The Americans were one of the last teams to release their camp roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships. There weren’t many surprises. Jack Hughes and Spencer Knight were the only 2001-born players included. Shame for those hoping to get a closer look at a handful of potential early selections this June. We’ll survive though.
The games will be split between Victoria and Vancouver, BC. The Americans will play their round-robin contests in Victoria at the more intimate 7500 seat arena. I’ll be there with bells on to watch the Group B games.
Before we dive into projecting the USA roster that will look to improve on the bronze medal they won a year ago, take a few moments to look over the projected lineups for Sweden, Finland, Russia, and the Czech Republic.
Now for those blokes in the Red, White and Blue.
First line: Jason Robertson – Josh Norris** – Sasha Chmelevski
This has all the makings of a well-rounded and exciting top line. Josh Norris has been outstanding at the University of Michigan. Jason Robertson has been scoring at will in the OHL, and Chmelevski loves to chuck sauce around from the wing. Speed, skill, smarts, and finishing ability.
Second line: Joel Farabee – Jack Hughes – Oliver Wahlstrom
Reunited and it feels so good. This trio played the majority of 2017-18 together with the USNTDP. Hughes is going first overall this June and will bring people out of their seats with his speed and skill. Farabee and Wahlstrom have been figuring things out as freshmen in the NCAA but are top-end talents. Farabee is the all-around guy, Wahlstrom is the volume-shooting finisher. This line returned 16 goals and 29 points in seven games at the U18s last spring. Instant chemistry is too hard to pass up in a short tournament like this.
Third line: Evan Barratt – Ryan Poehling** – Tyler Madden
“The three-pivot line”. Blackhawks’ 2017 third rounder, Evan Barratt has been on another planet in his sophomore season at Penn State. He currently leads the nation in scoring with 25 points in 15 games. He normally plays the middle of the ice, but may shift over for this tournament. Returnee, Ryan Poehling will take heavy defensive minutes but also brings strong playmaking ability. He and Norris could end up switching spots if things don’t mesh immediately. Madden has been excellent as a rookie in the NCAA. He plays all situations and is a natural right-shot centreman as well. That means all three can share draws on their strong sides, depending on who is feeling it.
Fourth line: Noah Cates – Jack Drury – Jay O’Brien
Here’s your energy unit. Drury has been having a top-notch freshman season at Harvard. He brings speed, skill and strong defensive awareness. Like line two and three, there are multiple pivots. O’Brien and Drury can switch taking faceoffs on their strong side – always an added bonus. Cates is an all-around player who excels in the details. Another guy who plays with jam but can hit the scoresheet as well.
13th forward: Sean Dhooghe
Sean Dhooghe is a personal favourite of mine. The 5’3 winger brings high energy, high skill and packs a punch despite his size. He can fit anywhere up the lineup if an injury arises or a shake-up is needed.
First pair: Quinn Hughes** – Joey Keane
There is little reason to believe that Quinn Hughes won’t be the top defender at this tournament. The most recent seventh overall pick has jaw-dropping acceleration and some of the best edgework outside of the NHL. With right-shot blueliners in short supply for the Americans, it’ll be Joey Keane who should get a chance to play the stabilizing presence next to the dynamic Hughes.
Second pair: Dylan Samberg** – Mikey Anderson**
Partners at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, both are left-shot players, but Anderson is accustomed to the right point. These two have over 50 games of experience and chemistry next to one another. Perfect for a short tournament.
Third pair: K’Andre Miller – Ty Emberson
18-year-old, K’Andre Miller has been outstanding as a freshman with Wisconsin. He’s produced nearly a point-per-game and has big-time size and skill. Emberson is a former teammate of Miller’s at The Program and the two have worked together in the past. More familiarity.
Seventh defenseman: Mattias Samuelsson
Another former USNTDP player. Samuelsson is a competent defender and can chip in with some offense at times too. He, Miller and Emberson would be eligible to return in 2020.
Kyle Keyser – Cayden Primeau – Spencer Knight
The crease position is far from a lock on this squad. 19-year-old, Cayden Primeau has been stellar with Northeastern the past two seasons. He’s big, talented and poised. Kyle Keyser has put up phenomenal numbers in the OHL this season and truly earned his invite. Meanwhile, 2019 draft-eligible, Spencer Knight is likely here for the experience and to prepare for being the man next year. However, I feel there is a less than zero chance that he finds himself in the crease for some action. He’s a highly talented player and has his sights set on the first round on the draft this June.
** Returning player
Jason Robertson – Josh Norris – Sasha Chmelevski
Joel Farabee – Jack Hughes – Oliver Wahlstrom
Evan Barratt – Ryan Poehling – Tyler Madden
Noah Cates – Jack Drury – Jay Obrien
Quinn Hughes – Joey Keane
Dylan Samberg – Mikey Anderson
K’Andre Miller – Ty Emberson
This is a team fully capable of challenging for a Gold medal. They came up short against the Swedes in the semi-final a year ago and they surely have plans to get back over that hump at this tournament. You can bet the five returning skaters will be anxious to get rolling.
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