USA Hockey has announced their final World Junior roster just days ahead of the Boxing Day start of the 2016 World Junior Championship.
As things have gone so far with the U.S. selection process, there was a bit of a surprise in the process.
The World Junior Roster
They will have returning players in goaltender Brandon Halverson, defensemen Brandon Carlo and Zach Werenski and forwards 18-year-old Auston Matthews.
It’s a strong lineup, but somewhat young. If you average it out, they may not be the youngest team, but their youngest players aren’t hop-ons, they’re key players. The entire top forward line is expected to be 2016 draft eligibles with Matthews centering Matthew Tkachuk and Alex DeBrincat.
On the blue line, expect Zach Werenski — who was named captain on Tuesday — to log some very big minutes and play a key role. Carlo and Alternate captain Louie Belpedio should also figure in heavily into what may be one of the best defensive groups in the tournament. Will Borgen has had a great camp and impressed many scouts as well. He could quite easily work himself into a larger role than was initially expected.
As we noted after the first round of cuts, the U.S. hasn’t had the benefit of reinforcements from the NHL or AHL as late additions to selection camp. There was some small glimmer of hope that they might get Noah Hanifin, but he will not be joining the team.
The above roster means that Ryan Collins, who made the team last year, and 2016 draft eligible Clayton Keller are the final roster cuts among skaters. The team also cut goaltenders Tyler Parsons and Luke Opilka, who missed much of selection camp with illness.
It might seem on the surface that the big surprise among the cuts is Collins, since he’d add experience to a young-ish squad and made the team last year. But Keller might be an even bigger surprise. The USNTDP player is dynamic, highly regarded prospect for the 2016 NHL draft. There was a sense that he’d make the team.
It seems a bit like the forward group is thinking a lot about roles over just ranking players on raw talent.
The tournament kicks of on Boxing Day, December 26, in Helsinki, Finland.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.