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      4 Nations Face-Off 2025: Early Team USA roster projections

      Say hello to your tournament favorites, led by Matthews, the Tkachuks and more.

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      Last week, we began looking ahead to the 2025 4 Nations Face-Off, in which the top NHL talents from Canada, USA, Sweden and Finland will compete in a mini tournament from Feb. 12-20.

      The rosters will be comprised of 20 skaters and three goalies. A year before the event begins, let’s project how each roster will look.

      For our Canada breakdown, click here. Next up: the team many people expect to be the favorite: USA.

      Here’s how colleague Steven Ellis and I envision this loaded American lineup.

      FORWARDS – Matt Larkin’s picks

      Jason RobertsonAuston MatthewsMatthew Tkachuk
      Brady TkachukJack HughesAlex DeBrincat
      Kyle ConnorJack EichelClayton Keller
      J.T. MillerDylan LarkinTage Thompson
      Jake Guentzel 

      The perennial compliment to Canada’s squad is always, “We could make a contender out of their B team,” and that’s now true for the U.S. As well. Look at the names I omitted: Cole Caufield, Johnny Gaudreau, Matt Boldy, Brock Nelson, Brock Boeser, Chris Kreider, Patrick Kane, Joe Pavelski. The Yankees have superstar power from Matthews, Hughes and the Tkachuks but also extreme depth. Their fourth line would be a passable first line.

      Biggest flex: I had a few. For one, I’m keeping the faith in Thompson despite his highly disappointing 2023-24 campaign with the Buffalo Sabres. I still think his unique blend of size and skill makes him a fun tool to have – especially if the power play needs a jumpstart via his great one-timer. I also surprised myself placing DeBrincat so high in the lineup, but I wanted my lines balanced with a trigger man on each.

      Toughest cut: Pavelski is just such a winner, but he’ll be 40 when the event arrives next season, so the aging curve tiebreaker knocked him out. Same goes for Kane. It’s possible Caufield wins his way onto my roster the next time I project it, but DeBrincat does similar things in an equally compact package yet plays with a bit more of an edge.

      Also considered: Brock Nelson, Brock Boeser, Chris Kreider, Vincent Trocheck, Joe Pavelski, Cole Caufield, Matt Boldy, Alex Tuch, Johnny Gaudreau, Matty Beniers, Patrick Kane

      FORWARDS – Steven Ellis’ picks

      Matthew Tkachuk Auston Matthews Alex DeBrincat
      Jason Robertson Jack Hughes Brady Tkachuk
      Kyle Connor  J.T. Miller Brock Boeser
      Tage Thompson Jack Eichel Clayton Keller
      Jake Guentzel  

      Of the three positions, the forward crop was the easiest to piece together. There’s more scoring depth than ever before to choose from, and the center depth alone is the best its ever been. This lineup has everything – skill, speed, tenacity and two-way reliability. The fact I had Guentzel – one of the best wingers from the past decade – as the 13th forward shows you how good this group is going to be.

      Biggest flex: I realize Matt made the same lineup call, but having Matthews and Matt Tkachuk together again will be a sight to see. They were incredible together in junior national team action, and adding a pure goal-scorer in DeBrincat would make that line even more dangerous. You could stick anyone on Matthews’ line and they’d thrive, but I love this trio here.

      Toughest cut: Kreider is one of the top-scoring American players this season but offense isn’t going to be a concern here. With so much winger depth, something had to give. I picked Thompson in his place to help provide extra size to the team’s bottom six. Not that matters too much, but I’m expecting Thompson to return to form next year after his difficult 2023-24 campaign.

      Also considered: Chris Kreider, Dylan Larkin, Vincent Trocheck, Joe Pavelski, Cole Caufield, Matty Beniers, Johnny Gaudreau, Brock Nelson, Frank Vatrano

      DEFENSEMEN – Matt Larkin’s picks

      Quinn HughesCharlie McAvoy
      Jaccob SlavinAdam Fox
      Jake SandersonBrock Faber
      Luke Hughes 

      Good luck scoring on this group. Whoa. This D-corps has major shutdown ability on each pair. Slavin-Fox could be the best defensive duo in the whole tournament. And how about the mobile minute munchers Sanderson and Faber for a third pairing? Puck-moving skill obviously won’t be a problem either with Hughes and Fox leading the way on separate pairs.

      Biggest flex: I turned over a generation here. In previous incarnations, the likes of John Carlson and Jacob Trouba would have cracked my lineup. But I let recency bias take over and selected Sanderson, Faber and Hughes – with the expectation they’ll be even better a year from now.

      Toughest cut: This D-corps fits more of the modern shutdown archetype and isn’t overly physical aside from McAvoy. Will I regret leaving Trouba and K’Andre Miller off my roster?

      Also considered: Jacob Trouba, K’Andre Miller, Zach Werenski, Noah Hanifin, John Carlson

      DEFENSEMEN – Steven Ellis’ Picks

      Quinn Hughes Adam Fox
      Jaccob Slavin Brock Faber
      Jake Sanderson Charlie McAvoy
      Jacob Trouba 

      This lineup was a near-slam dunk. Hughes and Fox as a top pair unit is downright diabolical, and Faber is already closing in as one of the best young defenders in the game today. This seven-man lineup has a little bit of everything – they’re not losing many matchups.

      Biggest flex: I felt like adding Trouba – a physical defenseman who can shut guys down – made the most sense as the seventh defenseman. You don’t need guys taking penalties at an event like this, but given its NHL rules on NHL ice, Trouba is a perfect fit.

      Toughest cut: Zach Werenski? Luke Hughes? Take your pick. There’s no shortage of two-way, puck-moving defensemen, with just about all of them having significant power-play experience. I wanted to mix things up a bit, but I had a hard time keeping Werenski and Hughes off.

      Also considered: Luke Hughes, Zach Werenski, K’Andre Miller, Noah Hanifin

      GOALTENDERS – Matt Larkin’s picks

      Connor Hellebuyck
      Thatcher Demko
      Jake Oettinger

      Oh, baby. Not only do the Americans have the best goalies in the tournament, they may have the best three goalies given Russia isn’t participating. Hellebucyk is the top puck-stopper in the world at the moment, but Demko and Oettinger are alpha No. 1s, too. I’d pick them to start for Canada over Adin Hill and maybe Sweden over Linus Ullmark and Finland over Juuse Saros, too. And again – these are my backups for USA.

      Biggest flex: Nothing jumps out. A year ago, I probably would’ve slotted Oettinger as my No. 2 over Demko, and it’s possible they flip-flop again by next winter.

      Toughest cut: None. It was this trio, locked in, and any other option was a tier down for me.

      Also considered: No one

      GOALTENDERS – Steven Ellis’ picks

       Connor Hellebuyck
       Thatcher Demko
       Jake Oettinger

      This is USA’s answer to Canada’s Martin Brodeur/Roberto Luongo/Marc-Andre Fleury from the 2010 Winter Olympics. These three are going to be in the Vezina Trophy conversation for at least the next few years, and all three would be starters on just about any other team in the tournament. The only team that would come close to competing with this trio is Russia – and they’re not participating.

      Biggest flex: No such thing here. Simple as that.

      Toughest cut: Nobody. These three are in a class of their own. We’ll see if that changes for 2026, but these three are a lock.

      Also considered: Jeremy Swayman, Joseph Woll, Joey D’Accord, Charlie Lindgren

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