It's an annual tradition here that once the World Junior tournament ends, we take a look at the potential candidates for the United States' team the following year. Usually this is done out of bitter frustration. This year, not so much. Still, it's fun to take a look ahead at who might be carrying the torch for the US in Sweden next winter.
For sake of comparison, here is last year's post. Pretty much everyone on the final roster was listed as a potential candidate. I was right about a few things and hilariously wrong about a few things. I also said, "And really, you just never know," which pretty much sums up the World Juniors as a whole.
As always, if I miss anyone, feel free to let me know in the comments.
Returning: Jon Gillies
The US maybe won't be as strong as they were this past year with John Gibson--how could they be?--but this is still a pretty strong group with some very good options. Gillies has the inside track on the starting job, and is good enough that the US could win with him. If they continue their trend of having the back-up be a younger player getting experience for the following year, Thatcher Demko seems like the most logical candidate. Big Anthony Stolarz is a wildcard, with loads of potential. That's three pretty strong options right there.
Returning: Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba, Pat Sieloff
It's a pretty big presumption that Jones and Trouba will be available for Team USA next year. I's probably far more likely that neither is available for Team USA next year, especially if you factor in the brilliant tournament each of them just played. The US lineup looks a lot less pretty without those two. Sieloff will be back, and Grzelcyk and Skjei as the last players cut from the team are likely locks too. Hopefully getting cut was a wake-up call to Skjei, because the US will need him to be a leader. The other good news for the US is that they've got a pretty strong group among the '95s to fill out the back end of the roster.
Under Consideration: Stefan Matteau, Nic Kerdiles, Boo Nieves, Brady Vail, Matt Lane, Adam Erne, JT Compher, Thomas DiPauli,Tyler Motte, Hudson Fasching, Taylor Cammarata, Sam Kurker, MacKenzie MacEachern, Gabe Guertler, Ben Johnson, Adam Gilmour, Quentin Shore, Luke Johnson, Brendan Silk, Zach Stepan, Cody Payne, Connor Hurley, Hunter Fejes, Andrew Copp, Jack Eichel, Vince Hinostroza, Cole Cassels, AJ Michaelson, Dennis Kravchenko, Blake Clarke
Once again, I'm not all that confident in Galchenyuk being available for the United States, which leaves the US pretty thin at forward. Matteau just missed out on making roster, and Kerdiles really should have been on the roster. Once again, I think it's pretty likely that a lot of younger '95s fill out the bottom half of the roster. Taylor Cammarata is the big wildcard in this group. I have a feeling USA Hockey may shy away from him, but he's the only name I see in there with the explosive scoring power of a Johnny Gaudreau, which I think the US needs.
I'll stick with "And really, you just never know". This has the makings of a pretty good, but probably not great team. There's certainly going to be more expectations on next year's group, and throughout recent history, expectations have been poison for the US at this tournament.
A lot hinges on the decisions made at the NHL level on Jones, Trouba, and Galchenyuk. I feel a lot better with those three in the lineup. If not, there's not a ton of depth in the '94 birth year, and I think you'll see a lot more 18 year olds than you did this year.