Another name for Team USA at the upcoming World Championship has emerged, as Andrew Peeke will head to Finland for the event next month according to Aaron Portzline of The Athletic. Peeke’s first full season in the NHL will come to an end tonight when the Columbus Blue Jackets take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.
It’s been an impressive year for the 24-year-old defenseman, who quickly went from organizational depth to top-pairing option. Over his last 45 games, Peeke has averaged nearly 24 minutes a night, racking up hits and blocked shots while carrying a huge defensive load. His deployment at even-strength is skewed heavily toward the defensive end, he averages more penalty-killing time than anyone else on the Blue Jackets roster, and his 168 blocks and 191 hits lead all Columbus defenders by a wide margin.
All of that comes at a cap hit of just $787.5K, as Peeke signed a two-year contract last summer that is paying him the league minimum this year. While he doesn’t provide much offense–just two goals and 15 points in 81 games–he’s still been one of the most valuable players on the Blue Jackets all season long. He’ll now be rewarded by getting a chance to represent his country on the international stage, something that hasn’t happened very often throughout his career. This will be his first chance at the World Championship, and though he did make the 2018 World Junior squad and played in one Hlinka-Gretzky, he isn’t a product of the USNTDP like so many others, which has limited his exposure to international tournaments.
The U.S. team will unfortunately not have Josh Norris, however, as Bruce Garrioch of Postmedia reports that the Ottawa Senators forward has turned down the opportunity to play at the event. Norris is a pending restricted free agent, a status that often leads to players declining an invitation as they try to secure their future. Just 22, the San Jose draft pick scored 34 goals this season in just 65 games and looks like a candidate for a long-term extension. With no arbitration eligibility though, the Senators could go for a bridge deal or even squeeze him into a one-year, extremely inexpensive contract, if they want to try and maximize savings.