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2015 World Juniors: Hudson Fasching returns to Team USA a year older, a year wiser

Finally one of the older guys, Fasching relishes both playing against the best 20 and under players in the world and a better finish for Team USA this time around.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Being a July birthday, it's not often that University of Minnesota forward Hudson Fasching gets to be one of the oldest. The 19 year-old is the youngest of his sophomore hockey peers. He's an underclassman on the Gophers and despite his 6'2", 207 lbs frame, the fast-talking Fasching, with 7 points (5G-2A) in 14 games this season, normally plays more against guys that have a year or two on him than the other way around.

So to be able to be one of the older, more experienced players for a talent-rich yet young Team USA at the 2015 World Juniors Championships is a new position that Fasching is embracing.

"I'm kind of used to always being a younger guy on the team, obviously here, being a freshman and a sophomore," said Fasching last week prior to heading out to Boston for the pre-tournament camp. "So I think for me it's kind of about expanding my horizons a little bit, being a little bit more of a leader on the team."

Fasching is one of six players - and, along with Boston University freshman Jack Eichel, the only returning forwards - on the 2014 United States World Junior team that is expected to play in the 2015 version, which runs from December 26-January 5 in Toronto and Montreal, Canada.

On that squad he was a power forward mostly used in the bottom-six. Making the team was no guarantee. In fact, Fasching, whose NHL rights are owned by the Buffalo Sabres, entered the 2014 preliminary camp on the bubble before being selected.

It's a lesson one of his American teammates at Minnesota, freshman defenseman Ryan Collins, is taking as he tries to do the same thing for 2015 against the best 20 and under players in the world.

"Absolutely," said Collins, who along with Gopher forwards Leon Bristedt (Sweden) and Fasching is looking to play in the World Juniors. "(Hudson) has experience on the team last year. He went into this camp not knowing if he was going to make it last year and this experience will help me."

As Fasching put it, familiarity can be an enemy when it comes to fighting for a spot.

"I just kind of talked to (Ryan) more about hard work and not taking anything easy. Even in the training camp in Boston, he'll have old friends there as well," he said. "They're not old friends on the ice. You have to kind of go out there and compete as hard as you can all the time."

It's just one of many things which comes with being a year older, a year wiser. That helps being on an American team which features plenty of sizzle from young players. Of the 27 players still in camp, 5 (including US captain Eichel) are draft eligible for the first time this year. Another, Auston Matthews, won't be eligible to be drafted by NHL teams until 2016.

At the same time, Fasching isn't relying on old memories and experience the second time around. In addition to other new responsibilities Fasching, who has spent the entire season on Minnesota's top line with Kyle Rau, won't be a bottom-six player for Team USA.

Coming off a six game goalless streak to end the first half, Fasching, one season removed from 14 goals in 40 games, will be one of several players counted on to score against players his own age before coming back to Minnesota to help lead the Gophers to a second consecutive Big Ten regular season title.

Just as important, however, the Burnsville, MN native would like a better WJC finish in 2015.

A year ago, Fasching returned from Ufa, Russia, site of the 2014 World Junior Championships, with his Minnesota teammate Brady Skjei and head coach Don Lucia (doubling as Team USA head coach last year) to play in a college game he expected to miss.

He admits losing to Russia and finishing fifth in 2014 has given him a chip on his shoulder for this World Juniors.

"For sure," Fasching said. "Coming into this year, we don't want that result again. That was not fun. Being sent home early - obviously I got to play a couple more games here - you want a better result. That's for sure."

Having a year to think about it hasn't changed much. Losing does not age well.

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Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter --