For the first time since 1994, the NHL will not break for the Winter Olympics. Men's hockey in PyeongChang will go on next month without some of the world's best players, with Canada and the U.S. likely experiencing the most noticable drop-off in talent.

As was the case in 2010 and 2014, USA Hockey used the NHL Winter Classic as its venue to introduce the Olympic team. This time, the names read were not those of superstars, but of free agents, players overseas and college stars.

Members on the Sabres and Rangers took note of this. In the lead-up to the New Year's Day matinee, a few American players -- Jack Eichel, Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk -- spoke candidly about missing the Olympics. McDonagh, 28, and Shattenkirk, 28, were both part of Team USA at the 2014 Olympics, and Eichel, 21, is one of the nation's rising stars. Here is what they had to say:


"Obviously, I think every kid who grows up playing hockey and following the international side of things, wants to represent their country. And I've been fortunate that I've been able to represent USA Hockey at other events, and the big one is the Olympics. Every kid dreams of playing in the Olympics and I'm the same way. Obviously, when we found out that we weren't going to be able to go the Olympics, it's tough. And it's not just me, but a lot of guys that whether or not they've had the opportunities or if they're getting to the end of their career, and you know, it only happens every four years. I think it's something that players really wanted to do, but we couldn't find a way to make it work, so it's something that I've kind of just moved on from. And I know some people that hopefully get the opportunity to play for the United States, and I’ll be following and rooting for 'em."


"Until those Olympics start, you're going to feel, 'what if' and 'you wish you were there' kind of thing. But fortunately, I was able to participate in one. But still, you can only play this game so long and to have an opportunity to possibly represent your country is a great moment to be a part of. And so, a couple of texts back and forth with [Tony] Granato in his preparation, just wishing him luck, looking forward to seeing the final roster for the U.S."


"It has seemed quiet and just quieter than 2014, and obviously, when you're not worrying about making the team and having that in the back of your mind while you're playing, you kind of forget about it a little bit. But as far as tomorrow goes, I’m excited because I have a lot of good friends overseas who I'm hoping to be named and I’m happy that they're getting the chance to do this. I wish we were going. It still kills me that we're not going over there, but you know, I think this is an opportunity that those guys would never have had anyway. And I’m hoping that they go over there and play well."

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.

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