Projecting Team USA & Team Canada for the WJC
The World Juniors are fast approaching. The tournament will kick off on Boxing Day and the host country is the Czech Republic. Canada and the United States will be looking to make a splash in Ostrava and Trinec, but they will be facing some rigorous competition.
Finland will be eager to capture another gold after defeating the United States in Vancouver last year. Once again, Finland will likely have a high powered offense with Rasmus Kupari (Ontario Reign, LA Kings prospect), Patrik Puistola (Tappara, Carolina Hurricanes prospect), Leevi Aaltonen (KalPa, NY Rangers prospect) and Matias Maccelli (Ilves, Arizona Coyotes prospect).
In addition, Sweden will be looking to medal after failing to do so last year. At last year’s tournament in British Columbia, the Swedes were full of talent on the back end with Adam Boqvist, Rasmus Sandin, Nils Lundkvist, Erik Brännström and Philip Broberg, but their offense did not have as much depth as their defense. They will be looking to turn the tide this year and could have Nils Höglander (Rögle BK, Vancouver Canucks prospect), Albin Grewe (Djurgårdens IF, Detroit Red Wings) and Simon Holmström (Bridgeport Sound Tigers, NY Islanders) running the show in the offensive zone.
Russia will be a force to be reckoned with as they have a ton of talent including Semyon Der-Arguchinstev (Peterborough Petes, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect), Alexander Khovanov (Moncton Wildcats, Minnesota Wild prospect) and Vasili Podkolzin (SKA-1946 St. Petersburg, Vancouver Canucks prospect).
The hosts, the Czech Republic will also be eager to make a splash. The Czechs will likely have offensive studs such as Matej Pekar (Barrie Colts, Buffalo Sabres prospect), Jakub Lauko (Providence Bruins, Boston Bruins prospect), Michal Teply (Winnipeg Ice, Chicago Blackhawks prospect) and Jaromir Pytlik (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Draft Eligible) to help tally goal after goal.
Given how outstanding the USNTDP team was last year and how many Americans prospect were selected in the first round, the Americans will be one heavily armed squad.
With that being said, I predict that USA Hockey will add several former USNTDP players including Alex Turcotte (University of Wisconsin, LA Kings prospect), Trevor Zegras (Boston University, Anaheim Ducks prospect), Matthew Boldy (Boston College, Minnesota Wild prospect), Cole Caufield (University of Wisconsin, Montréal Canadiens prospect), John Beecher (University of Minnesota, Boston Bruins prospect), Drew Helleson (Boston College, Colorado Avalanche prospect), Cameron York (University of Michigan, Philadelphia Flyers prospect) and Spencer Knight (Boston College, Florida Panthers prospect). That is quite a bit of talent and it is hard to imagine that head coach Scott Sandelin and general manager John Vanbiesbrock won’t want to add as much former USNTDP talent as possible.
Aside from the former USNTDP players, I predict that USA Hockey will look to add prospects such as Zachary Jones (UMass Amherst, NY Rangers prospect), Bobby Brink (University of Denver, Philadelphia Flyers prospect), Jordan Harris (Northeastern University, Montréal Canadiens prospect), Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton Bulldogs, LA Kings prospect) and Nicholas Robertson (Peterborough Petes, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect), who are having stellar campaigns.
If Kaliyev and Robertson are on Team USA, the United States’ offense will very explosive, especially on the power play. With Robertson’s quick release passing and Kaliyev’s lethal shot, Team USA’s power play will be difficult to slow down.
On defense, Harris and Jones have been two of the best defensemen in the Hockey East division this year. Jones’ skating, especially his lateral movements make him one of the top power play defensemen. With Harris, you can expect quality pinches and crisp passes in the slot. There is a lot to like about these two young defensemen.
With Brink on the roster, Team USA will have a gritty penalty kill specialist, who can also produce in the offensive zone. So far this season, Brink has mustered up six goals and five assists in 14 games. It would be a mistake not to have this dominant two-way forward in the lineup.
In addition, I expect that there will be a few players from last year’s World Junior roster including Mattias Samuelsson (Western Michigan University, Buffalo Sabres prospect), Oliver Wahlstrom (Bridgeport Sound Tigers, NY Islanders prospect), K’Andre Miller (University of Wisconsin, NY Rangers prospect) and Jack Drury (Harvard University, Carolina Hurricanes prospect). With the amount of new incoming talent, it would not hurt to surround them with a few players that played in last year’s tournament who are familiar with the tournament and have some fight in them to place better than last year.
Below is my roster for Team USA:
- Jack Drury, Harvard, Carolina Hurricanes
- Alex Turcotte, U of Wisconsin, LA Kings
- Trevor Zegras, Boston University, Anaheim Ducks
- Matthew Boldy, Boston College, Minnesota Wild
- Oliver Wahlstrom, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, New York Islanders
- Cole Caufield, U of Wisconsin, Montreal Canadiens
- John Beecher, U of Michigan, Boston Bruins
- Bobby Brink, U of Denver, Philadelphia Flyers
- Jonathan Gruden, London Knights, Ottawa Senators
- Nicholas Robertson, Peterborough Petes, Toronto Maple Leafs
- Arthur Kaliyev, Hamilton Bulldogs, LA Kings
- Robert Mastrosimone, Boston University, Detroit Red Wings
- Shane Pinto, U of North Dakota, Ottawa Senators
- K’Andre Miller, U of Wisconsin, NY Rangers
- Mattias Samuelsson, Western Michigan University, Buffalo Sabres
- Ryan Johnson, U of Minnesota, Buffalo Sabres
- Zachary Jones, UMass Amherst, NY Rangers
- Bode Wilde, Bridgeport Sound Tigers, NY Islanders
- Drew Helleson, Boston College, Colorado Avalanche
- Cameron York, U of Michigan, Philadelphia Flyers
- Jordan Harris, Northeastern University, Montreal Canadiens
- Spencer Knight, Boston College, Florida Panthers
- Dustin Wolf, Everett Silvertips, Calgary Flames
- Isaiah Saville, U of Nebraska-Omaha, Vegas Golden Knights
While Team Canada might not be as elusive as Team USA, they will more than likely have a few draft eligible talent in Alexis Lafrenière (Rimouski Océanic, Draft Eligible prospect) and Quinton Byfield (Sudbury Wolves, Draft Eligible prospect). Lafrenière is still regarded as the top selection in the upcoming draft. His stickhandling, defensive awareness and playmaking makes him the most dynamic forward in the 2020 Draft Class. On the other hand, Byfield reminds me of Evgeni Malkin. With his big frame, physicality and craftiness with the puck, he might be the center taken in the draft since Auston Matthews. If these two are on Team Canada, watching Team Canada is a must-watch activity.
Aside from Lafrenière and Byfield, Team Canada head coach Dale Hunter will have a lot more talent. With his coaching in the CHL/Russia series, he had the opportunity to view and scout talent from coast-to-coast. Hunter could add quite a bit of CHL talent including Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres prospect), Nolan Foote (Kelowna Rockets, Tampa Bay Lightning prospect), Akil Thomas (Niagara IceDogs, LA Kings prospect), Samuel Poulin (Sherbrooke Phoenix, Pittsburgh Penguins prospect), Philip Tomasino (Niagara IceDogs, Nashville Predators prospect), Raphaël Lavoie (Halifax Mooseheads, Edmonton Oilers prospect), Connor McMichael (London Knights, Washington Capitals prospect) and Bowen Byram (Vancouver Giants, Colorado Avalanche prospect).
Some of the names from the list (above) that should definitely be a part of this team are Cozens, McMichael and Byram. Cozens and McMichael are having outstanding campaigns. McMichael’s offensive firepower is coming out of no-where. At this same point last year, many analysts were down on McMichael including myself. He has put the critics to bed with his outstanding performance so far this season. In the WHL, Cozens is looking to beat his point total from last season (84 pts in 68 games) and he can pull it off as long as he keeps going at his current pace. So far, Cozens has 18 goals and 22 assists in 26 games played. On the blue line, Byram is easily the best drafted defenseman playing in the CHL. He has a big frame, delivers crisp passes in the offensive zone and can be physical when he needs to be.
The decision on goaltending will be the toughest for Hunter and his staff. In my predictions, I believe that Hunter will crown Hunter Jones (Peterborough Petes, Minnesota Wild prospect) as the starting netminder for Canada. His GAA might be low, but keep in mind that the OHL is very competitive this season. The Oshawa Generals, Windsor Spitfires, London Knights, Ottawa 67’s, Sudbury Wolves and Guelph Storm are loaded with talent. Most teams have 80+ goals for at this point. So, do not judge Jones on how many goals that he has coughed up. In addition to Jones, I predict Joel Hofer (Portland Winterhawks, St. Louis Blues prospect) and Olivier Rodrigue (Moncton Wildcats, Edmonton Oilers prospect) will back up Jones. Both, Hofer and Rodrigue are posting strong seasons and deserve the nod.
Below is my roster for Team Canada:
- Alexis Lafrenière, Rimouski Océanic, Draft Eligible
- Dylan Cozens, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Buffalo Sabres
- Alex Newhook, Boston College, Colorado Avalanche
- Joe Veleno, Grand Rapids Griffins, Detroit Red Wings
- Nolan Foote, Kelowna Rockets, Tampa Bay Lightning
- Akil Thomas, Niagara IceDogs, LA Kings
- Samuel Poulin, Sherbrooke Phoenix, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Philip Tomasino, Niagara IceDogs, Nashville Predators
- Raphaël Lavoie, Halifax Mooseheads, Edmonton Oilers
- Ty Dellandrea, Flint Firebirds, Dallas Stars
- Liam Foudy, London Knights, Columbus Blue Jackets
- Quinton Byfield, Sudbury Wolves, Draft Eligible
- Connor McMichael, London Knights, Washington Capitals
- Bowen Byram, Vancouver Giants, Colorado Avalanche
- Calen Addison, Lethbridge Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins
- Thomas Harley, Mississauga Steelheads, Dallas Stars
- Jordan Spence, Moncton Wildcats, LA Kings
- Ty Smith, Spokane Chiefs, New Jersey Devils
- Kevin Bahl, Ottawa 67’s, Arizona Coyotes
- Jacob Bernard-Docker, U of North Dakota, Ottawa Senators
- Jett Woo, Calgary Hitmen, Vancouver Canucks
- Hunter Jones, Peterborough Petes, Minnesota Wild
- Joel Hofer, Portland Winterhawks, St. Louis Blues
- Olivier Rodrigue, Moncton Wildcats, Edmonton Oilers
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Note: Also Pat Quinn (@FHPQuinn) is my best friend from now on
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