USA Hockey announced the 30 players that will be whittled down to their roster of 23 for this year's World Juniors tournament today.
Overall, I like the team they picked. It ended up fairly close to who I thought they should pick. But there are always surprises and disappointments when it comes to a list like this.
The biggest head-scratcher is the omission of Kyle Connor. Connor was the US's best player for good chunks of last year's U18 tournament. He's a potential top-15 NHL Draft pick. There's no reason to leave a player that talented off the roster in favor of some of the players they picked.
Also a bit disappointing to not see Justin Bailey be selected. Generally I'm skeptical of the offensive abilities of 19-year-olds putting up great numbers in the Kid's League, but Bailey would have provided a lot more skill than some of the names they chose to fill out the bottom of the roster. I would have at least liked to see him get a look.
Cole Cassels was selected despite wearing the Canadian flag two weeks ago for Team OHL at the Subway Super Series. He's also facing a 10-game OHL suspension, which means he'll miss the first few games of the World Juniors should he be selected to. Cassels does have the added asset that he can play up the middle, but overall....why? It's not like there weren't any other options out there.
I've got no real problem with the defense. I had Anthony Florentino and Jon MacLeod making it, but that might be the rare case of having too many right-shooting defensemen. Picking lefties Michael Downing and Zach Werenski gave them an even 5/5 split.
Hopefully it's a moot point because Demko plays so well, but I really hate not taking Evan Cowley to back him up.
Some of the other decisions will depend on who gets cut after camp. Anthony DeAngelo was selected, but he was also selected for the pre-tournament camp last year, and it never felt like the US had any intention of keeping him. There's no reason to not take him this year. Hopefully he gets a chance.
Jeremy Bracco is also on the list. If he makes the team, great. If he gets cut because he "can't play a bottom six role," well, USA Hockey better hope Anthony Louis and John Hayden score a lot of goals in the tournament.