Team USA goes into the 2021 World Junior Tournament a little depleted but still full of high skill. Unfortunately for the Americans, both returnee John Beecher (Boston Bruins, 31st overall) and 4th leading NCAA scorer Thomas Bordeleau (San Jose Sharks, 38th overall) are out of the tournament due to COVID-19 protocols. They’ll also be without a top player in Nick Robertson (Toronto Maple Leafs, 53rd overall), as the Maple Leafs did not release him due to a potential NHL training camp-World Junior tournament overlap. However, their roster is still extremely talented, with 9 first round picks and 8 returning players.
In terms of goaltending, it’s returnee Spencer Knight at the helm (Florida Panthers, 13th overall), followed by Dustin Wolf (Calgary Flames, 214th overall) as a backup option. Knight, who posted a .913 save percentage in last year’s World Juniors, will be one of the top netminders in this tournament.
Defensively, only one player has World Junior experience: Cam York (Philadelphia Flyers, 14th overall). The Michigan Wolverine looks to be one of Team USA’s top defenders and will likely man the top powerplay unit. Also look for Ryan Johnson (Buffalo Sabres, 31st overall) and Jake Sanderson (Ottawa Senators, 5th overall) to provide in the top four.
The forward group will likely lean on the five returning veterans: Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens, 15th overall), Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings, 5th overall), Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks, 9th overall), Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings, 33rd overall), and Bobby Brink (Philadelphia Flyers, 34th overall). Matthew Boldy (Minnesota Wild, 12th overall), Brendan Brisson (Vegas Golden Knights, 29th overall), and 2021 Draft Eligible Prospect Matthew Beniers also look to carve out a spot in the top nine. Reportedly, Turcotte, Zegras, and Kaliyev have been put together as a line at practice, as have Beniers, Boldy, and Caufield.
Overall, while this isn’t the most talented team the United States has had in recent years, it’s certainly full of skilled players and potential difference makers. They won’t be the favorite going into the tournament, but the Americans will be in contention for a medal, and with Knight manning the net, they have the opportunity to go on a deep run.
Team USA opens the tournament against Russia on Christmas Day at 9:30 p.m. (EST).
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