2022 World Junior Championship Team USA Final Roster

The hockey world witnessed the Pittsburgh Penguins do it in 2016 and 2017. Then they watched the Tampa Bay Lightning do it in 2020 and 2021. There’s proof that it can be done. But if Team USA is going to capture a repeat championship at the 2022 World Junior Championship (WJC) and be the first team to do so since Team Canada did it in 2008 and 2009, they’re going to need to have all hands on deck, and a “won’t be denied” mentality.

It’s not that they lack talent. Team USA boasts one of the deepest lineups this year’s tournament has to offer. They also have a nice blend of skill, grit, and two-way play that should allow them to overcome any challenge they face. This team consists of some of the best prospects throughout the sport, but so will their opponents. Their opponents will also have the motivation of trying to knock off the reigning champions.

Related: 2022 Guide To the World Junior Championship

Simply put: repeating will not be easy – and that is exactly why this year’s edition of Team USA is going to be so compelling to watch.

Commesso Looks to Man the Crease

Team USA Goaltenders: Drew Commesso, Kaidan Mbereko, Dylan Silverstein

With all due respect to the goalies on this year’s team, the most noticeable turnover from last year is in goal as the Americans won’t have the luxury of throwing out one of the best goaltending prospects in the world. Spencer Knight, now with the Florida Panthers, was a huge part of last year’s gold medal-winning team, and neither of his backups return to this year’s team either. All that being said, Drew Commesso will surely have a bit of a chip on his shoulder as he looks to quell any concerns pundits have about the Americans’ goaltending.

A Sophomore with Boston University, Commesso owns a 6-7-3 record this season to go along with a 2.82 goals-against average (GAA) and a .900 save-percentage (SV%). He was drafted 46th overall in the 2020 draft by the Chicago Blackhawks, and when he’s at his best, he has the ability to win games all on his own. He relies on his technique to put himself in a position to make a save, so if the opposition can get him out of his groove, that could lead to trouble for Team USA.

Should Commesso falter, it may offer a chance to get a good look at 2022 draft-eligible Kaidan Mbereko. A native of West Bloomfield, Michigan, he is committed to Colorado College for the 2022-23 season. This season with the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League (USHL), he holds a 6-6-1 record, as well as a 2.91 GAA and a .903 SV%. A smaller goaltender at just 5-foot-11, he makes up for his lack of size with his athleticism and high compete level.

“Kaidan has an infectious personality, he’s always smiling,” said David Lassonde, the U.S. National Junior Team’s goaltending coach. “The tough thing about being a goalie is some nights you don’t play. How he supports all of his teammates is exemplary. He is a pleasure to work with.”

Hughes, Sanderson Anchor the Americans’ Defense

Team USA Defense: Brock Faber, Luke Hughes, Wyatt Kaiser, Tyler Kleven, Ian Moore, Scott Morrow, Jack Peart, Jake Sanderson

The star power of this team truly begins on the blue line as the Americans’ defense will undoubtedly be led by a couple of first round picks in Luke Hughes and Jake Sanderson.

Hughes is in the middle of a strong Freshman season with the University of Michigan where he has seven goals and 18 points through 20 games. He plays an offensive style that is very reminiscent of his brother Quinn, who mans the blue line for the Vancouver Canucks. Luke will probably see a great deal of time as the “quarterback” on the Americans’ power play. That being said, by no means is he a defensive liability just because the offensive side of his game is his calling card. He can create turnovers in the defensive zone that he then transitions up the ice and into the offensive zone. If the Americans are going to go far in this year’s tournament, they will need Hughes’s two-way game to be at its very best.

Luke Hughes of the USDP
Luke Hughes of the USDP (Photo: Rena Laverty)

Sanderson, the fifth pick of the 2020 draft, is an Ottawa Senators prospect that is currently in his Sophomore season at the University of North Dakota (UND). Unlike Hughes, Sanderson is a returning member of the 2021 gold medal team, and his championship experience is something that will likely make him a leader on this year’s team. While his offense isn’t explosive like Hughes, his two-way game is much more developed. He plays a mature game that leads many to believe that he will find his way to the NHL by the end of this season. If you’re looking for Team USA’s ice-time leader at this year’s tournament, this is probably the guy.

Other returning members from last year’s squad include Tyler Kleven – another Senators prospect – and Brock Faber, a Los Angeles Kings prospect. Faber, in particular was rather impressive at last year’s tournament as he had five points through seven games (all assists) and held a plus/minus rating of plus-8. Now in his Sophomore season with the University of Minnesota, the smooth-skater will likely be called upon to help Hughes produce offense from the back end. As for Kleven, the 6-foot-4 defenseman could be the yin to Sanderson’s yang as a defensive pairing as they are teammates at UND. In just two games at last year’s tournament, he recorded a single point and a was an impressive plus-3.

Matty Beniers Leads the Way on Offense

Team USA Forwards: Matty Beniers, Brett Berard, Logan Cooley, Matt Coronato, Tanner Dickinson, Dominic James, Matt Knies, Chaz Lucius, Carter Mazur, Sasha Pastujov, Mackie Samoskevich, Red Savage, Landon Slaggert, Ty Smilanic

Team USA features a nice mix of skill, two-way prowess and grit in their forward group. Ask anybody which player(s) they will have their eyes on, and you may get a different answer from each person you ask. However, one player that most people around the world will be keeping tabs on is Matty Beniers.

Beniers looks like a virtual lock to enter the tournament as the Americans’ top center. The second overall selection in the 2021 draft, and the first player drafted in Seattle Kraken history, he plays an outstanding two-way game that brings Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews to mind. In his Sophomore season with the Michigan Wolverines, he has an impressive 11 goals and 22 points through 20 games while playing in all situations. Head coach Nate Leaman will more than likely lean on Beniers to carry heavy minutes as an all situations forward for the Americans as well.

As the only returning forward from last year’s team, Beniers will also be relied upon to impart wisdom on his teammates when the going gets tough. If all goes well, this tournament could really raise his profile, especially if and when he goes up against his Michigan teammate and the only player drafted ahead of him, Owen Power of Team Canada.

Matthew Beniers, Michigan Wolverines
Matthew Beniers Michigan Wolverines (Photo Credit Michigan Photography)

Helping Beniers create offense will be winger Matt Coronato, who was selected by the Calgary Flames with the 13th pick of the 2021 draft. Coronato’s game involves two things: having the puck on his stick, and then launching the puck on net. Last season with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, he recorded an impressive 48 goals and 85 points through 51 games. He has followed that up this season with six goals and 12 points through 11 games while playing for Harvard University. If Hughes is going to be the quarterback of Team USA’s power play, Coronato will be one of, if not the most frequent shooter on that unit.

While this forward group is filled with drafted players with varying upside, one player worth keeping an eye on that hasn’t been drafted yet is 2022 draft-eligible Logan Cooley, who many have ranked as a top 10 prospect in the 2022 class, and some have ranked even as high as the top five. The native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania plays a surprisingly mature game given his age and has found some success at the faceoff dot while playing for the United States National Team Development Program. If this tournament could serve as a launch pad for Beniers and his standing as a top prospect in the world, this tournament could also cement Cooley as one of the top prospects available in next year’s draft.

Team USA has the Pieces to Repeat

Not to be redundant, but it is hard to win back-to-back championships in any league and on any stage. Compared to last year’s team, one could make the argument that this year’s team isn’t nearly as star-studded, but when this year’s team puts on their jerseys and goes out to represent the star-spangled banner, all bets will be off. This is a team filled with smart players that will give it their all. That, mixed with a skill level that should be able to go toe-to-toe with anybody at this tournament, should be enough for the Americans to make some noise in this year’s WJC.

Make no mistake: anything less than gold will be considered a disappointment for this group – especially for the players returning from last year’s group. Just like last year, it’s not going to be easy, and it might come down to the team’s stars doing what they do best, but if you’re overlooking this team in favor of Team Canada or Team Sweden or whoever, you’re making a mistake. And when it comes to the WJC, one mistake can be the difference between golden glory and silver disappointment.

Team CanadaPreviewRoster
Team USAPreviewRoster
Team AustriaPreviewRoster
Team CzechiaPreviewRoster
Team FinlandPreviewRoster
Team GermanyPreviewRoster
Team RussiaPreviewRoster
Team SlovakiaPreviewRoster
Team SwedenPreviewRoster
Team SwitzerlandPreviewRoster

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