The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Larry Lage

PLY­MOUTH, MICH.» Tony Granato was hon­ored to get a call, of­fer­ing him a chance to coach the U.S. men’s hockey team at the 2018 Olympics, the first with­out NHL play­ers since 1994.

When the Wis­con­sin coach heard and read some of the play­ers he may lead in South Korea, he got even more fired up.

“There are a lot of at­trac­tive play­ers,” Granato said Fri­day. “Un­less you an­a­lyzed the pool, you wouldn’t know the cal­iber of guys that are out there that can help us con­tend for a medal.”

USA Hockey named Jim Jo­hann­son, who has been a player and in man­age­ment the pre­vi­ous six Olympics, will be gen­eral man­ager of the team that will be with­out many well-known names out­side of hockey cir­cles. Jo­hann­son ex­pects at least half of the ros­ter to in­clude play­ers from Euro­pean pro­fes­sional leagues while the rest of the team is com­prised of prospects with mi­nor league con­tracts with NHL teams and col­lege stars.

Hall of Famer and four-time Olympian Chris Che­lios will be an as­sis­tant coach along with Yale coach Keith Al­lain, three-time Olympian direc­tor and Pitts­burgh Pen­guins direc­tor of player de­vel­op­ment Scott Young and for­mer Buf­falo Sabres coach Ron Rol­ston.

Granato, a for­mer NHL for­ward, was an as­sis­tant at the 2014 Olympics un­der Dan Bylsma. He knows USA Hockey could have cho­sen to give Bylsma or Ron Wil­son an­other chance to coach the Amer­i­cans at the Olympics.

“There were a lot of great can­di­dates,” Granato said. “The re­la­tion­ship I have with the as­sis­tants is im­por­tant be­cause we’re not go­ing to have much of a grace pe­riod to get on the same page.”

Jo­hann­son said he has talked to 80 to 90 po­ten­tial play­ers, in­clud­ing one who may re­tire from the NHL, to let them know they need to be on a list with the U.S. Anti-Dop­ing Agency if they want to be el­i­gi­ble to be cho­sen. He will be as­sisted by Ben Smith, the team’s direc­tor of player per­son­nel.

The play­ers get­ting an op­por­tu­nity to play in the next Olympics in six months would not have been in the pool of prospects if the NHL chose to take an Olympic break as it did ev­ery four years from 1998 to 2014.

“I can’t tell you the ex­cite­ment that is com­ing through the phone,” Jo­hann­son said, adding he ex­pects to field calls from a lot of other play­ers. “There’s go­ing to be 25 great sto­ries.”

The Deutsch­land Cup this fall in Ger­many will give nearly 30 Amer­i­cans play­ing pro­fes­sional in Europe an op­por­tu­nity to se­cure spots on the 25-man ros­ter.

Af­ter that tour­na­ment, USA Hockey will be­gin build­ing a ros­ter that will later in­clude AHL play­ers with­out two-way con­tracts with NHL teams and col­lege stand­outs. Granato will step away from his du­ties at Wis­con­sin to coach in Ger­many and South Korea, lead­ing to him miss­ing about four games with the Badgers.

“The re­la­tion­ship I have with the as­sis­tants is im­por­tant be­cause we’re not go­ing to have much of a grace pe­riod to get on the same page.”

Tony Granato, U.S. men’s hockey coach

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