USA GETTING READY FOR CHAMPIONSHIP

Team USA’s preliminary world junior roster is out and there were few surprises. Thanks to the World Junior Summer Showcase in Michigan, a lot of the cutting down had already been done, to an extent, and this group has all the elements to win a gold medal in the Czech Republic. Having said that, let’s walk through the surprises.

FORWARDS
The most notable name missing from the camp roster is left winger Matthew Boldy, but this is not a shocker. Sure, you could make the argument that Boldy, the Minnesota Wild prospect taken 12th overall in 2019, at least deserved a crack. However, it’s my understanding that USA brass did not believe that the young Boldy would be an impact player right now in what is a short tournament. Boldy has a ton of raw skill and he’s still in the process of getting stronger (especially in his legs, which will hypothetically give his skating another gear in the future). The world juniors is not the stage to be learning and growing on. The fact Boldy has struggled to generate offense as a freshman at Boston College is almost besides the point: he’ll be one to watch for next year’s squad and there is no shame in needing a little more time to develop.

Another WJSS left winger omitted from the December camp is Blake McLaughlin. The Anaheim Ducks pick and University of Minnesota sophomore was inconsistent at the summer camp and he hasn’t exactly been lighting the NCAA on fire this year; McLaughlin is actually a little behind his freshman offensive pace right now.

Detroit pick Robert Mastrosimone did make the cut after missing the WJSS due to injury. He’s having a nice little freshman season with Boston University and it will be interesting to see if he can turn heads now.

Finally, I would call undrafted Providence College freshman Parker Ford a surprise, but the Americans always seem to bring an underdog to the world juniors (I call it ‘The Scott Eansor’) and Ford is off to a great start with the Friars. Team USA brass was worried about their strength down the middle and Ford can win faceoffs. The Americans will also hold out hope that Oliver Wahlstrom will be loaned out by the New York Islanders and he would be a huge X-factor thanks to his experience and scoring punch.

DEFENSE
Sticking with the Islanders, Bode Wilde is not on the camp roster, though he has been limited to five games of action with AHL Bridgeport this season due to injury. Given how deep the American options were, I can understand going another way here. Since 10 blueliners made the initial cut, I would say the biggest surprise was how many kids the Americans are bringing. What that tells me is that there are roster battles that will be determined in camp. One to watch for me is Ryan Johnson (Buffalo/University of Minnesota) vs. Jordan Harris (Montreal/Northeastern University). Both are great puckmovers, but both are also left shots, which the Americans have an abundance of. Given that Mattias Samuelsson, K’Andre Miller and Cam York are practical locks, something has to give. You can probably toss UMass freshman Zac Jones (NYR) into that Johnson/Harris battlefield too.

GOALIES
From my understanding, the Americans will have three goalies in the Czech Republic, so there will be no mystery at camp: Spencer Knight (Florida/Boston College), Dustin Wolf (Calgary/Everett) and Isaiah Saville (Vegas/Nebraska-Omaha) are the options. There was a possibility of bringing undrafted Michigan State goalie Drew DeRidder to camp, but he wouldn’t have been anything more than a stalking horse and that would have been unfair to him.

Knight is your unquestioned starter here and based on how he has played both internationally and locally for Boston College, expect him to be a major factor at the tournament.

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