2023 World Juniors: Team USA Final Roster Instant Reaction
USA Hockey revealed the players that will be part of the roster that will compete at the 2023 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship coming up Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Halifax, Nova Scotia and Moncton, New Brunswick. Team USA will be bringing 25 players with them to the tournament, but can only register 23 to the active roster at any one time.
USA had initially invited 32 players to its pre-tournament camp and cut down to 25 Friday afternoon. The World Juniors this year has a new roster rule that each team can have up to 25 players credentialed for the tournament. However, they can only register a maximum of the 23 as previously stated. A player can be replaced on the roster at any time by one of the extra players, but once a player is replaced on the 23-man roster, that player will not be able to return to the tournament. Last year, 25 players could be registered and were interchangeable, but the IIHF is going back to something resembling the old roster rules which used to be a hard-and-fast 23-player limit.
As a result, the U.S. has the 25 players they’ll be taking with them to Canada. Here’s the full list of who made it, who got cut and some instant reaction to the roster as a whole.
Trey Augustine, U.S. National Under-18 Team (2023 eligible), Kaidan Mbereko, Colorado College (Undrafted), Andrew Oke, Saginaw Spirit (undrafted)
Sean Behrens, Denver (COL); Seamus Casey, Michigan (NJD); Ryan Chesley, Minnesota (WSH); Luke Hughes, Michigan (NJD); Lane Hutson, Boston University (MTL); Luke Mittelstadt, Minnesota (undrafted); Jack Peart, St. Cloud State (MIN); Ryan Ufko, UMass (NSH).
Jackson Blake, North Dakota (CAR); Gavin Brindley, Michigan (2023 eligible); Tyler Boucher, Ottawa 67s (OTT), Kenny Connors, UMass (LAK); Logan Cooley, Minnesota (ARI); Dylan Duke, Michigan (TBL); Cutter Gauthier, Boston College (PHI); Noah Laba, Colorado College (NYR); Sam Lipkin, Quinnipiac (ARI); Chaz Lucius, Manitoba Moose (WPG); Rutger McGroarty, Michigan (WPG); Red Savage, Miami (DET); Jimmy Snuggerud, Minnesota (STL); Charlie Stramel, Wisconsin (2023 eligible)
First cuts: Aidan Hreschuk, Boston College (CBJ); Cam Lund, Northeastern (SJS); Will Smith, U.S. National Under-18 Team (2023 eligible)
Last cuts: Shai Buium, Denver (DET); Jack Devine, Denver (FLA); Ryan Leonard, U.S. National Under-18 Team (2023 eligible); Tyler Muszelik, UNH (FLA).
The U.S. has had a clear mandate from the very beginning of camp. They want to play fast, they want to transition pucks and they want to always be on the attack. As a result, you see a blue line that is top-to-bottom puck-moving defensemen with mobility. Up front, you’ve got balance with some size and physicality to go along with speed and high-end skill.
Clearly size was not a big concern for the U.S. because most of its blue line is under 6-feet tall, but they can all move pucks and they can all skate. Led by returnee Luke Hughes, this is a group that will be pushing pucks up ice and will have to win the possession battle to make sure their offense is their best defense. There’s just not a lot of heaviness back there, which could raise some concerns about their overall ability to defend some of the larger teams they could play. That said, USA went skill over grit on the back end.
The biggest surprise among the defense cuts, however, was Shai Buium, who played a top-four role on a national championship team last year and was among the last cuts for this team in the rescheduled World Juniors. Additionally, he provides a little more size and still doesn’t give away a ton on the offensive front. Buium has good enough mobility, but I don’t think he skates like a lot of the rest of the blue line which could have been an issue.
Guys on the bubble like Luke Mittelstadt and Seamus Casey, particularly the latter, deserve a lot of credit for playing their way onto the team. I’ve heard Casey had a really strong camp and continued the play that’s made him successful at Michigan to land his role with the team.
Up front, the U.S. is going to lean heavily on some of it’s most skilled players like Logan Cooley and Jimmy Snuggerud who have had chemistry together for years now. Both should be key offensive performers and they may reunite with longtime linemate from the NTDP Cutter Gauthier for USA’s top line. There’s still more to be decided on that front.
Chaz Lucius, who has been a limited participant in camp due to injury is going to get every opportunity to get healthy and rejoin the team. He is a dynamic scorer when at the top of his game and could be USA’s No. 2 center. Also, I’ve heard the U.S. staff feels very strongly about the talent of North Dakota’s Jackson Blake, who has played his way into a potential top-six role and I would not be surprised to see Michigan freshman Rutger McGroarty up USA’s lineup in a scoring role.
The name of the game is going to be to get pucks up ice, be rugged on the forecheck and put a lot of pressure on the opposing team. With a tenacious bottom six led by guys like Red Savage and Noah Laba at the center positions, the U.S. wants to be hard to play against on top of being fast and skilled. I think the goals might be harder to come by down the lineup, but there should be a reasonable expectation they’re contributing at a high enough level to make a positive impact beyond the defensive elements of the game.
I did think we’d see draft-eligible Will Smith on the final roster, too, as he’s among the most dynamic players in USA’s selection pool. However, Smith couldn’t participate in camp due to illness and was released early as a result. It’s unfortunate timing, but he is eligible for each of the next two tournament.
In net, the U.S. does not have the highest pedigree, but both Kaidan Mbereko and Trey Augustine are playing at a fairly high level so far this season. One of them will have to step up in order to give the U.s. a reliable backstop.
The Americans are going to play the preliminary round of the tournament in Group B in Moncton, which gives them Finland, Slovakia, Latvia and Switzerland as opponents. It’s not the strongest bracket as the other side includes Sweden and darkhorse Czechia along with favorites Canada.
Team USA will also play in two pre-tournament games in Canada, one against Sweden on Dec. 19 and one against Finland on Dec. 21, in preparation for when the games go live on Dec. 26. USA will open the tournament on Boxing Day against Latvia in Moncton.
Stay tuned for wall-to-wall World Junior coverage with a special focus on Team USA right here on FloHockey from now until the end of the tournament.