Team USA was almost shockingly young at the world juniors in 2015, so perhaps it wasn't surprising that the Americans lost to Russia in the quarterfinal, mainly due to a rash of unnecessary penalties. But the wound of that loss could become vital scar tissue for the 2016 squad.
Because USA Hockey just released its preliminary summer camp roster and it is heavy on experience.
Even if we go under the assumption that Jack Eichel will be too busy in the NHL to play for the team in December, the Americans could potentially have 11 returnees from the 2015 edition.
That includes 2016 draft phenom Auston Matthews, a big, powerful center very much in the Eichel realm who may play in Switzerland next season thanks to his advanced development (WHL Everett is the other option). Matthews was pretty good for the Americans in Montreal, but he would be downright scary for them in Helsinki.
Matthews is joined up front by fellow 2015ers Sonny Milano (Columbus), Alex Tuch (Minnesota) and Nick Schmaltz (Chicago), not to mention Detroit's Dylan Larkin, who just turned pro after a year with the University of Michigan.
A couple other intriguing names among the forwards include Arizona pick Christian Dvorak, 2015 prospect Colin White and Red Wings prospect Dominic Turgeon.
On the back end, the U.S. has an incredible array of talent at its disposal, headlined by 2015 prospects Noah Hanifin and Zach Werenski. Both played for the team this year, as did another draft-eligible prospect, Brandon Carlo. Ryan Collins (Columbus), who, like Carlo comes in at a towering 6-foot-5, can also come back.
Other blueline hopefuls include new Sarnia Sting signing Josh Jacobs (New Jersey), Nashville selection Jack Dougherty and Blues prospect Jake Walman, who just won a Frozen Four title with Providence.
The youngest player invited to camp overall is defenseman Chad Krys, who played up with the National Team Development Program's under-18s at the end of the campaign and helped the squad win yet another world under-18 championship thanks to his offensively-dynamic skill set.
In net, the U.S. loses starter Thatcher Demko, but returns 2015 back-ups Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina) and Brandon Halverson (NY Rangers). Nedeljkovic will not participate in the summer camp due to injury, but he's a known quantity and I would expect him to make the final squad based on his history.
Also keep an eye on 2016 prospect Evan Sarthou. He manned the crease for that world under-18 gold squad and plays for the WHL's goalie factory in Tri-City.
At this point, Team USA should always go into the world juniors as a favorite to medal, even if the program has fallen short the past two times. But based on the talent available once again, expectations should once again be sky-high – especially since so many of the players have been to the tourney before.