2024 World Juniors: Team USA Roster Updates, Bubble Watch
2024 World Juniors: Team USA Roster Updates, Bubble Watch
With the World Juniors one month away and Team USA's selection camp starting in a few weeks, analyst Chris Peters looks at how the roster may be shaping up.
The countdown to the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship is on. Sunday marked one month to puck drop and teams continue to make preparations. Candidates for their respective national teams are almost out of time to make their best case for inclusion in pre-tournament camps.
Team USA’s evaluation camp roster is typically announced in the first week of December, with camp opening Dec. 14 in Plymouth, Mich. As a result, this coming weekend will be players’ last real chance to prove to the decision makers they belong in camp, though most decisions have been made.
The Americans will enter the tournament as one of the favorites to win the whole thing. They have a chance to bring the deepest forward group in some years, have a tandem of high-end goalies playing very well of late and then there’s a lot of questions about blue line make-up that will really only be able to be addressed once the puck drops.
Regardless of how Team USA is built, this is going to be a skilled, fast team that can move pucks and attack. It may not be a particularly big team and there’s also going to be some youth in various positions, but make no mistake, this team has a chance to win the whole thing.
With precious few weeks before decisions are in, I decided to take stock of USA’s top candidates for inclusion to camp. There are a lot of players that I think have already solidified their roster spots, but there’s enough questions about some of the other positions that I think there’s room for some serious debate. Also, I should note, there is usually one or two players that I never saw coming and didn't even hear about being in the mix that find a way into this camp. Happens almost every year and that's part of what makes this fun.
One thing the U.S. likely can count on this point is that Logan Cooley will not be made available for the tournament. He's playing well enough for the Arizona Coyotes and I've been told there is little to no chance he's going to be loaned out. Probably the right call for Arizona and the U.S. is probably uniquely built to sustain that level of loss better than they would in most years.
One of the complicating factors in building USA's roster at this point is the status of Rutger McGroarty who was injured in a game last week. He is one of the heart-and-soul players of the age group, a beloved teammate and one of the real leaders of this class of players. If he’s not available, it leaves a hole in the lineup that probably means more off the ice than on it, as there is a surplus of scoring wingers in this group. Still, we won’t know if McGroarty is able to go probably right until the plane leaves for Sweden, but I think USA will give him every opportunity to return healthy.
So let’s take a look at the locks, the likelies and who’s on the bubble to make Team USA at this late stage of the process.
Updated Nov. 29, 8 a.m. CT: As is often the case, new information becomes available after pieces like this are originally published. Players with updated statuses (some downgraded, some added) are denoted.
This is pretty self explanatory. These are the players that I think are written in ink on the final roster, barring injury or illness. Seven of the locks are returnees from last year’s team. The others were top performers in summer camp and have continued that through the first portion of their season. McGroarty would be in this group if he were not injured, but the injury leaves his status questionable at best.
Lane Hutson, D, Boston University (MTL)
Cutter Gauthier, C/W, Boston College (PHI)
Jimmy Snuggerud, RW, Minnesota (STL)
Gavin Brindley, RW, Michigan (CBJ)
Ryan Chesley, D, Minnesota (WSH)
Seamus Casey, D, Michigan (NJD)
James Hagens, C, U.S. National Under-18 Team (2025)
Will Smith, C, Boston College (SJS)
Ryan Leonard, RW, Boston College (WSH)
Trey Augustine, G, Michigan State (DET)
Jacob Fowler, G, Boston College (MTL)
The likelies are players I think have a good chance of being on the final roster and some of them may already be penciled in. However, I’m hedging a bit based on roster construction, team fit and either they didn’t have strong summer evaluation camps or they have underperformed in the first half of the season, leaving at least a little doubt. Let’s dig in.
Zeev Buium, D, Denver (2024)
Buium has looked remarkable as a true freshman for Denver this season. USA has a ton of puck-moving defensemen already and you'd have to think Hutson and Casey are most likely to be the top of the point on the power play units, but don't rule out Buium playing a role there. He has 18 points in 14 games and has clearly gained the trust of Denver coach David Carle, who is also leading Team USA.
Frank Nazar, C/W, Michigan (CHI)
A tremendous summer camp where Nazar was a top performer helped put him on the path for inclusion. He looks like a great option to be a top-nine center for Team USA, possibly on the second or third line. Cooley not being available makes Nazar's path to the final roster especially clear at this point.
Gabe Perreault, LW, Boston College (NYR)
Perreault didn’t score any points in his first two collegiate game, then proceeded to have 20 in his next 11 contests. He has three goals and 17 assists as he continues to be a constant source of playmaking and production. He didn’t have a great camp, but USA knows it can put Perreault with Smith and Leonard for instant chemistry. There’s probably no need to overthink it an just go with something that is tried and true, and working at the collegiate level like gangbusters.
Gavin Hayes, RW, Flint Firebirds (CHI)
On pace for 50-plus goals this season in the OHL, Hayes would likely play down the lineup for Team USA. He has some grit to his game and a little heaviness that Team USA doesn’t have a whole bunch of. Assuming Hayes can fit seamlessly into a depth role as he showed in the summer camp, he has a great shot to be on the final roster.
Eric Pohlkamp, D, Bemidji State (SJS)
An impressive showing at the summer evaluation camp put Pohlkamp in position to make this team. He plays with a little bit of nastiness and has a good shot from the point. Pohlkamp already has four goals through his first four games with Bemdiji State. That said, he’s shown some holes defensively this year and USA needs some strength on the back end.
These are all players with a chance to be in camp and to make the final roster, but due to competition from other players in their same position, how they've played to start the year or for fit purposes, there is less certainty about their candidacy to make the final list. This group is pretty big for only a few spots, but this is a great problem for the decision makers to have. I'm probably missing a few legit options.
Charlie Stramel, C, Wisconsin (MIN) -- UPDATED
A two-time World Junior player, Stramel is not in the lock department because he’s struggled this season. He missed six of Wisconsin’s games this season due to injury and has just one goal through eight contests. USA would not be bringing Stramel for his offense. He’d likely anchor the fourth line and play a penalty killing role, which still leaves him in the mix to make the squad. I think there’s too much history and track record there not to take him, but there’s at least a little doubt now. UPDATE: Stramel's status has been downgraded from "likely" to bubble as it sounds like his tough first half of the season has weighed on decison-makers.
Hunter Brzustewicz, D, Kitchener Rangers (VAN) -- UPDATED
I liked Brzustewicz’s finish to camp an awful lot and think he makes a lot of sense to play for Team USA in this tournament. They have a lot of puck-movers already, but Brzustewicz has 40 points in 25 games in the OHL – on pace for more than 100 points from the back end this season. Points aren’t everything, but Brzustewicz’s game has continued to mature from his NTDP days. UPDATE: Sources have indicated Brzustewicz may not be getting an invite to camp after all as USA already has a lot of similar players that have more defined roles for the team. I think he belongs in camp, but that may not be the case.
Cole Eiserman, LW, U.S. National Under-18 Team (2024)
Eiserman did not have a good summer camp, but he has 25 goals in 19 games this year. I don’t think he fits in this particular team’s top six, but if McGroarty is out, you have another natural scorer to play within your top nine and on one of your power play units. I don't think his status is
Drew Fortescue, D, Boston College (NYR)
A rare defenseman with some size in the age group, Fortescue has three goals in 14 games for Boston College. He’s above average defensively within this age group and has good mobility. He can defend at a high enough level for USA to put him down their lineup to provide some needed balance.
Oliver Moore, C, Minnesota (CHI)
Versatility is the key to Moore’s candidacy. He’s not going to be a top-of-the-lineup player on this team, but if he can be a dedicated penalty killer and provide some energy to the depth of the lineup, he helps this team a lot. His speed makes him a weapon worth having in the lineup.
Danny Nelson, C/W, Notre Dame (NYI)
Currently the second leading scorer on Notre Dame’s roster, Nelson could be a fit for a depth forward on this roster. If the U.S. has any doubts about Stramel as a fourth line anchor, Nelson could be some competition for him in camp, but I also thought Nelson played his way into a position to make this team anyway.
Sam Rinzel, D, Minnesota (CHI)
I thought Rinzel had a strong start to summer camp and a so-so finish. What he has on his side is that he’s a big, right-shot defenseman with excellent skating ability. I would have concerns about his readiness to defend at a World Junior level. He can move pucks, but he won’t be on USA’s power play and might need to be sheltered unless he can really step up and be strong defensively.
Isaac Howard, LW, Michigan State (TBL)
Highly skilled and playing well for Michigan State, Howard still has a chance to be part of this team. The question is where he fits best. He has natural chemistry with Frank Nazar, but Howard doesn’t give you much defensive value. You’ve got seven or eight legitimate high-end playmakers in the mix already and USA will have to decide if there’s more room for him. I’m less convinced at this point.
Garrett Brown, D, Denver (WPG) -- UPDATED
A defenseman with size who can take care of his own end well, Brown has played well enough at Denver to maintain consideration for the team. USA doesn't have a lot of players that would be called defensive specialists. Brown has those attributes. I thought his summer camp was only OK, especially when it came to dealing with the pace, but a few months of high-level college hockey help. He could be an option to bring some balance to the back end. UPDATE: Brown sustained an injury recently that knocks him out of contention for the roster.
Cam Lund, C/W, Northeastern (SJS)
A forward with some size, Lund is scoring at nearly a point per game for Northeastern. He did not have a strong summer camp, but provides some size and scoring depth where it may be needed. I think it’s worth having him in camp again to see as he was very close to making this team last year.
Quentin Musty, LW, Sudbury Wolves (SJS)
Another bigger forward who can score, Musty has a chance to play but as an 18-year-old and there not being much for spots in the top nine of the roster, it's harder to find a fit for Musty. He can be a depth forward, but I think you'd want more pace from the bottom of the lineup. He's still got another year to make the team and the U.S. is already probably a little younger than they want to be.
Cruz Lucius, RW, Wisconsin (CAR)
A skilled scorer, Lucius has been a top producer for the resurgent Badgers this season. He had a decent camp in the summer and probably played well enough to get himself in the mix for camp. The question is if he fits as a depth player and that’s less of a given.
Cruz Lucius nets his second of the night! ⚡️— Wisconsin Hockey (@BadgerMHockey) October 27, 2023
🍎: Ben Dexheimer & Christian Fitzgerald pic.twitter.com/LJTcfTBLa3
Cole Knuble, C/W, Notre Dame (PHI)
With just two points so far for Notre Dame, both of which came in the same game. Knuble hasn’t built off of his excellent summer camp where I thought he played himself onto the team. He’s a good two-way player, but if the offense isn’t clicking, it’s harder to find a spot for him in the lineup.
Jake Livanavage, D, North Dakota
A strong start to his freshman season at North Dakota has put Livanavage back on the map for this team. He’s defended well, but the U.S. has a lot of sub 6-foot defensemen who have more strength on the puck. I think he may be worth a look in camp especially since the U.S. is lighter on left-shot players.
Paul Fischer, D, Notre Dame (STL)
A defense-first player who is a left-shot and can potentially bring some balance, Fischer is a steady presence. I'm not sure the versatility is there yet to bring him on board, but he's likely going to play a big role next year. It wouldn't be a bad idea to see how he looks after a few months of playing pretty darn well for Notre Dame.
Andrew Oke, G, Saginaw Spirit
Oke has been the No. 3 goalie for USA at each of the last two World Juniors. It’s not exactly an easy role, especially when you have two guys that are basically 1A and 1B on the roster already. Also, Oke is in the midst of his best OHL season, with a 10-3-0 record, .910 save percentage and 2.55 goals-against average for Saginaw.
Tyler Muszelik, G, UNH (FLA)
In his final year of eligibility, the former NTDP netminder had a chance to be UNH’s No. 1 this year, but it hasn’t happened and Muszelik’s numbers have been sub-par. He had a decent summer camp to keep himself in the mix, but Oke as the incumbent probably has the edge.
William Whitelaw, LW, Wisconsin (CBJ) -- UPDATED
After publishing on Tuesday, sources indicated Whitelaw was very much on the radar for Team USA and is likely to be invited to training camp. If he's going to make the team, it will likely be in a lower-lineup role. He played some his best hockey last year during the Clark Cup Playoffs an is off to a strong start at Wisconsin, playing with some skill and abrasiveness.
Worth an extra look?
These players that were not part of the summer camp that could fit a role for Team USA, but there always seems to be a few players who weren’t at the summer camp but find a way onto the team at the winter camp. Here are a few options.
Aram Minnetian, D, Boston College (DAL) -- UPDATED
BC Hockey Blog is reporting that Minnetian will be getting an invite to camp after not being selected for the summer evaluation camp. Minnetian was a standout performer for the U.S. National Under-18 Team last season and has three points so far in his first 14 games at Boston College. I was a bit surprised to see his name added to the mix, but I also think that speaks to the uncertainty surrounding how this U.S. blue line will ultimately be built.
Ryan Conmy, C/W, UNH (LAK) -- UPDATED
Conmy is off to a hot start with UNH, posting 14 points through his first 11 collegiate games. He has the style of game that could work for this team down the lineup. The camp in Michigan may be a good chance to get him alongside some of the top players to see how he fits in. UPDATE: Sources have indicated Conmy will not be invited to camp, which was first reported by John Hoven.
Logan Hensler, D, U.S. National Under-18 Team (2025)
The question marks on the defense and the relative lack of size create some balance issues for Team USA blue line. Could U18 defenseman Logan Hensler be the answer? He’s 6-foot-2, a right shot and an incredible skater. Hensler is more of a puck mover than a true defense-first player, but he checks some boxes that the U.S. lacks at the moment.
Projected WJC lineup heading into camp…
This is my best guess at this point. McGroarty's status obviously would move things around. USA is expected to carry the full 25 players you're allowed to bring with you, but only 23 can be rostered at once. After a player has been replaced on the roster, they can not come back into the tournament. So this is my look with 14 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders.
Cutter Gauthier – James Hagens – Jimmy Snuggerud
Gabe Perreault – Will Smith – Ryan Leonard
Rutger McGroarty* – Frank Nazar – Gavin Brindley
Oliver Moore – Charlie Stramel – Gavin Hayes
Cole Eiserman – Danny Nelson
Lane Hutson – Ryan Chesley
Drew Fortescue – Seamus Casey
Zeev Buium – Hunter Brzustewicz
Eric Pohlkamp – Sam Rinzel
* If healthy enough to compete
- Replay: Home - 2024 Arizona St vs Alaska | Feb 24 @ 7 PM
Feb 25, 2024
- Replay: Home - 2024 Alaska Anchorage vs Augustana | Feb 24 @ 6 PM
Feb 25, 2024
- Replay: Home - 2024 Sacred Heart vs Bentley | Feb 24 @ 7 PM
Feb 25, 2024
- Replay: Home - 2024 Robert Morris vs Air Force | Feb 24 @ 5 PM
Feb 25, 2024
- Replay: Home - 2024 Niagara vs Mercyhurst | Feb 24 @ 7 PM
Feb 25, 2024
- Replay: Home - 2024 Univ. of Denver vs Utah State Univ. | Feb 24 @ 7 PM
Feb 25, 2024
- Replay: Home - 2024 Dubuque vs Madison | Feb 24 @ 7 PM
Feb 25, 2024
- Replay: Away - 2024 Dubuque vs Madison | Feb 24 @ 7 PM
Feb 25, 2024
- Replay: Home - 2024 Cedar Rapids vs Waterloo | Feb 24 @ 6 PM
Feb 25, 2024