Team USA spent Wednesday morning packing things up at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, before getting on a plane to head to Sweden for this year's World Juniors Tournament.
Here's a closer look at the group that will be heading over to Sweden:
Riley Barber-Miami University-Washington Capitals prospect-One of the few returning players from last year's gold medal-winning team, Barber should be one of the bigger scoring threats for the United States this year. He's not the fastest skater, but has shown a great knack for putting the puck in the net with his heavy shot and exceptional offensive instincts.
Ryan Hartman-Plymouth Whalers-Chicago Blackhawks prospect- Another returner from last year's tea, Hartman is a hard-working, grinding type of forward. Despite not being all that big, Hartman is a very physical player, and can be a real pest to play against. He should be a top player on both of Team USA's specialty teams units.
Nic Kerdiles-University of Wisconsin-Anaheim Ducks prospect- Kerdiles lost out on an opportunity to play in last year's tournament, after missing much of the first half of last year due to a silly suspension from the NCAA. This year, Kerdiles is expected to be one of the top scoring threats for the US. The big forward has averaged a point-per-game against quality competition over the past year in the NCAA, and his scoring abilities should be a big boost to a team that could struggle for offense.
Andrew Copp-University of Michigan-Winnipeg Jets prospect-Two years ago, it would have been silly to even consider Copp for this team, but since heading to Michigan as a freshman last year, Copp's development has exploded, and he's become a big, athletic centerman with some good offensive upside. Copp is also a natural leader, and will likely be one of the captains for the US squad.
Dan O'Regan-Boston University-San Jose Sharks prospect-O'Regan is a smaller forward that is great at distributing the puck to teammates. He should help drive the US offense and make whomever is on his line look better.
Jack Eichel-US NTDP U18-2015 NHL Draft eligible-Eichel is the youngest US player, but could be a special one. The center plays with a strength and maturity beyond his years. His ability to control and handle the puck in heavy traffic is unparalleled. Expect lots of attention focused on Eichel throughout the tournament, and plenty of head-to-head comparisons with Canadian Connor McDavid, as the two could be facing off for the early lead on being the number one overall draft pick in 2015.
Adam Erne-Quebec Remparts-Tampa Bay Lightning prospect- Erne may have put a target on his own back heading into this tournament after he delivered a devastating hit from behind to injure Team Canada's Jonathan Drouin two weeks ago in a QMJHL. He didn't help his cause by picking up a five minute major for checking from behind in the first US exhibition game. But reputation aside, Erne has the type of talent to be a top forward on this year's team. He's a big, strong forward with great work ethic that loves to play with the puck. His physical play could be a huge asset, assuming he stays smart and keeps out of the penalty box.
Henrik Samuelsson-Edmonton Oil Kings-Phoenix Coyotes prospect-Samuelsson is a strong power forward that might also be able to chip in some offense for the US squad. His biggest contributions will likely come battling against the boards and throwing his weight around, however.
Stefan Matteau-Albany Devils-New Jersey Devils prospect-Matteau brings some NHL experience to the table, having played 17 games for the Devils last year. Matteau is a player that plays with a nasty physical edge, and can sometimes cross the line into undisciplined play. But he's got a lot of skill to go along with his toughness, and his experience playing against the pros should help him against this level of competition. He will be a player that makes life miserable for the opposition.
Vince Hinostroza-Notre Dame-Chicago Blackhawks prospect-Hinostroza has struggled through some injury troubles this year, but looks healthy now, and should be a key contributor at the center position. Hinostroza is strong on the puck and plays bigger than his size, with some good skill mixed in.
Hudson Fasching-University of Minnesota-Los Angeles Kings prospect-Fasching is a big forward that played his way onto the team with a strong start to his freshman campaign at Minnesota. He can be a bit of a lumbering skater, but is used to the Olympic-sized ice he'll see in Malmo, having played on the same size sheet at Minnesota. The US will want Fasching to be a physical two-way forward that can kill penalties, and bring a lot of effort to the team's third line.
Tyler Motte-University of Michigan-Chicago Blackhawks prospect-Motte's role on this team will be to be the ultimate energy guy. Motte is a player that uses his tremendous speed to constantly harass opponents on defense. Offensively, he'll just keep things simple and push pucks deep into the zone, unless he can force a turnover and get an opportunity in transition. He should also be an important part of Team USA's penalty kill.
Quentin Shore-University of Denver-Ottawa Senators prospect-Shore isn't the fastest skater out of the US group, but he has some slick skills in the offensive zone that could give the US a real scoring threat on one of their lower lines. If the top scoring lines of each team cancel each other out, having a sniper like Shore provide some offense from a third line could be hugely valuable.
Tommy DiPauli-University of Notre Dame-Washington Capitals prospect-DiPauli will be a fourth line grinder on this year's team. He's not a flashy player, but he's deceptively strong for a player that stands at only 5'11", and plays with an incredible work ethic. He'll fight for, and win a lot of pucks in dirty areas of the ice.
Zach Stepan-Minnesota State University-Nashville Predators Prospects-Stepan is a jack-of-all-trades type of player. There's no one area where he stands out above anybody else on the team, but is also capable of filling any role. He's skated at wing and center this year, and can play any specialty teams situation. He'd be an ideal 13th forward that could be plugged anywhere in the lineup if somebody goes down to injury.
Matt Grzelcyk-Boston University-Boston Bruins prospect- Grzelcyk was the last player cut off of last year's team, and with no defensemen returning from last year's squad, he'll be called upon as one of the leaders of this group. Grzelcyk is a smaller defenseman that skates well and moves the puck reliably and effectively.
Connor Carrick-Hershey Bears-Washington Capitals prospect-Carrick is another player with a handful of games of NHL experience. Carrick had a great training camp with the Capitals, playing three games for the Caps, before being sent to the American Hockey League. Carrick is another poised defender that makes great decisions with the puck and can skate pretty well. He'll be a key player on both the power play and penalty kill for the United States.
Brady Skjei-University of Minnesota-New York Rangers prospect-Skjei is a big defender with remarkable skating ability for his size. After a rough adjustment to the college game last year, Skjei has developed into a much better player this year, and should log a lot of ice for the US team. His skating makes him a valuable asset, though he can sometimes be a bit turnover-prone with the puck.
Ian McCoshen-Boston College-Florida Panthers prospect-McCoshen will be extremely valuable to the US defense because he gives them a big, defensive defenseman that moves well enough that he shouldn't have any trouble on the big ice in Malmo. While he's primarily known for his defense, he's started to show the ability to generate some offense as well. His big slap shot from the point could be valuable on the power play.
Will Butcher-University of Denver-Colorado Avalanche prospect-Butcher is like a younger version of Matt Grzelcyk. He's a smaller defender that moves the puck very well. He's got the offensive instincts that he could be very valuable in running the point on the second power play unit for the US.
Jaccob Slavin-Colorado College-Carolina Hurricanes prospect- Slavin was a surprise to many at the US pre-tournament camp. He's flown under the radar after playing on a bad junior team, and now, playing on a bad NCAA team and missing some time due to injury, but he was arguably the team's best defenseman in their first exhibition. Slavin is a smooth skater, and showed poised and confidence handling pressure and effectively getting the puck out of his zone, and moving it up the ice to teammates.
Steven Santini-Boston College-New Jersey Devils prospect-Santini isn't the most exciting defenseman in the group, but he's an extremely sound, reliable defensive defenseman that will keep things simple and get the US team to the next shift without causing any panic.
Brett Pesce-University of New Hampshire-Carolina Hurricanes prospect- Pesce is another very quiet, defensive defenseman. that isn't going to make a lot of big, noticeable plays, but provides some nice size, and will always make a smart, safe play.
Jon Gillies-Providence University-Calgary Flames prospect-Gillies was a back-up on last year's team, and comes into this year as the presumptive starter. He's been absolutely outstanding at Providence College the past two years, leading a huge turnaround for the Friars' program, which is now among the best in the country. Gillies has a huge frame, but still moves remarkably well, and is very good at controlling rebounds.
Anthony Stolarz-London Knights-Philadelphia Flyers prospect-Stolarz is another huge goalie. He was a bit of a project when he was drafted, but as he has matured, he's started to eliminate some of that shakiness from his game. Stolarz is a butterfly-style goalie that gets down very quickly and takes away much of the net with his big frame. He's also fairly adept at handling the puck. Gillies likely gets first crack at the big games, but Stolarz is likely to see some time in Sweden if the opportunity presents itself, and it doesn't seem like the US staff would hesitate to put him in if Gillies falters at all.
Thatcher Demko-Boston College-2014 NHL Draft eligible-Demko is a talented young goalie that is likely along for the ride to gain experience for next year's tournament. Seeing Demko get anything outside of mop up duty wouldn't necessarily be bad in and of itself because he's certainly capable, but it would likely mean both the goalies in front of him didn't perform to expectations which would be a disaster for the US team.
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