With Team USA naming its roster for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, Toronto Maple Leafs prospects Matthew Knies and Nick Abruzzese will represent their country.
If Toronto Maple Leafs fans were disappointed with NHL players not going to the Beijing Olympics, they have been given another reason to tune into some hockey action.
Team USA unveiled its roster that will participate in the Winter Olympics and joining a roster full of NHL prospects like Jake Sanderson and Matty Berniers are two names familiar to Leafs Nation. Nick Abruzzese, and Matthew Knies are among a long list of players playing NCAA hockey that will make the trip to Beijing.
As a general view of the roster, USA Hockey decided to dip into its talent pool of players who went through the U.S. National Development Program. It’s definitely a risky strategy to go with a roster that doesn’t have a lot of experience playing against professionals but it’s something they did in 2018.
It also provides some of these young players to show what they can do after the World Juniors in Alberta could not happen because of COVID-19.
Toronto Maple Leafs fans should be excited to see Matthew Knies and Nick Abruzzese
Both Knies and Abruzzese have been receiving more attention as emerging prospects for the Leafs.
The World Juniors was supposed to be Knies’ opportunity to show why he was selected in the second round of the 2021 NHL Draft. As a 19-year-old he has been productive in this first season of NCAA hockey with 20 points in 20 games.
If Knies continues to build on his strong season, there will be some suggesting the Leafs got a first-round calibre prospect. Of course, it’s still too early to say where Knies will project in a few years but a strong showing in Beijing will only add to his impressive resume.
When it comes to Abruzzese, this is a player that the Leafs are excited about and have been patiently waiting for. Understandably, he isn’t in a rush to leave Harvard University but does he want to get his degree or follow the path of other college players and sign an entry-level deal after their junior season.
He suffered a bit of a setback with a hip injury that he elected to have surgery on during the COVID-19 pause. In a recent profile by Joshua Kloke of the Atheltic, the added rehab time allowed him to bulk up adding 15 pounds while improving in other areas too.
The 22-year-old hasn’t lost his scoring touch, showing off his playmaking ability with five goals and 21 points in 13 games. It will be interesting to see how Team USA will use him and if a strong showing means the Leafs will push to have him make the jump to pro hockey when he is free to sign.
There could be more members from the Leafs organization who could make the trip to Beijing.
What are your thoughts on Knies and Abruzzese being named to Team USA? Do you expect them to play a significant role? Let us know in the comments below.