Predicting Team USA at the 2023 World Juniors
The 2022 World Junior Championship ended abruptly, much to everyone’s disappointment.
And while there’s hope the tournament can restart or resume later in the year, it’s far from a given. So let’s shift our focus to the 2023 tournament scheduled to be held in Russia.
Team USA will likely return four forwards, two defensemen and two goaltenders from their 2022 squad. That leaves 16 skater spots they will have no problem filling as the upcoming draft class for the Americans could be their best yet with the potential of yielding up to 10 first-round picks.
The problem will be that this will make for some tough roster choices and punch their ticket to Russia.
Given the amount of American-grown talent, it’s certain that there will be a number of players looking to burst the bubble to secure their spot on this talented roster. And while a lot can happen between now and then, here’s a first look at what the roster might look like.
Jackson Blake, RW/C, Chicago Steel (USHL) | North Dakota – Carolina Hurricanes
Jackson Blake has been on a tear this season playing on a supremely talented Chicago Steel squad. His speed and puckhandling abilities might just be tops in the USHL. His first step acceleration and ability to control the puck at top speed make him a threat to score every time he touches the ice. This youngster who is dubbed “The Hawk” by the Steel faithful will look to continue turning heads while playing his way onto this roster.
Tyler Boucher, LW/RW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL) – Ottawa Senators
Tyler Boucher is headed to the OHL for a fresh start after kicking off the season at Boston University. He plays a gritty, heavy style that should allow him to hit the ground running for the Ottawa 67’s. He will be tasked with bringing sandpaper and secondary scoring depth for this team that will need to score by committee.
Logan Cooley, C, USNTDP | Notre Dame – 2022 NHL Draft
After stepping up as the second-line center in Red Deer, Logan Cooley appears poised to take over as the top-line pivot thanks to his blend of speed, skill and creativity. He has a tremendous motor making him as dangerous without the puck as he is with it. I can’t wait to see how he fares the rest of this season and against Big Ten competition with Notre Dame.
Jack Devine, RW, University of Denver – 2022 NHL Draft
Jack Devine has been a pleasant surprise so far as a draft-eligible freshman. He has earned big minutes for a high-ranking Pioneer squad thanks to his incredible playmaking abilities. He also looks to have grown bigger and stronger than last season. He will look to continue his strong freshman season and secure a spot on this roster.
Dylan Duke, F, University of Michigan – Tampa Bay Lightning
Dylan Duke has been a swiss army knife, showcasing his versatility playing up and down the lineup of the most talented team in college hockey. His speed makes him relentless on the forecheck opening up space for his linemates. His ability to play anywhere in the lineup along with his chemistry with some of the top players make him a likely candidate for this team.
Cutter Gauthier, F, USNTDP | Boston College – 2022 NHL Draft
Cutter Gauthier has been on a goal-scoring tear this season. He can score in so many different ways, utilizing his NHL-ready release and big frame to crash the net. He also plays a physical game and is great at getting under the skin of the opposition. His size and ability to play on both the wing and center will be key for this team.
Isaac Howard, LW, USNTDP | Minnesota-Duluth – 2022 NHL Draft
Isaac Howard is an electric winger that can score from anywhere on the ice. His speed, playmaking and lightning-quick release are reminiscent of a young Phil Kessel. He has shown excellent chemistry with Frank Nazar this season and, hopefully, we will see them reunited again in Russia. If the team looks to go with a heavier lineup he could be replaced by his USNTDP teammate Rutger McGroarty.
Jack Hughes, C, Northeastern University – 2022 NHL Draft
Like Devine, Jack Hughes is enjoying a productive draft-eligible freshman campaign playing important minutes at Northeastern. He is another versatile player that is a natural two-way center that can play up and down the lineup.
Chaz Lucius, F, University of Minnesota – Winnipeg Jets
Chaz Lucius was highly effective in the limited ice time that he received, drawing a couple of penalties and creating multiple high-danger chances. He was really beginning to catch his stride in a top-six role at the University of Minnesota prior to the break and will look to keep that momentum in the new year. He will be relied upon to drive play and score clutch goals for this team in Russia.
Frank Nazar, C/RW, USNTDP | Michigan – 2022 NHL Draft
Frank Nazar just keeps getting stronger, craftier and more confident with each game. Quite a few folks see him as a right-winger but I think he is best suited at center. His ability to play both should make him a lock for this team. I can’t wait to see him playing alongside Adam Fantilli with the Wolverines next season.
Sasha Pastujov, LW/RW, Guelph Storm (OHL) – Anaheim Ducks
Sasha Pastujov proved that he isn’t just a one-dimensional sniper in limited minutes for the team in Alberta. He was relentless on the forecheck and was more than willing to throw his weight around. He likely dropped in the draft due to fears surrounding his speed and skating, but that looks to be improving. He reminds me a bit of Arthur Kailyev and will be tasked with putting the biscuit in the basket as he looks to join Kaliyev in the gold-medal club next year.
Red Savage, C, Miami University – Detroit Red Wings
Red Savage had a tough start to the tournament, delivering a scary hit on Finland’s Joakim Kemell who fortunately was no worse for wear. On the bright side, he looked strong, bringing tons of energy to the fourth-line and on the penalty kill. He should be a lock for that role again next year.
Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, USNTDP | Minnesota – 2022 NHL Draft
Jimmy Snuggerud is another big, versatile winger that often gets overlooked on his loaded USNTDP team. He is great at complementing top-skill players by creating space and finishing his scoring chances. His release is very deceptive and much more lethal than he is given credit for. If he continues to improve his skating and find that next gear he will be a nightmare to play against.
Charlie Stramel, F, USNTDP | Wisconsin – 2022 NHL Draft
Prior to season-ending surgery in the summer, Charlie Stramel was a likely favorite to join fellow 2023 draft-eligible phenoms Connor Bedard and Matvei Michkov in Alberta. He is a big rig, to say the least, as the biggest player on the USNTDP team by a wide margin. He can really skate for his size and was impressive at the World Junior Summer Showcase for Team USA. He should step right into big minutes for the Badgers as they are chomping at the bit for him to join them next season.
Rutger McGroarty (2022 draft-eligible), Ty Voit (Toronto Maple Leafs), Justin Janicke (Seattle Kraken), Liam Gilmartin (San Jose Sharks), Sam Lipkin (Arizona Coyotes), Caden Brown (2021 undrafted), Jeremy Wilmer (2021 undrafted), Devin Kaplan (2022 draft-eligible), Cruz Lucius (2022 draft-eligible), Gavin Brindley (2023 draft-eligible)
Sean Behrens, D, University of Denver – Colorado Avalanche
Sean Behrens was unfortunately unable to join the team in Alberta due to a positive COVID-19 test. He is a high-octane offensive-minded and dynamic blueliner that is a great power-play quarterback. He continues to look stronger and more comfortable in each game with the Pioneers and will be a key piece on the backend for this team.
Shai Buium, D, University of Denver – Detroit Red Wings
Shai Buium is a hulking defender that can skate and has all the tools of a top-pairing blueliner with the right development. If he continues to mature and develop at the NCAA level he could very well end up being the surprise of the tournament.
Ryan Chesley, D, USNTDP | Minnesota – 2022 NHL Draft
Ryan Chesley is built like a Mack truck with speed to boot. He loves throwing thunderous checks as much as he does rushing the puck up the ice. His offensive numbers are surprisingly down this season, but that will likely change given his underlying stats. He should be tasked with playing a shutdown role paired with one of the many skilled left-shot defenders.
Ty Gallagher, D, Boston University – Boston Bruins
Ty Gallagher has played with a chip on his shoulder after dropping in the draft. He has been one of the few pleasant surprises on a struggling Terrier team. He has experience playing with many of the left-shot blueliners that are likely locks for this team with the USNTDP last season giving him a leg up on making this talented blueline group.
Luke Hughes, D, University of Michigan – New Jersey Devils
Luke Hughes is the one player with the risk of being unavailable due to playing full-time in the NHL, but his development is definitely better suited by playing another year for the Wolverines as their top defender. He didn’t have the chance to showcase his abilities thanks to sheltered minutes in Alberta, but he has shown tremendous flashes as a freshman in Ann Arbor. If all goes as planned, 2022-23 will be his time to shine and help capture the first World Junior gold medal in the final shot for the Hughes brothers.
Jack Peart, D, St. Cloud State – Minnesota Wild
Jack Peart looked right at home as a late addition to the defense group in Alberta. Minnesota’s former “Mr. Hockey” will look to build on his strong start at St. Cloud. He should be tasked with big minutes for the team next year in Russia.
Roman Schmidt, D, Kitchener Rangers (OHL) – Tampa Bay Lightning
Roman Schmidt is a mountain of a young man that has transitioned nicely to the OHL. He uses his strength to bully the opposition and possesses a powerful slap shot. As a member of the USNTDP team for two seasons, he has developed chemistry with his left-handed counterparts making him a strong candidate for this team.
Ryan Ufko, D, University of Massachusetts – Nashville Predators
Ryan Ufko is another offensive-minded, puck-moving defenseman that had a strong showing at the World Junior Summer Showcase. Unlike most of his counterparts, he is a righty which gives him an inside track at making this team. Not to mention that he is off to a scorching start at UMass and was likely one of the final cuts for Alberta.
Seamus Casey (2022 draft-eligible), Lane Hutson (2022 draft-eligible), Aiden Hreschuk (Carolina Hurricanes), Ty Murchison (Philadelphia Flyers), Hunter Brzustewicz (2023 draft-eligible), Brent Johnson (Washington Capitals),
Braden Holt, G, Everett Silvertips (WHL) – 2022 NHL Draft
Braden Holt, who was passed over in the 2021 NHL Draft, has always been a bit behind the eight ball in the eyes of USA Hockey due to playing in the WHL. He isn’t the biggest netminder, but he is very mobile. His numbers have been solid playing for a talented Silvertip squad. Hopefully, he gets an invite to camp this summer so he can show the USA Hockey brass what he can do.
Kaidan Mbereko, G, Lincoln Stars (USHL) | Colorado College – 2022 NHL Draft
Kaidan Mberko, who was also passed over in the 2021 draft, didn’t see any action in Alberta while serving as their third netminder. After spending two years with the USNTDP team, he has had a solid post draft-eligible season in Lincoln before joining Colorado College next season.
Dylan Silverstein, G, USNTDP | Boston College – 2022 NHL Draft
Dylan Silverstein saw some action in Alberta and was roughed up thanks to a late major penalty. The goals were really no fault of his own and he will look to get his swagger back with his USNTDP squad. He is a bit undersized by NHL scout standards but he is a fierce competitor with a ton of agility, skill and upside.
2023 World Juniors: Team USA’s Lineup
Sasha Pastujov — Logan Cooley — Chaz Lucius
Isaac Howard — Frank Nazar — Jackson Blake
Cutter Gauthier — Jack Hughes — Jack Devine
Dylan Duke — Red Savage — Tyler Boucher
Extra: Charlie Stramel, Jimmy Snuggerud
Luke Hughes — Sean Behrens
Jack Peart — Ryan Chesley
Shai Buium — Ryan Ufko
Extra: Roman Schmidt, Ty Gallagher
Extra: Braden Holt