Alexander Romanov, Team Russia
Last year’s defender of the tournament will suit up for Russia once more. If Romanov was a leader on the ice in 2019, he will most certainly be one this year, likely with a letter on his chest as well.
Many look to Romanov’s point total in the KHL, which is limited at best, but his real strength lies in his defensive game, breaking up plays, limiting zone entries, and clearing out space infront of the net.
Playing against his peers, it would not be shocking to see him break out offensively, nor to see him deliver some bone-crunching hits.
Jacob Olofsson, Team Sweden
Unfortunately, Olofsson suffered a shoulder injury in practice and will have to sit out the tournament.
Mattias Norlinder, Team Sweden
Before the final roster was announced, it come down to where Rasmus Sandin and Adam Boqvist would be released from Toronto and Chicago, respectively. In the end Sandin was, but Boqvist was kept on the North American side of the Atlantic. With the late addition of Victor Söderström, Norlinder’s chance of a top-four role disappeared.
While his offensive game is very strong and you would want to use his strength (skating and zone entries) as much as possible especially with the bigger ice surface in Europe, there are others on the Swedish team who do that better and have performed in a higher league already. Philip Broberg is very strong in this area, but has more defensive liabilities than Norlinder. Sandin-Söderström is a solid top pairing and Nils Lundkvist has had an SHL year for the ages but will be saddled by carrying Adam Ginning around.
If Norlinder could have gotten a top four role, a breakout a la Romanov last year could have been in the cards — maybe not as the best defender in the tournament, but his offensive game should have translated well. Now it seems he will start as the seventh defender and if he gets a chance I expect him to play safe, a job that he will do well. He is stronger than many think. His hockey IQ lets him read the game well, and his skating usually takes him to the right position. His defence is maybe not strong enough for him to play on the penalty kill, but he should feature on the power play, especially if it struggles early in the tournament with the other options.
Jordan Harris, Team USA
Harris didn’t perform up to his potential at the World Junior Summer Showcase that served as a preview to the World Juniors, but still managed to secure a spot with his strong first half of the season at Northeastern. He already matched the 13 points he recorded last year in a full season.
More than his offensive touch, what Harris brings to the US team is steady play. He will help shut down opposing transitions. His attention to detail defensively will have him mesh well with any partner, and his ability to play both sides of the ice represents a big asset for the team — likely one of the main reasons he won a spot over similar defencemen.
K’Andre Miller and Cam York will likely be the pillar of Team USA’s back end, but don’t be surprised if Harris starts earning more minutes as the tournament goes on. His mobility and proactive defensive style could endear him to the coaching staff and push him up the depth chart.
Cole Caufield, Team USA
Expectations are high for Caufield, and they should be. He is playing against his peers, and is once again surrounded by the familiar faces of the US National Team Developmental Program. Alex Turcotte will likely centre Caufield’s line, just like he has for most of the games with the Wisconsin Badgers.
The diminutive winger should treat everyone to a goal-scoring fest. He may not exactly repeat his World U-18 performance, but he should feature regularly on the scoresheet and make Habs fans want to rearrange their schedules to catch Team USA’s games.
We should all see some of the transformation in Caufield’s play. The competitive NCAA environment forces adaptation, and the Habs prospect’s one-on-one ability and playmaking side has resurfaced as a result. He is not a distributor (he likely never will be as it’s not what he was drafted for) but his newfound setup ability should help him produce consistently through the grind of the tournament.