Riley Barber has been named captain of the U.S. National Junior Team, USA Hockey announced Sunday. Andrew Copp and Matt Grzelcyk will also wear letters as alternate captains.
Barber comes in as one of three returning players from last year’s gold-medal winning team. The Miami University winger had six points at the last WJC and will be leaned on heavily as a top-line forward for Team USA. Him getting the C puts even more pressure on him to be the go-to scorer he is expected to be and his experience puts him in a position to lead by example. Barber is a Washington Capitals draft pick.
Copp and Grzelcyk play prominent roles on their respective teams as sophomores and are in leadership roles. Both also have good international experience as well, which can be helpful. The pair are also smart players who are well respected by coaches and players alike. Copp is a Winnipeg Jets pick, while Grzelcyk is a Boston Bruins prospect.
This is a good leadership core for the U.S., and in short tournaments, having good leaders in the locker room can be a big difference maker in a short tournament. Making sure the team comes together quickly often helps if the leadership core can guide things that way.
The U.S. still has one cut to make, but obviously none of these guys are going anywhere. They’ll have to help smooth the transition into tournament mode when the final roster is decided.