Team USA has announced its 31-player camp roster for the 2022 world juniors and there weren't a lot of surprises, but there is a lot of potential. Once again the Americans should be in the hunt for gold after winning the title last year by punching Canada in the mouth early and not letting up. The Americans will bring 25 players to Alberta, so there won't be many cuts to make when the hopefuls gather in Plymouth, Michigan on Dec. 12 - but there are some crucial decisions to be made. Let's break down the roster, shall we?
Team USA has six players available from last year's gold-medal squad and up front, the most crucial returnee is University of Michigan center Matty Beniers (SEA). He was already a two-way beast at last year's tournament and has been a great producer for the Wolverines again this season. The defense will be led by another tournament veteran, Jake Sanderson (OTT), the University of North Dakota standout. Sanderson looks even more confident this season in the NCAA, where his offensive game has hit another level - while he still plays solid defense. I would also toss in blueliner Brock Faber (LA) as a cornerstone, based on the University of Minnesota mainstay's excellent defensive prowess. He played on last year's team, too.
Up front, I could see Harvard's Matt Coronato (CGY) having a big tournament thanks to his combination of skill, work ethic and strength. Golden Gophers freshman Matt Knies (TOR) has also really found his game, which is based on power, making him hard to handle in the offensive zone. On the back end, Michigan's Luke Hughes (NJ) has been everything he was advertised as and more as a freshman and his kind of mobility and skill is always welcome at the world juniors. It's also worth noting that right winger Sasha Pastujov (ANA) has been an offensive demon for OHL Guelph this season.
U.S. NTDP center Logan Cooley (2022 draft) could very well be Beniers 2.0. Cooley is a fantastic two-way pivot with high-end offense and a motor that allows him to create turnovers. If a team has to worry about Beniers, they might not have the checkers for Cooley and that would allow the youngster to create havoc.
Honestly, there isn't much controversy this year, but if I had to pick one surprise omission, it would be Arizona State freshman Josh Doan (ARI). Doan has been awesome for the Sun Devils, but I also know he had trouble getting it going during the Summer Showcase in Michigan and with so much competition at forward, I understand. I think University of Denver defenseman Shai Buium (DET) could have been there too, but he's eligible to play next year and I can't say he deserved a spot over any of the players who did make it.
If there is one worry for Team USA this year it's goaltending: Spencer Knight ain't walking through that door. Even filling out the camp roster was vexing for management, though one name stands above the others: Drew Commesso (CHI) of Boston University. Commesso is an NTDP grad with high-end potential, though the Terriers have been a mess this year and he's just been OK (and I say this as a fan of his). Could he be The Guy on a team with great defense and two-way forwards? I believe so, and if that's the case, the Americans are in good shape. But what if Commesso falters? Kaidan Mbereko from USHL Lincoln lacks size, as does the NTDP's Dylan Silverstein. UMass freshman Luke Pavicich is 6-foot-3, but he hasn't played a single game for the Minutemen yet.
Team USA loves its grinders/energy guys and this year is no exception. Notre Dame's Landon Slaggert (CHI) played on the team last year, as did Providence College's Brett Berard (NYR). I kinda expected coach Nate Leaman to bring another Providence kid, Chase Yoder (PIT), but undrafted Minnesota-Duluth forward Dominic James got the nod instead. And to be fair, the Bulldogs have been a machine, so it's never a bad idea to have a couple at your disposal (UMD defenseman Wyatt Kaiser and Connor Kelley made camp too).