USA Hockey announced the 27 players that will compete for the 23 roster spots on this year’s World Junior Championships team that will compete in Toronto/Montreal later this month.
Overall, the group is pretty much as expected. There were a ton of good forwards available for the United States this year, and Kyle Connor wasn’t eligible, so I don’t have to do too much ranting and raving, at least until cuts start being made.
As a reminder, here’s how I would have picked the team from a couple weeks ago.
Oettinger, Parsons, and Woll were all pretty obvious selections. For what it’s worth, I’ve heard from people who’ve seen them more recently than me that Parsons is most likely to come into camp as the number one goalie, followed by Woll as the back-up, and Oettinger as the third. But that could always change. It’s a short tournament and hot goaltending is key. Any of the three should be in consideration to be the number one guy if they’re playing well in the pre-tournament exhibitions/early pool play rounds.
It was pretty tough to screw this one up.
The good news is that Clayton Keller is listed and expected to play in the tournament. The bad news is that AHL forward Christian Fischer is not listed. I think Fischer would have played a huge role on this team, and hopefully he’s released right before the tournament.
The other “lock” that I thought had to be on the roster was Max Jones, but he took a puck off the wrist on November 25th and hasn’t played since. There’s nobody else that can bring his combination of grit and scoring ability, so that’s a big loss.
As for the other things I was looking for out of this roster, both Alex DeBrincat and Jeremy Bracco are on the roster. I’ll hold my applause until both are on the final roster, but both obviously deserve to be there.
Kieffer Bellows also made the cut despite a really slow start to his freshman season at Boston University. I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for a slow adjustment when he’s got so much past track record. He could score goals in bunches if he gets hot.
I also very happy to see Patrick Harper make the roster. With the way he has been scoring at the college level, he could be a real X-factor for the US offense.
I mentioned in my Minnesota-Ohio State game recap that Minnesota’s Tommy Novak and Tanner Laczynski were likely in the running for the last few roster spots. In the end, they went with the speedier Laczynski. I’m not sure any team has enough skill to turn down a player like Novak, but if he wasn’t likely to see a lot of power play time, I can understand passing on him.
This group is a little shakier. There are definitely some guys I would not have picked, but there was nobody left off the roster that I felt really had to be on there.
The three guys that made the roster that I didn’t have making it were Jack Ahcan, Chad Krys and Joe Cecconi.
Ahcan isn’t a huge surprise, since he plays for US head coach Bob Motzko at St. Cloud State. His confidence has been growing as the year has progressed and he does bring a lot of skill and puck-moving ability to the blue line.
Same goes for Krys, who made the roster last year, but had a poor tournament, and really struggled from there on out. I had Jack Sadek making it over Krys, though I thought Sadek really struggled last Friday against Ohio State, which lessened my enthusiasm. I’ll never complain too much about opting for skill on the blue line.
The biggest head-scratcher is Joe Cecconi over Luke Martin. Martin plays more minutes and has played much better than Cecconi at Michigan this year. They’re both right shots. Martin isn’t much of an offensive threat, but Cecconi is even less of one. I’m not sure I understand the logic behind that one.
I’m pretty happy with the group. The forwards will need to carry this team because the defense looks very weak, but this is a team that should be in contention for a medal if they play up to their capabilities.