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World Juniors 2024

Team USA announces preliminary camp roster for 2024 World Juniors

USA Hockey has unveiled its preliminary 29-player camp roster for the 2024 World Junior Hockey Championships, set to take place between Dec. 26 and Jan. 5 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Now, this isn't the same roster that they'll bring with them to the tournament. They have several rounds of cuts to go through before that's set in stone, which will only add to the suspense in the coming weeks.

Camp starts on Dec. 14th, and they're expected to announce their final, 23-man roster around Dec. 17, during which time they'll have to cut six players from this original roster. Then they're all set to fly from Plymouth, Michigan, across the Atlantic to compete for international gold.

The Americans will do so with quite the chip on their shoulder after last year's collapse in the playoffs before ultimately salvaging bronze. Let's take a look at the preliminary group of players tasked with avenging that loss in this year's tournament:

Forwards: Gavin Brindley* (Columbus Blue Jackets), Quinn Finley (New York Islanders), Cutter Gauthier* (Philadelphia Flyers), James Hagens (2025 NHL Draft), Gavin Hayes (Chicago Blackhawks), Isaac Howard (Tampa Bay Lightning), Ryan Leonard (Washington Capitals), Rutger McGroarty (Winnipeg Jets), Oliver Moore (Blackhawks), Frank Nazar (Blackhawks), Danny Nelson (Islanders), Gabe Perreault (New York Rangers), Will Smith (San Jose Sharks), Jimmy Snuggerud (St. Louis Blues), Carey Terrance (Anaheim Ducks), William Whitelaw (Blue Jackets)

Defence: Zeev Buium (2024 NHL Draft), Seamus Casey* (New Jersey Devils), Ryan Chesley* (Capitals), Drew Fortescue (Rangers), Patrick Geary (2024 NHL Draft, re-entry), Lane Hutson* (Montréal Canadiens), Jake Livanavage (2024 NHL Draft, re-entry), Aram Minnetian (Dallas Stars), Eric Pohlkamp (Sharks), Sam Rinzel (Blackhawks)

Goalies: Trey Augustine* (Detroit Red Wings), Jacob Fowler (Canadiens), Sam Hillebrandt (2024 NHL Draft)

The first thing to note with this group is that it's among the smaller and more skilled ones that USA Hockey has assembled in recent memory. They have role players, but it's not like they've sacrificed any scoring punch to accommodate them in their lineup. And they would almost all be among most other country's top-sixes, if not their top-lines entirely.

Similarly, this American group is an early favourite for the fastest team assembled at the tournament. There are a couple players here and there that probably rate as below-average-to-average skaters, but for the most part, this team has speed to burn. And on a bigger ice surface, that could make a massive difference for the Americans.

Pleasant surprises

You have to start with James Hagens, a contender for first overall in the 2025 NHL Draft. Even at 17-years-old, he's one of the most talented players on this roster, a dynamic playmaking centre with the full complement of skills necessary to one day light the NHL on fire. 

Whether it should be seen as a surprise that he's there or not is another matter entirely, but the Americans – like many countries, let's be clear – can sometimes be a little squeamish about putting draft-minus-one skaters, especially those on the smaller side, on their World Juniors roster. Credit to their staff for having no such scruples with Hagens – they'll be better for it.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, I'm not sure many had Patrick Geary pegged for even the selection camp roster. It seems like there's always room for at least one surprise undrafted player from the college ranks, and it's his turn this year.

The Michigan State defenceman has performed admirably in a top-four role with the new-look Spartans this year, and his six points in 10 contests have him finding the scoresheet at a rate that's almost three times more efficient than in his last year of USHL play with the Waterloo Blackhawks only a season prior. With a strong tournament, perhaps Geary can put himself back on the map as a draft prospect in his final year of eligibility.

Some of this applies to North Dakota defenceman Jake Livanavage as well, though he's not necessarily a surprise inclusion given his history of playing in the Stars and Stripes – he was on Team USA's Hlinka Gretzky roster in his draft year and sipped a cup of coffee with the USNTDP in his draft-minus-one season.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of all is the inclusion of Sam Hillebrandt in this team's goaltending battery. With drafted prospects like Trey Augustine and Jacob Fowler in front of him, it's not likely that he'll see much if any time in the crease when the games get rolling in Sweden, but just being there is so cool. He was playing Jr. C hockey last year and is now the lead tender in a timeshare for the starter's role in the Barrie Colts' crease and performing admirably.

Not-so-pleasant omissions

This conversation probably starts for many with USA Hockey's decision to not give Cole Eiserman a call. And certainly, it's a peculiar decision. Eiserman is scoring at better than a goal a game clip with the program and is seen by many as a lock for the top-three in this year's draft. Clearly, the Americans thought they had enough goalscorers in their ranks and that this was a luxury they could do without.

In a similar vein, Canucks prospect Hunter Brzustewicz's omission jumped out at many, myself among them. He's scoring at a historic clip in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers and played for the program in the past, before decommitting from Michigan and taking his talents up north. 

Many have been quick to point out that between Lane Hutson and Seamus Casey, the Americans had more than enough scoring punch on the right side of their blueline, but I'm not quite sure that that passes the smell test. It's not like Eric Pohlkamp is a rugged stay-at-home defenceman lining up in that final right-shot defence spot. And surely, they could've invited him to camp, if nothing else.

Then there's San Jose Sharks prospect Quentin Musty. I'm not sure that this is necessarily a surprise omission from the American camp roster. They left him off of their U18 squad in Switzerland last year, after all. Still, he's scoring at nearly a two points per game clip with the OHL's Sudbury Wolves and his power forward build paired with a 6-foot-2 frame is the sort of thing they usually covet at these tournaments.

Perhaps the most jarring exclusion from this roster, though, is that of Wisconsin centre Charlie Stramel. He'd made the team previously in his draft-minus-one and draft-year seasons but is struggling to make an impact with Wisconsin in his sophomore season, with only one goal to show for the season's first 10 games.

Elite Prospects American regional scout Joey Padmanabhan's thoughts on Team USA's preliminary camp roster: 

The preliminary American World Juniors Roster is highlighted by its exceptional forward group, led by Gauthier, Brindley, and Snuggerud. Each offers some veteran scoring touch and will be called on to do much of the heavy lifting upfront for this American group.

Smith, Perreault and Leonard have been a treat to watch this year at Boston College and will look to continue building their chemistry in Sweden when they don the Stars and Stripes once again.

There’s a few fun players on the back end too, Lane Hutson being the obvious headliner. Look for Seamus Casey and draft-eligible Zeev Buium to carry exceptional play at the collegiate level into the tournament, as well.

Between the pipes, it will likely be Jacob Fowler getting the nod thanks to his exceptional play for the Eagles this season, but Trey Augustine is certainly talented enough to challenge, especially as a returner to this World Junior roster. It’s a deep American squad this season with more than enough talent to make a run at gold.

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World Juniors 2024 USA U20 WJC-20
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