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In a row. It's more than just the name of Drake's diss track in 2015 and the task ahead for Team USA heading into the 2022 World Juniors Hockey Live. After having astonished Team Canada during the gold medal match at the last tournament the team this year will have the daunting task of doing something that the United States has never done before and that no other nation has managed to do since 2009: winning the gold medal for the second time consecutively.
Last year's team was led by amazing results of Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras and Florida Panthers goaltender Spencer Knight in their quest to win an Olympic gold medal. The gold medal was United States' fifth gold medal from the tournament and their first since the 2017. The head coach Nate Leaman and his staff from last year's event will attempt to defend their gold this year.
The coaches aren't the only members of the team last year who are set to be back to fight for the medal However. In fact, this year's squad will likely to have several players from last year's team in crucial roles. It starts with the highest position in the list as the top-rated American center is almost certain to be one who has already created history. ….
Beniers, Pastujov Headline the American Forwards
Being the first player to be drafted within Seattle Kraken history, Matty Beniers has already received a degree of excitement around him - and that's not even taking into account his status as only the second player to be taken off the list during the 2021 draft. A two-way center with the hints of a young Jonathan Toews, Beniers is currently enjoying a successful Sophomore season at the University of Michigan where he has, at the time of writing, scored 11 scores and 18 points in 16 games in the current season. He wears the letter "A" on his sweater as an alternate captain for the Wolverines and he could very likely wear his captain's "C" on his sweater to represent the Americans at the upcoming World Juniors tournament. Last year, during the tournament, he scored three points over seven games.
Beniers could very well utilize this year's tournament as a platform to make his debut like Zegras had last year. Although Beniers and Zegras have different styles of play however, both have a huge potential upsides and Beniers is able to make an impact on any game of the same degree as Zegras. Beniers can play a shut-down role in opposition to the other team's best players, or be deployed in a manner which allows him to play an offensive role. In any case, he'll need an adequate group of wingers to build offense with.
When Zegras was the best offensive player in the previous year's squad, another Ducks prospect could take on the role this season. Sasha Pastujov, the 66th selection of the draft in 2021, is expected to be part of this year's team and will provide an impressive scoring force from the wings. As part of this season's Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) this season, he's scored an impressive 21 goals and 31 points in 20 games as of this moment. When he was a part of the Americans U-18 World Junior team during the last season, he scored seven goals and eight points during five games. The ability to score at the same level in this year's tournament could make a significant difference in having a number of teams regret not letting him make it into an undrafted third-rounder.
The 2021 draft will be full of players in this year's squad. Chaz Lucius (18th overall Winnipeg Jets), Matt Coronato (13th overall, Calgary Flames) and Tyler Boucher (10th overall, Ottawa Senators) should be a part of the team this year as well, with Lucius and Coronato possibly playing roles in the top six forwards. Thomas Borderleau (38th overall, 2020, San Jose Sharks) is expected for a spot alongside with his Michigan Wolverines teammate Beniers as one of the team's best offensive players too.
Americans Will Lean on Sanderson & Hughes on Defense
The Americans color scheme is blue, white, and red however it shouldn't come as any surprise to see them adopting maize as a secondary shade too. This is because, on top of Beniers and Borderleau Wolverines defenceman Luke Hughes seems like a good bet to guard the blue line in the team of Team USA as well. As the fourth selection of the 2021 draft Hughes who is also one of the New Jersey Devils prospect - could be viewed as a potential source of offensive energy from the back which is what he has been doing for the Wolverines to date. At the time of time, he has 7 goals and 15 points in 16 games played for Michigan in the current season.
If coach Leaman decide to pair the two as the team's best pair, Hughes will be joined by Senators prospect Jake Sanderson, the fifth choice from the 2020 selection. Averaging a plus-7 mark during last year's tournament Sanderson did not set the world in terms of scoring (he scored just two points in seven games) however, Sanderson played a solid two-way game that produced better than worst when there was court. As a Sophomore at the University of North Dakota this season, he's scored seven goals and has scored 16 points over 13 games, which suggests that the Americans are likely to see the offensive part in his play to swell at a higher level during the tournament this year. As a top-prospect who is not far to making his NHL debut, he's the most likely top defenseman for Team USA.
In the wake of Hughes and Sanderson and Sanderson, the remaining positions on the Americans defense will depend on the preference of the coach. There are many players who should feel confident about their prospects of being part of Team USA. Senators prospects Tyler Klevin, Sanderson's teammate with North Dakota, was a player on the team last year however he saw only the field during two matches. Klevin should be on the right of a roster spot. Los Angeles Kings prospect Brock Faber (45th overall 2020) is another player returning who is likely to get a roster spot especially after scoring five points in seven games in the last tournament.
Jacob Truscott (Vancouver Canucks, the 144th overall team in 2020), Scott Morrow (Carolina Hurricanes 40th overall in 2021) and Wyatt Kaiser (Chicago Blackhawks, 80th overall 2020) are among the handful of defensemen who could make up the remainder of the Americans blue line.
Commesso Leads the Way in Goal
There was plenty of goalie talent on all teams at the last World Juniors. The Americans had one of the top goalies in the starting lineup in Knight who followed with a stellar display at last year's WJC when he joined the Panthers at the end of the NHL season and winning in four regular-season games. Then, he went 1-1 in his two games with the Tampa Bay Lightning during Florida's very brief playoff game. It's going be difficult to take on his place at the next WJC and you should not mention Drew Commesso.
The Blackhawks potential player, Commesso was selected with the 46th pick in the draft in 2020. After a promising freshman campaign in Boston University Terriers Boston University Terriers last season He has been a bit shaky during his Sophomore season, with an overall record of 4-7-2, an 3.11 goals-against-average (GAA) as well as an .889 save-percentage (SV percent) at the time of writing. Although the Terriers are a shaky team however, he hasn't achieved enough to aid them in their efforts to overcome their shortcomings. As the most likely player in Team USA, he'll look at this tournament to try to make a change in his career and boost his confidence in the NHL future.
Commesso is likely to be the starter since there aren't many experienced players who can challenge his. Tucker Tynan, Aidan Campbell and Kaidan Mbereko are all 2022 draft eligible goalie players with a shot of getting the backup and third-string goalie positions. Tynan was not selected in the draft of 2021, has an impressive 3.88 GAA and a .894 percentage of SV with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL this season. He appears to be the first choice to secure the backup job.
If Team USA has a weakness in the coming WJC there's a problem within the pipes. It's up to Commesso to prove the idea to be false.
The Americans are expected to boast a team with top talent and a balanced combination of defense and offense and the potential for some unexpected performances in the lineup. It could be the one that has a large number of people hop on the Beniers bandwagon and also be the event that makes Senators supporters that Sanderson is likely to become the next major feature on the blueline of Ottawa. With players such as Pastujov and Faber who could be playing down the line-up This team is likely to be able to compete toe-to-toe against the top teams in the tournament this year.
When Team USA can overcome the perceived weaknesses in their goals, this is an organization that has the ability to win back-to-back. It's going to require an all-hands on deck and a standout performance or two will help in reaching the goal However, the Americans have never done anything at the international level without having overcome some difficulties. The coming year is expected to follow in that same vein too.
Here's THW's prediction on who will be in the final roster of 25 players for Team USA. Team USA:
Goalies: Drew Commesso, Tucker Tynan, Kaidan Mbereko
Defense: Jake Sanderson, Luke Hughes, Brock Faber, Tyler Kleven, Wyatt Kaiser, Scott Morrow, Jacob Truscott, Sean Behrens
Forwards: Matty Beniers, Matt Coronato, Sasha Pastujov, Thomas Borderleau, Chaz Lucius, Brett Berard, Josh Doan, Tyler Boucher, Ty Smilanic, Matthew Knies, Landon Slaggert, Mackie Samoskevich, Logan Cooley, Red Savage
All the 2022 World Junior Championship Team Information:
Austria - Team Preview - Roster
Canada - Team Preview - Roster
Czech Republic - Team Preview - Roster
Finland - Team Preview - Roster
Germany - Team Preview - Roster
Russia - Team Preview - Roster
Slovakia - Team Preview - Roster
Sweden - Team Preview - Roster
Switzerland - Team Preview - Roster
United States - Team Preview - Roster
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage