Team USA has revealed its roster for the World Junior Summer Showcase, the annual tournament/tryout camp held in Michigan that features international competition and a host of young stars. And once again, American hockey fans have a lot to look forward to.
While Canada will not be participating this time, Finland and Sweden will be there as usual, giving the Americans top-notch competition during the last week of July. The camp gives Team USA's braintrust a baseline to work with heading into the season and ultimately, December's big decisions. The Americans are the defending gold-medal champs and expectations should be high heading back to Edmonton. Here's how the camp roster breaks down by position.
Drew Commesso (CHI) is the front-runner for me here, as he has all the elements of an elite netminder - including size. Commesso was very good for Boston University in his freshman campaign and as an NTDP alum, he is well-known to USA Hockey. More recent NTDPer Kaidan Mbereko (2021) is coming off a nice world under-18s, albeit one that ended early due to injury. I would suspect the backup job is his to lose, with OHLers Aidan Campbell and Tucker Tynan providing competition. Tynan of course rebounded from an horrific leg injury during a game with Niagara two years ago and managed to snag an amateur tryout with the AHL's Iowa Wild this season.
This is the most intriguing position for Team USA as the Americans have a wealth of talent, experience and skill sets available to them. One peculiarity is that of the 16 blueliners invited to camp, only five are right-hand shots. Of those five, only one has WJC experience, University of Minnesota standout Brock Faber (LA). Other returnees include University of North Dakota star Jake Sanderson (OTT) and hard-hitting teammate Tyler Kleven (OTT). Fellow 2002 birth years Eamon Powell (TB) and Wyatt Kaiser (CHI) are strong candidates in my mind, while a flurry of talent from the 2021 draft will also be vying for spots. Luke Hughes, Sean Behrens and Jack Peart are just a few of the names to keep in mind there. This is going to be an extremely mobile unit with great transition abilities.
The undeniable jewel of the crown is center Matty Beniers (2021) and his availability will no doubt be influenced by which NHL team selects him and whether or not he decides to return to the University of Michigan in the fall (all signs currently point to him returning to the Wolverines). Beniers was a star for last year's gold medallists and his fast, two-way game makes him a threat at all times. Team USA looks to be strong down the middle; behind Beniers there is fellow Wolverine Thomas Bordeleau (SJ) and a pair of intriguing NTDPers in sniper Chaz Lucius (2021) and shutdown ace Redmond Savage (2021). As for scoring punch, 2021 prospects and USHL Chicago teammates Mackie Samoskevich, Matt Coronato and Josh Doan are all ones to watch, as is Quinnipiac University's Ty Smilanic (FLA).
What really makes this camp roster sing however is the versatility. Need a bruiser? You've got NTDPer Tyler Boucher (2021). Need energy? Providence College's Brett Berard (NYR) was fantastic on last year's team and will bring more of the same this time, as will Notre Dame's Landon Slaggert (CHI). And based on how the Americans tend to build their rosters, there will definitely be some specialists in the bottom six.
With Nate Leaman back as coach, Team USA is well positioned to go for another gold medal. The talent is there and it's present at every position. There will be serious competition from Canada and Russia in particular, but don't sleep on the Americans to repeat.