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American Hockey Team Goalies More Popular in Europe

The three goalies of the US hockey team to the Olympics are more recognized in Europe than back home.

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USA Hockey

That’s because the NHL banned professional players from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics, which forced the national team to look elsewhere. They first tried to scout the World Junior Championships but ultimately settled on the trio of Ryan Zapolski, David Leggio and Brandon Maxwell.

Zapolski is playing in the Kontinental Hockey League, Leggio is one of the best goalies in the German league while Maxwell also made a career for himself in the Czech league.

US hockey team general manager Jim Johannson said that the 31-year-old Zapolski has been the top goalie in the KHL, considered to be Europe’s premier league, averaging .937 save percentage and 1.61 goals-against.

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Alexander Demianchuk/Reuters

“He’s always played on teams that have had success, but at times they’ve needed to rely on a goaltender to carry them through some games and he’s capable of doing that,” he said.

Maxwell, for his part, is described by Johannson as “an elite puck-handling goaltender,” which provides the national team with another weapon. Leggio, meanwhile, is noted for being a professional and a net positive in the locker room. He’s also not a stranger to what the US is trying to achieve, having donned the national colors for the past two World Championships.

“Whenever he’s gotten an opportunity to play he has kept his team in games,” the general manager said of Leggio.

US coach Tony Granato said that the three goalies give the team flexibility. He was also all praises for Zapolski, who is expected to be the starter for the Americans.  Granato said that the Jokerit goaltender has been having a solid year out of the three new additions to the national team.

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Big Stone Radio

“We’re excited at the depth,” the coach added. “They all have great track records playing internationally. They’re used to playing on the big sheet.”

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