The World Junior Hockey Championship is one of the hardest tournaments to repeat as champions. The last nine years have seen three different countries win the tournament (Canada, United States, Finland) three times, but none of them have won it back-to-back. In fact, the last back-to-back champion was Canada during their five-year run from 2005-2009.
This time the Americans return to Edmonton and Red Deer as defending champions, and will look to reverse that streak.
The first thing you’ll notice with this American team is the sheer talent they are missing. Spencer Knight, Matthew Boldy, Trevor Zegras, Cole Caufield, Arthur Kaliyev, and Alex Turcotte are among the players who have graduated but there’s still enough talent here to expect them to cause trouble.
Team USA final roster
|#||Player||Position||League||Current team (NHL)|
|#||Player||Position||League||Current team (NHL)|
|29||Drew Commesso||G||NCAA||Boston University (CHI)|
|30||Kaidan Mbereko||G||USHL||Lincoln Stars (2022)|
|1||Dylan Silverstein||G||USHL||US Development Team (2022)|
|14||Brock Faber||D||NCAA||University of Minnesota (LAK)|
|43||Luke Hughes||D||NCAA||University of Michigan (NJD)|
|5||Wyatt Kaiser||D||NCAA||University of Minnesota-Duluth (CHI)|
|25||Tyler Kleven||D||NCAA||University of North Dakota (OTT)|
|2||Ian Moore||D||NCAA||Harvard University (ANA)|
|23||Scott Morrow||D||NCAA||University of Massachusetts (CAR)|
|3||Jack Peart||D||NCAA||St. Cloud State University (MIN)|
|8||Jake Sanderson||D||NCAA||University of North Dakota (OTT)|
|10||Matthew Beniers||F||NCAA||University of Michigan (SEA)|
|21||Brett Berard||F||NCAA||Providence College (NYR)|
|18||Logan Cooley||F||USHL||US Development Team (2022)|
|15||Matt Coronato||F||NCAA||Harvard University (CAR)|
|71||Tanner Dickinson||F||OHL||Soo Greyhounds (STL)|
|16||Dominic James||F||NCAA||University of Minnesota-Duluth (2022)|
|89||Matthew Knies||F||NCAA||University of Minnesota (TOR)|
|28||Chaz Lucius||F||NCAA||University of Minnesota (WPG)|
|34||Carter Mazur||F||NCAA||University of Denver (DET)|
|12||Sasha Pastujov||F||OHL||Guelph Storm (ANA)|
|11||Mackie Samoskevich||F||NCAA||University of Michigan (FLA)|
|20||Redmond Savage||F||NCAA||University of Miami (Ohio) (DET)|
|19||Landon Slaggert||F||NCAA||University of Notre Dame (CHI)|
|96||Ty Smilanic||F||NCAA||Quinnipiac University (FLA)|
The strength of this American team this year is the defence. They have three players from last year’s gold medal team back — Ottawa Senators draft picks Jake Sanderson and Tyler Kleven, and Los Angeles Kings second-rounder Brock Faber. Those three should be expected to play big roles, and that doesn’t factor in prospects like fourth overall pick in 2021 Luke Hughes, and Scott Morrow who join this year’s team.
The defence is deep, and with two top-five picks in Sanderson and Hughes, has significant top-end talent as well.
Seattle Kraken first-round pick Matty Beniers leads an intriguing group of prospects that includes fellow first-round picks Chaz Lucius (Winnipeg), Mackie Samoskevich (Florida) and Matthew Coronato (Calgary). It doesn’t quite have the same bite as their group a year ago, but there still is some top talent up front, and you can expect them to be among the tournament’s top scorers.
The depth of their forward core definitely takes a step back from where it was a year ago, but with intriguing prospects like Redmond Savage (yes, Brian’s son), Matthew Knies, and 2022 Draft Eligible Logan Cooley, they have the potential to create some secondary scoring. They will be missing Thomas Bordeleau, who was removed from the roster after a positive COVID-19 test before the team left for Canada.
The big question mark on this team is in goal. After being spoiled with both Spencer Knight and Dustin Wolf on the roster, it is an inexperienced group that leads them this year. 2020 Chicago Blackhawks second-round pick Drew Commesso is the likely starter. The Boston University goaltender is the oldest of the three goaltenders on the roster. Joining him is a pair of undrafted players, USHL goaltender Kaidan Mbereko and 17-year-old US Development Team goaltender Dylan Silverstein.
All three have save percentages around the .900 mark with their club teams this season.
Keep a close eye on returning forward Brett Berard. The New York Rangers fifth-round pick had five points in last year’s tournament, which was more than Beniers (who had three). Defender Faber also had five points last year. Berard has 12 goals and 12 assists in 21 games with Providence in the NCAA, and at 5’9” could be the next undersized forward to shine for the Americans at the tournament.
Logan Cooley is projected to be selected in next year’s top-10, and is the youngest American skater. The talent is there, and he will lead a group of players who will look to create secondary scoring. Cooley has 38 points in 27 games with the US Development Program.
If the American goaltending isn’t as good as it was under Knight, the secondary scoring will need to step up. It’s going to be a more physical team than a year ago, and they’ll likely have to work for every advantage. Nine of their skaters are 6’1” or taller.
Even with questions with their goaltending, their defence is really good and attacking forwards may not get into enough dangerous positions.
All in all, the Americans will be in a battle for the top of their group with Russia and Sweden with Slovakia and Switzerland lurking and always primed to cause an upset. The prize for winning the group, or even finishing second is the third or fourth place team in Group A, which means avoiding Canada or Finland.