pool of a few all-around solid defenders as the best remaining choice.

GOALIES

Ben Bishop
Cory Schneider
Jonathan Quick

Fortunately, this is a decision that has already been made for me, because the U.S. took all three back in March. This is the order in which I would use them, if only because Bishop was excellent in the playoffs before his injury and Schneider hasn't played in a minute.

If Lombardi were picking over again, he'd probably go with Quick once again, but a bad playoff run might lead one to potentially consider other candidates if there were any particularly impressive options available. There are, however, not really too many to choose from: Ryan Miller? Craig Anderson? Scott Darling? That's about it, really. 

This is a team that's a little difficult to love, quite frankly. Plenty of talent at every position, but how much of it is actually world-class? It says a lot about the future of USA Hockey that the most talented American players in the tournament are largely going to be on the 23-and-under team, but that doesn't help the World Cup of Hockey cause now, does it?

If this team medals, I'd be a little surprised. And I'd feel good about it. And they have the talent to make some noise. But the coaching? Yeah, I'm not looking forward to that.

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