Projecting USA's 2018 Olympic roster

T.J. Oshie went from cult favorite to shootout hero in Sochi. Will he be back in 2018? Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

There’s no guarantee that NHL players will be participating in the 2018 Winter Olympic games, but the impact stateside of Team USA’s fourth-place finish, even if it’s disappointing, makes a strong case for it. The Olympics draw the attention of casual American sports fans unlike anything the NHL does.

T.J. Oshie went from a cult favorite of Blues fans to an American darling. Two countries paused for a few hours Friday afternoon to take in one of the best rivalries in sports when the Canadian and American men’s teams put on nearly as good a show as the women.

And considering the result of this tournament and that game, there’s no doubt Team USA’s NHL players will want another crack at the Canadians and the rest of the field in four years. What would that team look like?

Suddenly the forwards are starting to age, but the defense and goaltending will be coming of age and Team USA’s strength. Here’s a look at a projected 2018 Team USA.

Forwards (14)

David Backes, St. Louis Blues -- He’ll be 33 years old for the next Olympics as some of the American’s core starts to show its age. Because of their physical style of play and the way they put their bodies on the line every game, it’s hard to project the return of both Backes and Dustin Brown. In four years, that’s a lot of additional mileage, but Backes’ ability to play center puts him on this squad.

Derek Stepan, New York Rangers -- He was an extra on this year’s team, but he’ll be hitting his stride in the league at 27 during the next games, armed with valuable experience from Sochi.

Jack Eichel, USNTDP - He’ll be 21 years old for the next games and not only is he going to make this team, he’s a strong candidate to center one of the top two lines.

Chris Kreider, New York Rangers -- Kreider is a strong skater who will be 26 years old and an established NHL player when the next Olympics arrive.