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.

Americans Look Unproven in the Crease

Remington Keopple, Kaidan Mbereko, Andrew Oke

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.

While Drew Commesso entered the December tournament as the starter for the United States, he is not returning, so the Americans find themselves with three unproven goalies in a tournament where goaltending really can be the difference between the gold medal and missing the podium entirely. Of the three goaltenders that joined the USA in December, only Kaidan Mbereko returns, which could perhaps point to him getting the first shot at becoming the team’s starter.

A native of West Bloomfield, Michigan, Mbereko is committed to Colorado College for the 2022-23 season. This past season with the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League (USHL), he held a 18-11-3 record, as well as a 3.01 GAA and a .898 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, Faber Anchor the Americans’ Defense

Team USA Defense: Sean Behrens, Brock Faber, Luke Hughes, Wyatt Kaiser, Tyler Kleven, Ian Moore, Jack Peart, Jacob Truscott

The star power of this team truly begins on the blue line as the Americans’ defense will undoubtedly be led by a couple of high-end defensemen in Luke Hughes and Brock Faber.

Hughes just finished a strong Freshman season with the University of Michigan where he has 17 goals and 39 points through 41 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)

Faber, a returning member of USA’s 2021 WJC squad, was named captain of this year’s team. In last year’s tournament, he impressed with five points through seven games (all assists) and held a plus/minus rating of plus-8. He’s a smooth skater that the Americans will more than likely call upon to play in every situation given his international experience and the strength of his two-way game. Originally drafted by the Los Angeles Kings, he was traded to the Minnesota Wild this offseason in the deal that sent Kevin Fiala to LA. This tournament could serve as a way for Faber to really put himself on the map and show why the Wild were so keen on acquiring him in that deal.

The other returning member from last year’s squad is Tyler Kleven, a Senators prospect. The 6-foot-4 defenseman recorded a single point in two games in last year’s tournament, and a was an impressive plus-3. With just 10 points in 38 games during his Sophomore season with North Dakota, he isn’t known for his offensive game. Instead, he’ll make an impact by using his size to his advantage and making life difficult on opposing attackers.

Offense Leads the Way for Team USA

Team USA Forwards: Brett Berard, Thomas Bordeleau, Logan Cooley, Matt Coronato, Riley Duran, Dominic James, Matt Knies, Carter Mazur, Hunter McKown, Sasha Pastujov, Mackie Samoskevich, Red Savage, Landon Slaggert, Charlie Stramel

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 Logan Cooley.

Cooley, recently drafted by the Arizona Coyotes, was the third overall selection of the 2021 draft. The Pittsburgh-native is a shifty, skilled centerman whose play this past season with U.S. National U18 team vaulted him up draft boards across the league. He’s a playmaker that is known to make highlight-reel plays when he has the opportunity, but it’s not all flash with this player; he works hard and is smart enough in all areas of the ice to make the right play at the right time.

While Cooley is more than capable of being the best player on the ice during any given game, he’ll have plenty of help around him as the Americans’ forward group features a number of players that are equally capable of creating and cashing-in on their opportunities.

Logan Cooley USNTDP
Logan Cooley, USNTDP (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

One of those players is 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. Two seasons ago with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, he recorded an impressive 48 goals and 85 points through 51 games. He followed that up this past season with 18 goals and 36 points through 34 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.

Other players to keep an eye on include Matt Knies, a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect, as well as Cartur Mazur, a prospect for the Detroit Red Wings. Knies just finished a successful Freshman season with the University of Minnesota, recording 15 goals and 33 points through 33 games. He plays a physical, in-your-face game that also features some underrated skill. He can get the puck in behind the defense and grind it out along the boards, and then he can dish the puck to an open teammate or bury it himself. Mazur, who concluded his own Freshman season with the NCAA champion University of Denver, plays a similar style as Knies and is known for being something of a character on and off the ice. If Team USA is going to embody that classic American brand of hockey that blends skill, speed, and grit, Mazur and Knies are two players that should be able to help the team adopt that identity.

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 CanadaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team USAPlayers to WatchRoster
Team AustriaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team CzechiaPlayers to WatchRoster
Team FinlandPlayers to WatchRoster
Team GermanyPlayers to WatchRoster
Team LatviaRoster
Team SlovakiaRoster
Team SwedenPlayers to WatchRoster
Team SwitzerlandPlayers to WatchRoster

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