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2018 WJC Preview: Team USA

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The 2018 World Junior Championship is days away and before the tournament starts at Key Bank Center and Harborcenter, team previews will be rolling out here, starting with Team USA.

NHL: NHL Draft David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The 2018 World Junior Championship is days away and before the tournament starts at Key Bank Center and HARBORCENTER, team previews will be rolling out here, starting with Team USA.

After winning gold in last year’s tournament, Team USA is looking to repeat with Bob Motzko leading a similar lineup in terms of depth and star-power up front.

Starting from the back and working up, the United States boasts a great duo in net with Joseph Woll and Jake Oettinger manning the crease. Woll was with the USA last year and find his way into two games, both of them being solid performances, including a 25 save win over Canada in pre-tournament action.

Oettinger didn’t see a game with Team USA after being turned away in favor of Tyler Parsons and Woll. The Dallas Stars’ first-rounder has been experiencing a sophomore slump at Boston University this year but has still been technically sound in his movements.

Moving on to defense, the biggest potential for success on the d-corps is 2018 NHL Draft eligible, Quinn Hughes. An all-around incredible defenseman, Hughes’ best work comes from puck movement and transition. On the international ice, Hughes has even more room to work with his legs and space to work with in the offensive zone.

“Hughes is a small but highly–skilled puck-mover…a strong skater who possesses impressive four-way mobility…gets up to top speed in just a couple short strides…transitions smoothly and keeps up with his opponents, even those who are shifty and the fleetest of foot…a constant puck-rushing threat who makes impulse choices to join the rush when he sees open ice and has the quickness and soft mitts to remain in control of the puck at high speeds…confidently jumps off the line and lets his skillset go to work when getting looks at the net…shoots and passes with intent…his ability to retrieve pucks under pressure and kickstart the breakout is impressive, as is his ability to aleviate pressure…mobile little defender is skilled and speedy but still has to learn to manage his own zone better…possesses an active stick and smarts that he uses to strip pucks from unsuspecting opponents, and then like a flash he is gone on offense…regularly gets outmuscled when physically defending…has the potential to become a solid puck-rusher and power play specialist at the NHL level” - Future Considerations

Dylan Samberg is another quality defender for the United States. A big frame with quality separation skills.

Moving to the forwards, the first name that pops out is obviously Casey Mittelstadt. Not just from a Sabres standpoint, but Mittelstadt is a key factor for USA in this tournament. Centering the first line, Casey will be responsible for generating most of the offense for Team USA.

From what has been seen from Mittelstadt this year at Minnesota and including Team USA’s first preliminary game against Belarus, that should not be a problem. Just from stickhandling alone, Mittelstadt is able to create space and set up scoring chances.

A good thing for Mittelstadt is that he has relief in terms of help from the offensive depth that USA offers. The second line of Tkachuk, Brown, and Yamamoto should hold its own in providing depth scoring for the Americans. Trent Frederic and Max Jones following that up on the left side will provide extra power and supply skill to the bottom pair of lines to Team USA.

Luckily for The United States, their pre-tournament matchups begin with two weaker opponents in Denmark and Slovakia. They follow those two games with an anticipated outdoor matchup with Team Canada on the 29th of December and then a final pre-tourney meeting with Finland on New Years.

If all goes according to plan for the United States, they could have a very deadly roster that all teams should be fearing to face. At the center of it all, Casey Mittelstadt will have all eyes on him as he sets out to bring Team USA another gold medal.