It’s hard to take much out of summer hockey. In reality, it’s mainly time for players to get back into the swing of things ahead of training camp. You shouldn’t look too much into it… unless you’re us, and you love the World Junior Championship.
Even though no winners were crowned, the World Junior Summer Showcase gave teams, scouts and fans alike an opportunity to gauge where their teams will be come December. Canada, Finland, Sweden and the United States took part in a week-long event in Plymouth, Michigan to kick off August, and while the tournament was simply for bragging rights, Finland was the best team with 21 goals scored.
That got us thinking: what would the United States roster look like if the team was chosen today? The Americans definitely look like favorites after falling short in Vancouver, and even without Jack Hughes, the Americans could end up with close to 10 players from the 2018-19 U-18 USA Hockey NTDP roster. The Americans know how to develop well, featuring in championship games at all major international levels over the past few years.
Obviously, it’s early and many things can change between now and Dec. 26, but let’s have take a fun look, anyway:
Matthew Boldy – Alex Turcotte – Cole Caufield
Joel Farabee – Trevor Zegras – Oliver Wahlstrom
Nic Robertson – Jack Drury – Arthur Kaliyev
John Beecher – Jon Gruden – Trevor Janicke
USA’s center crop is impressive, but it’ll be the team’s wingers that end up doing most of the damage. On the left side, Boldy is an incredible playmaker that spent the year setting up Hughes in front of the net, finishing the U-18 World Championship with three goals and 12 points in a bronze-medal effort. Behind him will be Farabee, who, after three points in the opening two games, was one of USA’s most impressive forwards and showed chemistry with Zegras during the tournament. Robertson and Beecher will feature as the defensively responsible wingers that bring energy and secondary scoring to a team that won’t have issues putting pucks in the net, even without Hughes.
On the right side, ‘Goal’ Caufield will undoubtedly contend for the World Junior Championship scoring title this winter. His 126 goals were the most by any U.S. NTDP player in program history, beating out the likes of Hughes, Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews, and Caufield’s was named MVP of the U-18 World Championship in April after tying Alex Ovechkin’s single-tournament goal record with 14 goals. So, yeah, Montreal Canadiens fans are happy. Behind him will be Wahlstrom, a returning forward set to play a full year in the AHL after a short college career. He was noticeably quiet for the Americans at last year’s World Junior Championship with four points in seven games but he’ll be a big catalyst for the Americans this season as an older player with pro experience under his belt. Having Kaliyev, the highest-scoring draft prospect last season with 51 goals, as the third right winger adds to the team’s dominant scoring situation.
The top middleman will be Turcotte, who had three points in split-squad games but had just one when USA finalized their group for the last few days of competition. Still, Turcotte is known for his high-tempo game and elite playmaking abilities and played well alongside Caufield when the pair worked together at points last season. They’re both off to Wisconsin and should be two of the most electrifying freshmen in the NCAA, no doubt. Zegras is a good No. 2 center to have, especially after showing chemistry with Farabee last week in Plymouth. Drury and Gruden will be the defensively responsible options down the middle on a skill-driven group. Brink rounds out the field as the 13th forward – but not due to a lack of a skill, but because he’s an all-around player that can fit into any role needed of him. He’s a natural right wing but will likely feature on the left side, bringing his gifted offensive skillset to the roster.
K’Andre Miller – Ty Emberson
Mattias Samuelsson – Ryan Johnson
Cam York – Jordan Harris
It’s early, but it’s safe to say Miller will be a candidate for the top defenseman award. He was spectacular for the United States in three games of action at the showcase and didn’t look out of place in last year’s world junior tournament, despite playing a lesser role. Now, with a near point-per-game NCAA season under his belt, Miller, a NY Rangers prospect, will be USA’s most important blueliner in all situations while sticking with former U.S. NTDP teammate and fellow University of Wisconsin defenseman Ty Emberson. Emberson is a bit more defensively focused but can hop on the power play and contribute offensively.
Samuelsson wasn’t used much in 2019, but the Western Michigan University captain will be a leader from the backend for the Americans. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Samuelsson is a physically dominant defender and has seen his two-way game grow exponentially over the past three seasons. He’ll line up with Johnson, a skilled skater who is seen as more of a late bloomer than other defensemen on the team. Both players are Buffalo Sabres prospects and could spend many years paired together, starting with the World Junior Championship.
York will be one that could get more opportunities as the tournament evolves. One of the top defensive prospects from the 2019 draft, York, a Flyers prospect, is the best offensive threat on USA’s blueline and will likely host the team’s second power-play unit. Throwing Harris or Jones on the other side to focus more on staying back will make for a good bottom pair.
As expected, Knight will lead the charge for the Americans after going No. 13 to Florida in June. Knight Played in four games, allowing just four goals and making many high-quality stops as the tournament’s best goaltender. The Americans brought him to the 2019 world juniors as the third goalie to learn from the experienced veterans before embarking on this season as the team’s go-to option. Wolf has the edge as backup right now, but he’ll likely be saved for games against teams like Germany in the round-robin.
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