USA Hockey announced the roster for its U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team earlier today. Team USA will be looking for its unprecedented fourth consecutive medal at the 2012 International Ice Hockey Federation World Men’s Under-18 Championship, which will be held in Brno and Znjomo, Czech Republic, April 12-22.
The roster is almost entirely made up of players from the National Team Development Program and all but four players are eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Nineteen players with Division I college commitments dot the U.S. roster.
This U.S. entry, led by head coach Danton Cole, has a bit of pressure on it to keep the golden streak going. The U.S. has also medaled in each of the last eight tournaments (a U18WC record). Russia and the United States are tied for the most medals all-time with nine medals overall in the event, while Team USA leads the way with six golds — 2002, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, and 2011.
Coming up after the jump a brief look at Team USA’s roster and more info about the World Under-18 Championship and its coverage on USofH.
Editor’s Note: A special American Prospect Update will include player-by-player breakdowns of the U.S. roster on Wednesday, broken up into two posts, with one looking at defenseman and goaltenders and the other featuring forwards.
The U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team roster has a little bit of everything. When Danton Cole looks up and down his bench, he’s going to have a variety of weapons at his disposal. The U.S. went with two goaltender, seven defenseman and 13 forwards on its 22-player roster.
There’s no question that the strength of this team is in its defensemen. With Jacob Trouba and Seth Jones, both U18 World Championship veterans and sure-fire first rounders in the next two NHL Drafts, patrolling the blue line, it’s easy to see why. Then throw in potential first-rounder Brady Skjei, the big, bruising Patrick Sieloff and a trio of highly skilled rear-guards in Connor Carrick, Matt Grzelcyk and 1995-born Will Butcher, and you’ve got yourself a really strong D corps.
Up front there is a bit of a concern about the lack of a natural go-to scorer. That was evident at the 2012 Five Nations Tournament, where the U.S. finished third behind champion Sweden and runner-up Finland. Without that go-to scorer, the U.S. is going to have to hope for some balance out of this forward group.
Riley Barber has put up 20 goals this season, which leads the team, and is encouraging for those that think this team might be offense starved. There’s also a pair of potential first-round draft picks in this forward group with Nic Kediles and Stefan Matteau. Kerdiles played a role on last year’s gold-medal team, so he has that tournament experience as well.
Perhaps one of the more intriguing players added to the roster could be 1995-born winger J.T. Compher, who scored six goals in his 11 games with the NTDP U18s after being called up from the U.S. U17 Team. Prior to the call-up, Compher had scored 15 goals for the U17s. Compher has that combination of strength, grit and touch that can make him a potential surprise at this tournament.
The lone player added who is not a full-time NTDPer is Daniel O’Regan from St. Sebastian’s. O’Regan joined the NTDP U18s for its last seven games of the season upon the conclusion of his final Prep season. O’Regan posted five points, including three goals. He should help boost the offense.
One of the better stories on this team is forward Andrew Copp. When the NTDP is in need of an extra body, they usually call upon a local player to swing between the two teams and fill in for injured players. That was Copp, who previously played for Compuware’s midget program. Copp, a prolific football player from Ann Arbor, missed much of the first half of the season with a football-related injury. When he returned, he added energy to the lineup and provided some offense as well. So a guy who was supposed to fill in actually ended up earning a spot on the team competing for the world championship. Just incredible.
In goal, there really isn’t a clear-cut No. 1 guy like there has been the last two years for Team USA. At each of the last two tournaments, the directorate award winner for the tournament’s best goaltender came from Team USA; Jack Campbell in 2010 and John Gibson in 2011. This year, it may be a whoever-gets-hot situation as Collin Olson and Jared Rutledge have yet to separate from each other.
Rutledge has the better numbers this season, but only by a bit, while Olson has the size advantage. Whichever guy Cole decides to go with shouldn’t have to make a ton of dramatic saves with the quality of Team USA’s D, but, as is often the case in tournament hockey, there are going to be times where they might have to make a stop they’re not supposed to.
Other Roster Facts
States represented: 9 — Illinois (6), Massachusetts (4), Michigan (4), Minnesota (3), California (1), Colorado (1), New York (1), Texas (1), Wisconsin (1).
Colleges represented (via commitments): 11 — Michigan (4), Boston University (3), Miami (3), Denver (2), Boston College (1), Minnesota (1), Minnesota Duluth (1), Northeastern (1), Notre Dame (1), Ohio State (1), Wisconsin (1)
The World U18 Championship is set up exactly like the World Juniors, so those familiar with that tournament won’t have much trouble. Just in case you’re not, here’s the beginner’s guide to the World Juniors. A lot of that info, as far as tournament rules go, can just be copied for the U18s.
The U.S. has had a great deal of success in this tournament over the last decade, winning medals in nine of the last 10 years. It all started in 2002 with a team that included Zach Parise, Ryan Kesler, Ryan Suter, Matt Carle, James Wisniewski, Jimmy Howard, among others. That team set the wheels in motion for a decade of dominance.
While the U.S. has been strong at the World U18s, this tournament always comes with unique twists and turns, and the margin for error is very slim. Perhaps that’s what makes the last decade so impressive. There have been plenty of close calls, but these U.S. teams have found ways to win.
With very strong teams from Sweden, Finland, Russia and Canada, the tournament could be wide open this year.
The U.S. will have a tough road to a fourth consecutive title, playing out of Group A. Team USA, which will be playing out of Brno, will meet Canada, Finland, the Czech Republic and Denmark in group play.
Group B consists of Sweden, Russia, Germany, Switzerland and Latvia.
Following the Worlds
You won’t have to miss any of the Team USA action if you’re near a computer. The World Under-18s will be available on pay-per-view webcast on FASTHockey.com. All Team USA games will be available in the U.S. with live video and audio.
You can expect complete tournament coverage on USofH for the duration of the World Under-18s, complete with game recaps and player analysis.
Coming up Wednesday, complete player-by-player breakdowns of Team USA’s roster leading up to the World Under-18 Championship. Also, be sure to check out the in-depth tournament preview coming out next week.