Nate Fournier over at The World of Junior Hockey had an interesting post on next year's US World Junior team.
Even though this week, everyone seems more obsessed with re-picking this year's World Junior team, I figured I'd take my own stab at what next year's team will look like.
Mike Lee and Brandon Maxwell are pretty much gimmes(unless of course one of them struggles in the tournament, in which case, everyone will have totally known they should have picked someone else). Thank goodness you only need two goalies. If one of those guys was injured, who would be the next choice? Joe Cannata? Kevin Murdock? Adam Murray? Decent choices, but nothing that blows you away.
Zach Bogosian will still be eligible to play, but almost definitely won't be available. John Carlson has already signed a contract with the Washington Capitals, so his availability will likely depend on if he makes it past the 10-game cutoff in the NHL.
After those two, I think Cam Fowler is the next obvious choice. Like Jordan Schroeder this year, he'll be jockeying for a shot in the top 10, possibly top 5 of the NHL Draft with this tournament.
Aaron Ness and Jake Gardiner are going to be tough calls in my opinion because they're very good, but also very raw. Ness only had six assists in the first half of this year, but Don Lucia predicted he would take off in the second half of the season, and lo and behold, he scored his first goal, and added two assists last weekend, so he may just take off from there. Each will have a year and a half of college experience by that point, which is more than some of the other candidates, so I'd give them each a spot on the team.
Same goes for David Warsofsky of Boston University. He's got international experience and has played fairly well at the college level so far.
My next pick would be one of either Max Nicastro or Matt Donovan, or Sam Lofquist. All three are good skaters that can bring a little bit of everything to the mix. I'd imagine USA Hockey would lean towards Lofquist since he's got more experience both internationally and in college.
Next, I'd go with either John Moore or Nick Leddy. Both are excellent skaters that should make for very high draft picks this year. I wouldn't be surprised if Leddy was added to the US roster for the U18s this summer, and a good showing there may give USA Hockey more confidence in him.
That makes seven defensemen, if you count Carlson. If Carlson isn't available, I'd look for somebody that offered a little size and physicality to go along with a mostly finesse bunch, like a Collin Bowman.
Things will obviously start at the top with Jordan Schroeder. There's a very outside chance of someone drafting him really high, signing him, and him not being available next year. He might be good enough to handle it skill-wise, but I think he'll stick around for one more season at Minnesota.
You'd have to believe that Mitch Wahl, Tyler Johnson, and Danny Kristo will all be back after playing on the team this year.
I like the idea of giving Schroeder two skilled finishers in Jeremy Morin and Phil McRae to work with.
Joining Morin off of this year's U18 team, I'd take Kyle Palmieri, who was invited to the tryout camp for this year's World Juniors, and Drew Shore.
David Wohlberg and Derek Stepan have both had outstanding freshman seasons, and should be locks to make the team. Wohlberg is especially valuable since he's excellent defensively as well.
That would make 10 forwards. USA Hockey has shown in the past that they like to choose more defensive-minded players for those last couple rosters rather than guys with a lot of flash. Justin Florek is a big guy that is starting to put things together at Northern Michigan, and he might be a nice choice. A.J. Jenks is another big player that could play a nice role as a center on a lower line. That just leaves the 13th roster spot. Chris Brown would be another great energy player. USA Hockey may go with an NTDP veteran that some aren't as familiar with, like Colin Moore, similar to when they took Jimmy Fraser a couple years ago, or if they wanted to really young, they could take a strong two-way player off the U18 team like Jason Zucker.
Overall, it probably won't be the strongest US team. Like most years, they should be in contention for a medal, and if they get hot goaltending at the right time, or a couple bounces go their way, who knows what could happen.