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World Juniors 2024

Team USA 2024 World Junior Selection Camp Notebook

PLYMOUTH, Michigan – There’s serious medal motivation for Team USA heading into the 2024 World Junior Championships, which open Dec. 26 in Gothenburg, Sweden. 

And for the 2004-born players, it’s the colour of the medals they’ve already won that have them dialled in on gold in their final chance at this event. 

In the 2022 Under-18 World Championships, primarily consisting of 2004-born players, the Americans lost 6-4 in the gold medal game to the Swedes. 

The Americans have dominated the U18s, almost by design, with Canada not sending its best team because of the schedule collision with the CHL. The United States has won 11 of the 24 U18 championships since 1999; it’s almost a right of passage to have won at least one for a top American prospect. 

In the other tournament, the one the Americans are far from guaranteed of ever winning, the United States lost 6-2 in the seminal of the 2023 World Junior Championship to Canada. They salvaged a bronze medal, an 8-7 thriller vs. the Swedes, but it doesn’t dispel the negative taste of that semis loss to Canada. 

So for that 2004-born age group, players like Jimmy Snuggerud, Cutter Gauthier, Rutger McGroarty, Gavin Brindley, Ryan Chesley, and Lane Hutson this is their last chance to get the job done before they fully move into full senior hockey on the international stage. 

“I’ve been talking with a lot of '04s a lot about this; this is our last shot at gold,” Snuggerud said. “We know that as a group, and we are going to let the younger guys know that, they obviously won U-18 worlds (last year) and we are gonna do our best like every other team. But this means a lot to us, we’ve lost in the biggest games before, so that’s the itch we have on our back and we are more than ready for this.”

Trey Augustine vs. Jacob Fowler 

As far as overall depth goes, the Americans are the strongest team in the crease heading to Sweden. 

Detroit Red Wings pick Trey Augustine was the American starter as a 17-year-old last year at the World Juniors, and has been one of college hockey’s best goalies as an 18-year-old this season at Michigan State. 

In most cases, like with Adam Gajan and Slovakia, the returning starter would be a lock. 

But Jacob Fowler has greatly changed the equation. 

The Montréal Canadiens prospect has been statistically better this season at Boston College than Augustine has been at Michigan State. Fowler doesn’t have much Team USA experience, he’s a later bloomer, but has been on Team USA’s radar since he carried the Youngstown Phantoms to a USHL title in the spring. 

Team USA GM John Vanbiesbrouck said his easiest decision on the initial roster was picking Augustine and Fowler to battle for playing time. 

While head coach David Carle was coy on his goalie plans, it seems likely that the Americans will rotate Augustine and Fowler in the group stage before going with the hotter hand in the elimination game. 

Throughout camp, both Fowler and Augustine looked sharp, it was hard to separate them based on practices. Including, a shootout on the final day of camp where both went save-for-save against American shooters.

Defence in definition only 

It was a tongue-in-cheek type comment, but Vanbiesbrouck mentioned that whoever plays goalie will have to be good on breakaways. 

And he’s not wrong. 

Team USA will be fun to watch, they will play with pace and often get four players deep in the offensive zone, sometimes even five. 

Consider that throughout camp Zeev Buium and Seamus Casey were often a pairing. Two offensive-first dynamic blueliners, neither of whom is often interested in being the defensive anchor so their partner can roam free. 

Carle has been willing to let players run wild from the blue at Denver, that’ll be the case for Team USA, but it’s going to come with some high-danger events in the other direction. 

The Americans also aren’t large. At 6-foot-2, Buium is actually one of the bigger defenders on the roster. While it’s always the norm for international ice, the American defence will thrive or struggle depending on how well they defend with their feet and skate. 

They’ll have the puck often, but when they won’t the Americans could be susceptible to extended zone time and cycles against. 

The Rutger McGroarty question 

McGroarty is on the roster and looked good in camp, but his ability to play and the official clearance are about the only question mark surrounding the roster for Game 1 on Boxing Day. 

McGroarty, if cleared, will likely be on the top line with Gauthier and Snuggerud. 

The second line, if you want to call it that, will consist of the Boston College trio of Gabriel Perreault, Will Smith, and Ryan Leonard. The trio dominated games together in the NTDP before moving to BC this season, and that chemistry is something Carle plans to lean into for a short tournament. 

Isaac Howard, who has really rescued his game at Michigan State this season, was frequently skating with collegiate rivals at Michigan, Frank Nazar III and Gavin Brindley. While Quinn Finley, Danny Nelson, and Gavin Hayes were a frequent trio on the potential fourth line. 

If McGroarty isn’t available for the first game against Norway it’ll be interesting to see where Carey Terrance potentially slots in on those lines. Howard seems most likely to move up to the first line, but with all the talk of building chemistry, and McGroarty potentially being cleared by the second or third game, Terrance could go from top line to 13th forward in the span of a couple days. 

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This article is about:
World Juniors 2024 USA U20 WJC-20 Trey Augustine Gavin Brindley Zeev Buium Seamus Casey Ryan Chesley Quinn Finley Drew Fortescue Jacob Fowler Cutter Gauthier Gavin Hayes Sam Hillebrandt Isaac Howard Lane Hutson Ryan Leonard Rutger McGroarty Aram Minnetian Oliver Moore Frank Nazar Danny Nelson Gabriel Perreault Eric Pohlkamp Sam Rinzel Will Smith Carey Terrance
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