Players around the NHL Tuesday bemoaned the league’s decision to withhold its players from the 2018 Winter Olympics. The league on Monday announced it would not break for the Games or send players to South Korea.
While stars like Alex Ovechkin are proclaiming they will represent their country at the Olympics no matter what, the decision to stock the team with amateur players could benefit a handful of Minnesotans.
The 1980 Miracle on Ice roster was built of amateur talent and featured 12 Minnesotans, nine from the Gophers. The 1984 U.S. Olympic Team was the last all amateur squad and included eight Minnesotans, five Gophers.
The Gophers women’s hockey team is used to losing some of its stars to the Olympics. Amanda Kessel and Lee Stecklein missed all of the 2013-2014 season to compete with the U.S. team in Russia.
Here is a look at some of the amateurs from that Minnesota that could be considered for the 2018 Olympic squad:
Michael Bitzer – Moorhead, Minn.
The Bemidji State junior goalie was a Hobey Baker Award and Mike Richter Award (nation’s top goaltender) finalist. He finished the season with a 1.71 goals-against average and .932 save percentage.
Hunter Miska – Stacy, Minn.
Miska is Minnesota Duluth’s star freshman goaltender and led the Bulldogs to the Frozen Four. He earned the NCHC Goaltender and Rookie of the Year honors after producing a 2.21 goals-against average and .919 save percentage in arguably the toughest conference in college hockey.
Tyler Sheehy – Burnsville, Minn.
The Gophers sophomore forward was a Hobey Baker Award finalist after finishing among the nation’s top eight scorers with 53 points (20 goals, 33 assists). He was named the Big Ten Player of the Year.
Shane Gersich – Chaska, Minn.
Gersich was North Dakota’s top goal-scorer and one of the best in college hockey with 21 goals this season. The sophomore forward led NCHC with 16 goals and a plus-18 rating. He is the nephew of Neal Broten, who helped lead the U.S. to gold at the 1980 Winter Games.
Ryan Lindgren – Minneapolis, Minn.
Lindgren has experience competing and succeeding in international competition. The defenseman helped lead the U.S. National Junior Team to gold at the IIHF World Junior Championship earlier this year and won bronze with the U-18 team in 2016. He was also one of the Gophers top players as a freshman this season.
What amateur Minnesota hockey star would you like to see on the Olympic roster? Comment below.