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2023 World Junior Hockey Championship: Team USA preview & roster

The Americans hope some high-end talent at the top of the lineup can carry them all the way to gold.

United States v Sweden: Exhibition Game - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Dale Preston/Getty Images

Since Sweden won gold at the 2012 World Juniors, three teams have jockeyed for the title of best under-20 nation in the world: Canada with four gold medals, Finland with three, and the United States with three victories as well. Recently, however, Team USA’s standing has begun to slip as they’ve failed to make it beyond the quarter-finals in two of the last three events.

They did well enough in the group stage in 2020 and 2022, but the offence they show in those preliminary games sometimes doesn’t show up in the elimination portion of the event. At the most recent tournament in August, they were outscored 4-2 by Czechia in the first playoff game, ultimately finishing fifth of 10 teams in the overall standings.

As a top nation should, they come into this year’s tournament expecting to leave with gold medals, and they have a handful of players who could make that happen.

Team USA Final roster

# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
# Player Position League Current team (NHL)
1 Trey Augustine G USHL US National Under-18 Team (2023)
30 Kaidan Mbereko G NCAA Colorado College
31 Andrew Oke G OHL Saginav Spirit
12 Sean Behrens D NCAA University of Denver (COL)
24 Seamus Casey D NCAA University of Michigan (NJD)
71 Ryan Chesley D NCAA University of Minnesota-(WSH)
43 Luke Hughes D NCAA University of Michigan (NJD)
20 Lane Hutson D NCAA Boston University (MTL)
21 Luke Mittelstadt D NCAA University of Minnesota
23 Jack Peart D NCAA St. Cloud State University (MIN)
6 Ryan Utko D NCAA Univesity of Massachusetts (NSH)
9 Jackson Blake F NCAA University of North Dakota (CAR)
5 Gavin Brindley F NCAA University of Michigan (2023)
13 Tyler Boucher F OHL Ottawa 67's (OTT)
27 Kenny Connors F NCAA Univesity of Massachusetts (LAK)
92 Logan Cooley F NCAA University of Minnesota-(ARI)
25 Dylan Duke F NCAA University of Michigan (TBL)
17 Cutter Gauthier F NCAA Boston College (PHI)
26 Noah Laba F NCAA Colorado College (NYR)
22 Sam Lipkin F NCAA Quinnipiac University (ARI)
16 Chaz Lucius F AHL Manitoba Moose (WPG)
2 Rutger McGroarty F NCAA University of Michigan (WPG)
19 Red Savage F NCAA Miami University (DET)
18 Jimmy Snuggerud F NCAA University of Minnesota-(STL)
28 Charlie Stramel F NCAA University of Wisconsin (2023)

Strengths

The American blue line is typically made up of players in their final year of eligibility who have had the most development time to iron out their flaws. This is year is similar with five of the eight options on the back end playing their final tournament, but they’re joined by a few 18-year-olds who have been tearing up the collegiate ranks in 2022-23.

Seamus Casey and Lane Hutson, second-round selections for the 2022 NHL Draft, have 16 and 18 points, respectively in the opening half of the season. Casey does his work with fellow New Jersey Devils defence prospect and USA teammate Luke Hughes at the high-flying University of Michigan. Hutson is second in scoring for Boston University, and also second in goals on the team with seven. That would be incredible freshman production for a forward, let alone defencemen. Both undersized players, there will be times you think USA is playing with four forwards in this tournament, and some of the nations built around stingy zone defence are going to have serious issues dealing with that type of attack.

Weaknesses

In comparison to those dynamic defencemen, the offensive talent of some of the forwards is underwhelming. It’s once again a group of 2022 draft picks — Jimmy Snuggerud, Cutter Gauthier, and third overall selection Logan Cooley — that is the most impressive of the crop. They form the top line and are the most likely source of offence for the team.

Missing 2022 classmate Frank Nazar is unfortunate for the Americans. He fits into the same category of gifted offensive players, a centre with exceptional vision and plenty of speed who could break a game open and be a difference-maker in an elimination game. He hasn’t played at all this year, and the U.S. roster is missing a top-tier centreman as a result.

Team USA should have the talent to coast through the round-robin portion, but it may once more find itself needing a goal late in a playoff contest. As was the case last year, they may not be able to find the player to provide it among the options before their time runs out.

X-Factor

Their tournament could all come down to the proficiency of their special teams. The Americans can load up their top power-play unit with some of the best players in the event and do a lot of scoring that way, as long as the tactics all come together quickly.

There isn’t much size to speak of among the defence corps, so penalty-killing may be more about defending passing and shooting lanes than boxing out bodies. A team that deploys a large net-front forward and works down low may see success simply by outmuscling the slighter defenders they’ll face for loose pucks.

With that scenario playing out in front of the crease, the goaltender will have to be sharp on opposing power plays, and the fact that USA has a 17-year-old netminder on the roster may tell you all you need to know about their confidence in this position. Kaidan Mbereko is back after getting the team through the group stage in second place in August, but he also gave up three goals in the quarter-final to Czechia.

Trey Augustine has been putting together an exceptional draft season, playing with the U.S. National Team Development Program, posting a .930 save percentage with the under-18 team and not having a single regulation loss on his 13-0-2 record. It’s tough to ask such a young goalie to bail you out of any defensive issues the club experiences on special teams, but perhaps he’s the up-and-coming star to pull it off.