Team USA announced its preliminary 28-man list as it looks to defend IIHF World Junior gold on home ice this holiday season.
Viewers in North America watched the live unveiling on the NHL Network during its NHL Now program Tuesday evening.
“This is an accomplished, versatile group of players that has experience winning across all levels of hockey and intends to do so this year on home ice,” said Jim Johannson, USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of hockey operations and the general manager of the 2018 U.S. National Junior Team.
USA Hockey will return seven members of its gold-winning team from last year and all five members of its coaching staff, including head coach Bob Motzko. Along with several returnees, the team will once again rally around a theme that has served it well in past years: forward depth.
Though not on last year’s team, Kailer Yamamoto of the Spokane Chiefs is arguably the most talented player on this roster and owns NHL experience with the Edmonton Oilers, albeit notching three assists in just nine games before being sent down this season.
Last year’s twenty-second overall pick won bronze with Team USA at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship, while leading the tournament in goals scored.
Yamamoto is joined at forward by a familiar name in Brady Tkachuk – a member of the Boston University Terriers and a player considered to be a top-five draft pick this upcoming summer.
Last season, Tkachuk was a point-per-game force as Team USA won gold at the U18 Worlds and he’s already a major contributor for Boston University as a freshman.
Tkachuk will be the third member of his family – joining his Hockey Hall of Fame father Keith and brother Matthew – to play at the World Junior Championship.
Motzko will also rely on returning forwards Joey Anderson, Kieffer Bellows and Patrick Harper to bolster an attack that’s puzzled opponents’ defences in recent years. The trio contributed a total of six points in last year’s competition and will be asked to do a lot more in Buffalo.
“It’s important to have several players and coaches return,” Johansson added. “Those guys have gained experience and it’s nice to identify leadership in the dressing room early.”
Of note, there are five players on this roster that were not invited to Team USA’s evaluation camp this past summer. Johansson identified defenceman Scott Perunovich and forward Hugh McGing as two guys who played their way into this invite.
“Every guy here has a legitimate shot of making our final roster,” Johansson said confidently.
Final cuts are expected by 23rd December and Johansson alluded to structuring the team with 13 forwards, seven defencemen and three goalies.
“There is a specific style of play Coach Motzko and his staff intend to utilize, and while there are still some difficult decisions to make, our staff is excited to begin identifying a roster that can ultimately win a gold medal in Buffalo,” Johannson finished.
The team favours having a versatile extra forward due to the importance of special teams in this particular tournament. The extra defenceman is a depth decision based on the potential gauntlet Team USA must face to reach the final game.
Players report to Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, on 15th December for a five-day, pre-tournament training camp before competing in two preliminary matches against Belarus (20 Dec.) and Sweden (22 Dec.).
Last year’s champions begin their title defence against Group A foe Denmark the day after Christmas.
Yet, the biggest attraction of group play will be the Americans’ match with rival Canada on 29th December, which will be played outside for the first time in World Junior Championship history. The game is being held at New Era Field – home of the National Football League’s Buffalo Bills – that holds approximately 72,000 people.
Team USA is seeking its fourth gold medal since 2010, despite winning just one title prior to that year. Similarly, Team USA has never won back-to-back titles at this tournament.
Team USA Preliminary Roster
Jake Oettinger, Boston University (HEA)
Jeremy Swayman, University of Maine (HEA)
Joseph Woll, Boston College (HEA)
Mikey Anderson, University of Minnesota Duluth (NCHC)
Adam Fox, Harvard University (ECAC Hockey)
Quinn Hughes, University of Michigan (Big Ten)
Cole Hults, Penn State University (Big Ten)
Phil Kemp, Yale University (ECAC Hockey)
Ryan Lindgren, University of Minnesota (Big Ten)
Andrew Peeke, University of Notre Dame (HEA)
Scott Perunovich, University of Minnesota Duluth (NCHC)
Dylan Samberg, University of Minnesota Duluth (NCHC)
Reilly Walsh, Harvard University (ECAC Hockey)
Joey Anderson, University of Minnesota Duluth (NCHC)
Jack Badini, Chicago Steel (USHL)
Kieffer Bellows, Boston University (HEA)
Logan Brown, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Trent Frederic, University of Wisconsin (Big Ten)
Patrick Harper, Boston University (HEA)
Max Jones, London Knights (OHL)
Will Lockwood, University of Michigan (Big Ten)
Hugh McGing, Western Michigan University (NCHC)
Casey Mittelstadt, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
Josh Norris, University of Michigan (Big Ten)
Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State University (NCHC)
Brady Tkachuk, U.S. National Under-18 Team (USHL)
Riley Tufte, University of Minnesota Duluth (NCHC)
Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane Chiefs (WHL)