United States coach says having Rangers’ Adam Fox on his side ‘will be comforting’

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-New York Rangers at Pittsburgh Penguins
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS — Mike Sullivan knows Adam Fox quite well. And after coaching against the New York Rangers star defenseman for years in the NHL, Sullivan says he’ll find it “comforting” to have Fox on his side during the 4 Nations Face-Off next February.

Fox was one of six players named Friday to play for the United States in the mid-season tournament next season. Sullivan, the Pittsburgh Penguins coach, will be behind the U.S. bench, happy that his division rival will be in his corner for the best-on-best tournament.

“I told him I’m thrilled to have him on my side for once instead of having to figure out how to defend against him,” Sullivan said Friday before the first round of the 2024 NHL Draft here at Sphere.

“I would expect him to be the player that he is and bring what he brings. He’s one of the elite defensemen in the League. He’s one of the best power-play defensemen in the League. We’ve certainly had our challenges trying to defend against him. Playing in the same division, I feel like I know his game really well, because of all the battles we’ve had, we had a playoff series against him a couple years ago (2022). So, to have him on our bench will be comforting.”

The new tournament involving Canada, Finland, Sweden and the United States will replace the NHL All-Star Game next season. It features NHL stars representing their respective country, with games being played at Bell Centre in Montreal and TD Garden in Boston from Feb. 15-20.

In partnership with the NHLPA, the NHL will shut down to accommodate the best-on-best tournament. This sets the stage for NHL players to return to the Winter Olympics in 2026 in Turin, Italy, after missing the past two Olympics.

Each of the four countries taking part selected the first six players to their roster to promote the event. Fox is joined among the first six U.S. players by defensemen Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins and Quinn Hughes, the 2024 Norris Trophy winner from the Vancouver Canucks, and forwards Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs), Jack Eichel (Vegas Golden Knights) and Matthew Tkachuk (Florida Panthers).

“These are the elite of the elite,” Sullivan said. “They guys that we inevitably chose as the first handful of guys, not only are great players, but they’re good leaders and they have a certain pride playing for their nation … We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to name these guys.”

United States general manager Bill Guerin, who’s also the Minnesota Wild GM, added, “We could’ve named 12, 15 guys. There are so many good players. But I think the last spot was the most difficult one to come up with.”

Related: Adam Fox, Mika Zibanejad among first players named to play in 2025 4 Nations Face-Off

Adam Fox praised by Rangers rivals after named to U.S. squad

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Fox has represented the United States in international competition five times. He helped the U.S. win a gold medal at the 2017 World Junior Championship, a silver medal at the 2014 U17 event and bronze medals at the 2018 WJC and 2016 U18 event. He most recently played for his country in the 2019 World Championship, when the United States failed to medal.

Like others among the first six U.S. players, the 26-year-old Rangers defenseman came through the National Team Development Program, before he attended Harvard University.

“Even back at the NTDP, he was a really good. … I think just the way he plays, the confidence, the poise that he has, he’s kind of had it his whole life,” Matthews said Friday. “He’s a really special player and I’m looking forward to playing with him.”

Hughes and Fox each have won the Norris Trophy as the top NHL defenseman, and Fox now has finished in the top five in voting for the award five consecutive years. They give Sullivan a dynamic pair to start off with as the United States builds its roster.

“Fox is an unbelievable player,” Hughes said. “There’s just so many great players in the League right now and ‘Foxy’ is one of them for sure. He’s had a great career so far and it’ll be great to play with him.”

Fox wasn’t the only Rangers player selected in the first six for his country on Friday. Mika Zibanejad was among Sweden’s first six players named.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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