Now Blackhawks teammates, Seth Jones and Patrick Kane will also play together on the US Olympic team. | AP Photos
Jones, Kane and Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews were announced Thursday as the first three players officially on Team USA’s roster for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Two of the three main faces of the U.S. men’s hockey team in the 2022 Winter Olympics will be Blackhawks.
Patrick Kane and Seth Jones, along with Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews, composed the team’s first player announcement Thursday.
“We’re excited about the prospects of our team for the 2022 Games,” Bowman said in a statement. “Patrick, Auston and Seth reflect the high level of talent that will make up our final roster as we strive to bring gold back home to the U.S.”
It’s especially not surprising for Kane: he already starred for the U.S. teams at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, scoring nine points in 12 games across those two tournaments.
But for Jones, despite long ago establishing his reputation as one of the best active American defensemen, the official announcement meant quite a lot.
He was an NHL rookie in 2014 and not quite ready yet for that stage, but the league’s absence from Pyeongchang in 2018 cost him a chance to make his Olympic debut right as he entered his prime. He has waited a long time for this moment.
“It was a surprise this morning,” he said. “I didn’t know that this was happening. Obviously there are so many good USA defensemen right now that…it’s an honor. I’ve had a chance to play for Team USA a few times growing up, [on] great teams in junior [championships] and world championships and things like that. But this definitely hits a little differently.”
It’s not 100% guaranteed yet that the NHL will participate. The NHL can back out of the Olympics without financial consequence up until Jan. 1.
But everything has continued trending in the right direction in the month since the league, its players’ association and two international bodies signed an agreement Sept. 3 to formalize NHL participation. It seems very likely at this point Kane and Jones will indeed be wearing red, white and blue when the U.S. faces China on Feb. 10.
“I know a lot of the players have the same views,” Jones said. “They want a chance to compete against the best players in the world, on the biggest stage, and have a chance to win a gold medal. Everyone is happy that the NHL and the [union]…got this done.”
Alex DeBrincat will likely join Kane and Jones on the U.S. team once the final roster is announced in January. Jones, for one, has “no doubt” about that.
“It’s awesome that we’ve…gained some chemistry this year,” he added. “Because if we’re on the ice at the same time at the Olympics, it’s going to be a whole lot easier to read off each other.”
But between now and then, the Hawks have 53 regular-season games to play, and those are Jones’ immediate priorities.
He has struggled somewhat during training camp, a fact he openly admitted Thursday. He got beat up the ice or lost goal-side positioning on Blues or Red Wings forwards several times in his first two Hawks preseason games.
“Offensively I’ve been decent, but defensively [I’ve made] some mistakes, some things like that, that I need to clean up,” he said. “A lot of it is individual mistakes on my part and things that I can fix. Some timing things, as well.”
Coach Jeremy Colliton dismissed any concerns, attributing Jones’ miscues to the adjustment process to his new team. Come Wednesday’s opener against the Avalanche, however, the Hawks and Jones himself will both expect he’ll perform like a future Olympian.
“I don’t know if he’s putting pressure on himself to be a certain guy, but for us, we just want him to help us when he’s on the ice,” Colliton said. “He’s going to play a lot.”