The 2019 World Junior Championships are now only a month away and it seems the Americans are looking to ice the a squad to get them a fourth consecutive medal at the tournament. This year for the Americans is different than times before though. The US has a potential franchise player in a Jack Hughes and one of the best draft classes in a while.
With such great young talent, USA Hockey looks forward to a promising future, but the now is bright too. With top players returning from last year’s squad and high calibre new additions, the US looks to replicate their 2017 gold medal squad.
If the Americans are going to try to win gold in Vancouver and Victoria, they need to put out their best lineup and will work hard in order to do so. With the selection camp roster being named in the near future and the final roster soon after, we will look into what this American team might look like.
Jason Robertson – Jack Hughes – Cole Caufield
Jack Hughes is the player we’ve all been waiting to see at the World Junior level. Hughes has been unstoppable in U18 play with the US National Team Development Program. At the U18 Five Nations competition, Hughes scored 6 goals and 10 assists for 16 points in just 4 games.
Hughes is clearly far too good to be playing against kids his age. We’ve also seen his dominance against collegiate competition as much as six years older than him. Hughes’ exceptional play is expected to continue at the World Juniors as he sizes up to possibly be the USA’s top forward.
On Hughes’ wings are Cole Caufield as well as Jason Robertson. Caufield is one of the players on the edge of this lineup. There is a good possibility that he won’t make this roster come December, so why is he on the first line?
Caufield has shown unbelievable chemistry with Jack Hughes. Wherever Hughes has been, Caufield has been right there burying goal after goal. Caufield’s goal scoring at every level has pushed himself into consideration for this tournament and his chemistry with Hughes should make him a no brainer to be his winger.
Hughes’ other winger, Jason Robertson, is a lock to be on the team. The Dallas pick is the 2nd leading OHL scorer and is in his last year of World Junior eligibility. The all offense winger loves to put the puck in the back of the net and will make for a great linemate for Hughes.
Josh Norris – Ryan Poehling – Oliver Wahlstrom
The American’s second line is centered by a highly competitive, playmaking center in Montreal’s Ryan Poehling. Poehling is a returning player from last year’s team. He’s going to be heavily relied on to create offense for the Americans.
Poehling is flanked by two dangerous, scoring wingers. Oliver Wahlstrom was the 2018 U18 World Junior’s 2nd leading goal scorer with 7 goals in 7 games which led him to be taken 10th by the Islanders in 2018. Wahlstrom has struggled during his time with Boston College, but it shouldn’t be a reason to keep him off this roster.
Lastly, the recently traded Josh Norris (part of the Erik Karlsson trade) is Poehling’s final winger. Norris is a triple-threat Senators prospect that can score, pass and play defence as well. Norris is the Univ. of Michigan’s leading scorer, plus he’s another returning player from last year’s team.
Brandon Kruse – Evan Barratt – Jack Drury
Chicago Blackhawks prospect Evan Barratt is a guy to keep an eye on. Barratt is lighting up the NCAA with 21 points including 10 goals in 13 games. Barratt is a contender to be moved up the lineup; what’s helping him from the first line is that Poehling is a returning player and Jack Hughes is Jack Hughes.
He could be moved up to Hughes’ wing, but I’d like to see him at center. On the right is Jack Drury, the Hurricanes 2019 2nd rounder. Drury looks like a steal at 42nd overall with 9 points in 8 NCAA games at Harvard. Lastly, Brandon Kruse is over a point per game with Bowling Green and was a Vegas 2018 5th rounder. He looks like a value pick at 135th overall.
Joel Farabee – Alex Turcotte – Tyler Madden
The fourth line and subsequent 13th forward are nothing to gawk at, but they’re going to be an interesting group to watch. At center we have Alex Turcotte, a 2019 draft eligible and NTDP player. Turcotte is a little bit of a stretch to make this roster, but he’s been a reliable two-way threat for the US.
What will likely keep him off this roster is going to be injuries. He’s missed most of the season so far with an injury. I think a 100% healthy Turcotte is a good enough player to be on this team. I currently have him ranked at number five for the 2019 draft. On his left wing is Joel Farabee. Farabee was the 14th overall pick last year by the Philadelphia Flyers.
He’s starting off pretty slow with Boston University. With 6 points scored in 11 games, Farabee isn’t having the best season, but expect him to heat up as the season progresses. On the left wing I have Vancouver’s Tyler Madden who competes with Northeastern.
The New York native has 10 points registered in his 12 NCAA games and it looks like he’s going to be a reliable fourth line option for the Americans. Lastly, we have our 13th forward in Cole Guttman. The Tampa 6th round draft pick is hopefully going to be a center option if an injury occurs or if Turcotte doesn’t end up working out for whatever reason.
Quinn Hughes – Mikey Anderson
Quinn Hughes is the best player on this World Junior squad. I said that Jack Hughes might have the potential to be the best forward. However, there is no doubt that Quinn is going to be the player looked at by USA Hockey to be “the guy” for this team and probably their captain.
As a defender, he is 2nd in NCAA scoring for players eligible for this squad and is proving he’s a steal at 7th in the 2018 draft. Anyone watching or playing against this team won’t be able to take their eyes off Quinn Hughes. The second defender on the first pairing is another returning player in Mikey Anderson. A slow start with Minnesota doesn’t change anything for me in terms of his chances of making this team. He’ll be on this team and likely wear a letter.
Max Gildon – K’Andre Miller
K’Andre Miller is the breakout guy for the Americans this season. He’s off to a hot start with the Wisconsin Badgers, scoring 15 points in 16 NCAA games played. Picked at the 22 spot by the New York Rangers, his selection in the draft looks to be an absolute steal.
Miller is going to be an essential player for this World Junior team with his two-way game and all around reliable game. Max Gildon is another surprise as the Florida 3rd rounder is a point per game defender with the University of New Hampshire. Gildon is another very reliable player that can handle any situation and play a lot of minutes as well.
Dylan Samberg – Reilly Walsh
The third defensive pairing and seventh defender are what’s going to make this US team such a dangerous team. The depth on the blueline is staggering with Samberg and Walsh this far down the lineup and to have a guy as hot as Bode Wilde right now as a scratch is shocking.
Samberg is a returning guy who played very well on last year’s team, but hasn’t totally replicated that success in the NCAA. The Jets pick could end up in the 1st or 2nd pairing as the tournament goes on. Walsh is a point per game defender out of Harvard who’s been a successful player in every league he’s played in.
As a real offensive threat, the Devils prospect isn’t a player you can over look just because he’s on the third pairing. Lastly, Bode Wilde rounds out the defensive crop. He’s one of the few players in the CHL on this team playing with the Saginaw Spirit.
With 21 points registered in 20 games played, he’s going to fight hard to get into the lineup and it won’t be easy to scratch him given all that he is capable of. He was considered a mid first rounder in the 2018 draft, but shockingly fell all the way down to the Islanders at 41st.
Cayden Primeau gets the start in net for this American team in my mind. There are a lot of goalies in contention for a spot on this squad, but none really stand out as much as Primeau does. Primeau, Knight, Keith Petruzelli and Kyle Keyser are all very close in contention for selection.
For now, Primeau looks like the best bet as he has a history of great play with Northeastern University Athletics. The Canadiens prospect finished last year with a .931 Sv%, but has a .915 as Northeastern has declined over the off-season. The 199th pick back in 2017 looks like a steal and is going to be an important piece in net for the US.
I can almost guarantee we will see Spencer Knight at the World Juniors in some form. USA Hockey loves this kid and he’ll be eligible for the World Juniors for two more years after this one. USA Hockey wants to give Knight every chance to succeed and be their starter this year.
Knight has held his own in the NTDP collegiate cross over games. In one game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, he took over and made 36 saves on 37 shots. He’s the brick wall in net behind clearly the best NTDP squad we have ever seen. Spencer Knight is likely a first rounder in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.