The 25-player roster includes 15 NCAA players.
“It’s awesome,” Beniers said Thursday. “I think it speaks volumes to how good college hockey is, and not just one league [the NCAA]. It’s pretty much across three or four different leagues; you see guys from each league coming to this team. There’s a lot of great players, and college hockey is really good. I think it gets overlooked sometimes. But it’s tough, it’s big, it’s hard and it’s fast. It’s hard and it prepares you well for the next level.”
Beniers, selected No. 2 by the Seattle Kraken in the 2021 NHL Draft, has scored 26 points (12 goals, 14 assists) in 22 games as a sophomore at the University of Michigan. He is the seventh youngest player named to the United States Olympic men’s team (19 years, two months, eight days).
“I’m just so honored, humbled and exited for this experience to play for the Olympic team,” Beniers said. “It’s something every kid growing up, as a hockey player, dreams of. You watch the movie “Miracle”, you watch the Olympics every time you get a chance, and just being named to this team is an honor. I’m so excited and can’t wait to get started with these teammates and coaches and hopefully bring back gold.”
Sanderson, the No. 5 pick by the Ottawa Senators in 2020 NH Draft, ranks second among defensemen in NCAA Division I ice hockey with 22 points (six goals, 16 assists) in 17 games as a sophomore at the University of North Dakota. He is the 10th youngest player named to the United States team (19 years, six months, five days).
Mark Howe (16 years, eighth months, seven days) is the youngest player to represent the United States. He won a silver medal at the 1972 Sapporo Olympics in Japan.
“You have two elite players at two different positions and Sanderson brings an awful lot to the table; he’s as well-rounded a defenseman as there is playing college hockey,” coach David Quinn said. “We think he’s going to do a lot for us. I know [Beniers] a little better … I tried to recruit him to BU before I left BU. It amazes me how much better he’s gotten in that time and he was a [heck] of a player then.
“You’re looking at two guys that play 200 feet, and the great part about it is these guys are skilled players with a hardness to their game who are committed to playing in all three zones, and that’s why they were drafted where they were, and that’s why they’re going to be big parts of the team we have, and that’s why they’ve got great futures in the NHL.”
The other NHL prospects to make the roster are forwards Brendan Brisson (No. 29, Vegas Golden Knights, 2020), Nick Abruzzese (No. 124, Toronto Maple Leafs, 2019 NHL Draft), Noah Cates (No. 137, Philadelphia Flyers, 2017 NHL Draft), Sean Farrell (No. 124, Montreal Canadiens, 2020), Sam Hentges (No. 210, Minnesota Wild, 2018 NHL Draft), Matthew Knies (No. 57, Maple Leafs, 2021) and Nathan Smith (No. 91, Winnipeg Jets, 2018); defensemen Brock Faber (No. 45, Los Angeles Kings, 2020), Drew Helleson (No. 47, Colorado Avalanche, 2019), and Nick Perbix (No. 169, Tampa Bay Lightning, 2017); and goalie Drew Commesso (No. 46, Chicago Blackhawks, 2020).
The NHL announced Dec. 22 its players would not participate in the 2022 Olympics due to the regular-season schedule being disrupted as a result of increasing COVID-19 cases and a rising number of postponed games. As of Thursday, 104 games had been postponed.
The rest of the forwards selected by the United States are Kenny Agostino (Torpedo, Kontinental Hockey League), Marc McLaughlin (Boston College, NCAA), Ben Meyers (Minnesota, NCAA), Andy Miele (Torpedo, KHL), Brian O’Neill (Jokerit, KHL) and Nick Shore (Novosibirsk, KHL).
Defensemen selected were Brian Cooper (IK Oskarshamn, Swedish Hockey Leagu), Steven Kampfer (Ak Bars Kazan, KHL), Aaron Ness (Providence, American Hockey League), and David Warsofsky (Ingolstadt, Germany). The two other goalies are Strauss Mann (Skelleftea, SHL) and Pat Nagle (Lehigh Valley, AHL).
“We’re excited about the mix,” Quinn said. “I think we’ve got a great blend of youth and experience, guys that have played in the Olympics before. The challenges are you’re throwing 25 players together in a short period of time and trying to become a cohesive unit in a small window, but our guys look around and they see the roster and they feel very confident in the group that we have, and we really feel that we’ve chosen the right team to go over there and win the gold medal”
The United States will play preliminary round games in Group A with Canada, Germany and China. It opens the 2022 Olympics against China on Feb. 10.
NHL.com staff writer Mike G. Morreale contributed to this report