USA Hockey officially announced their preliminary roster for this year’s World Junior Championships on Monday afternoon.
This group will be pared down to 13 forwards, seven defensemen, and three goalies before the tournament begins on December 26th.
After last year’s tournament, I took a stab at what this year’s team might look like. As per usual, a lot of the names stayed the same, with a few interesting changes that have come over the past 11 months.
Here were my thoughts on the players USA Hockey picked.
Selected: John Beecher, Bobby Brink, Cole Caufield, Jack Drury, Parker Ford, Jon Gruden, Curtis Hall, Trevor Janicke, Arthur Kaliyev, Robert Mastrosimone, Shane Pinto, Jacob Pivonka, Nick Robertson, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras.
Jack Hughes won’t be made available from the NHL, which pretty much everyone has expected since last year’s tournament. Joel Farabee has also established himself as an NHL regular, which was more of a surprise, so he won’t be available. Oliver Wahlstrom is playing in the AHL right now and to this point, no decision has been made on if he’ll be available. He could be added to this group at a later date.
Overall, I like this group, especially considering two, maybe three, of their best scorers won’t be available for this tournament. If there is a concern with this group, it’s that this is proverbially a 19-year-olds tournament and everyone you’d reasonably expect to score for the US—Caufield, Brink, Turcotte, Zegras, Kaliyev, Robertson—comes from the ‘01 age group. That’s two solid lines of guys though. One would hope at least one or two of them emerge at the right time and have a big tournament.
Meanwhile, the picture at the bottom of the line-up looks a lot better than it did last winter. The hope was that a couple guys from the ‘00 group would emerge as solid bottom-six guys, and I think that happened. Robert Mastrosimone, Shane Pinto, and undrafted Parker Ford are all non-NTDP alums that have been excellent this season in the NCAA and will hopefully have solid tournaments.
I don’t think there’s too much for snubs here. If you had told me a year ago that Matt Boldy wouldn’t even get an invite to the preliminary roster, I would have been shocked. It’s been a disastrous rookie campaign with Boston College with Boston College though. I might have been inclined to put him on the prelim roster though. He’s got the talent and he wouldn’t be the first player to struggle at the NCAA level, but succeed in the different environment of U20 hockey. Plus, a big part of Boldy’s struggles has been an abysmal 2.4% shooting percentage in the first half. Things could turn very quickly for him with a little more luck and confidence.
Selected: Ty Emberson, Jordan Harris, Ryan Johnson, Zac Jones, Christian Krygier, K’Andre Miller, Alec Regula, Mattias Samuelsson, Spencer Stastney, Cam York
Bode Wilde, it appears, is in the same situation as Oliver Wahlstrom. He’s playing in the AHL right now.
The first thing that stands out is that with Harris, Johnson, Jones, and York, there are a lot of smaller defensemen that can really move the puck, and K’Andre Miller brings a lot of offensive skill and athleticism. We might not see all of them on the final roster, but the ones that will do make will help them play an up-tempo game. Krygier, Regula, Samuelsson, and Stastney should bring some defensive responsibility to free up those offensive defensemen to work.
It should be an entertaining group to watch. I’m not sure who you feel comfortable throwing out on the ice to protect a small lead late in the game, but I love this group’s ability to attack offensively.
Selected: Spencer Knight, Isaiah Saville, Dustin Wolf
From the beginning, this has been Spencer Knight’s tournament. He’ll be the most talented goalie in the tournament. If that translates into him having the best second week of the tournament, the US is in an excellent position to win.
I’m cautiously optimistic about this group. This is a very short tournament, especially ever since the preliminary rounds were basically turned to exhibition games, so timing is everything. But this US team has the right pieces, and if they fall into place at the right time, they could very easily win this tournament. With four medals in the last four tournaments, taking home another medal should be the goal, at a minimum.