2024 IIHF World Junior Championship

2024 World Juniors: Evaluating Lane Hutson, Team USA Defense And Goalies

2024 World Juniors: Evaluating Lane Hutson, Team USA Defense And Goalies

Chris Peters breaks down the performances of each of Team USA's defensemen and goaltenders at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Jan 9, 2024 by Chris Peters

The 2024 U.S. National Junior Team had a lot of strengths going into the 2024 World Juniors. But one of the big questions was if their undersized, offensive-minded blue line would stand up and defend well enough against bigger, stronger teams. The answer was written in gold.

USA’s talented D corps certainly won with skill, possession, and an ability to transition unlike any team in the tournament. On top of defending well enough, the U.S. had a competent last line of defense in two quality goaltenders Trey Augustine and Jacob Fowler.

Augustine took the reins in the biggest two games of the tournament and delivered in a major way, helping the U.S. secure its second gold medal in IIHF men’s play in only a matter of months having done so at both the men’s U18s and WJC.

To wrap up our coverage of the 2024 World Juniors, here’s a detailed player-by-player breakdown of USA’s active defensemen and goaltenders from their gold-medal run.

NOTE: Defensemen are listed in order of points scored at the tournament.


Lane Hutson, LHD, Boston University (MTL)

Stats: 7 GP, 0 G, 6 A, 6 PTS, 14 PIM, +8, 14 SOG, 23:56 TOI/GP

It says a lot about the standard Lane Hutson has set for himself at Boston University that people were initially disappointed with his tournament and critical. The only thing I ever would have said was that he wasn’t at the same standard that he set, not that he played poorly – because he didn’t. Earlier in the tournament, maybe he was a little too careless at times, but beyond that he was so clearly USA’s most trusted defenseman.

Hutson played nearly half the first and second periods of the gold-medal game, played on the PK and power play and finished with six assists in the tournament. Expecting him to lead the tournament in scoring and things like that, that I saw before the tournament was a bit outlandish. Mainly because, in a way he really hasn’t had to in his career, he had to be one of USA’s shutdown defenseman. I’ve always thought that Hutson is a more than adequate defender for his size and this tournament showed when he’s on, he can be just a plain good defender.

He made a lot of plays with his feet and his stick to break up plays or slow down the opposition. He’d get in the way, strip a puck and then it was going the other way. I thought his best game of the tournament was the gold medal game and he had zero points and zero shots on goal in that one. It’s because he focused in on defense and played a great game disrupting Sweden’s forwards and getting pucks out of the zone.

Hutson is one of the most dynamic defensemen I’ve ever covered, but he’s becoming a more complete player. His size will leave him underestimated and there are still NHL teams that have no time for a player like him – I’ve talked to enough scouts to know that to be true. I still believe he is an outlier and this World Junior Championship proved that further in my estimation.

Seamus Casey, RHD, Michigan (NJD)

Stats: 6 GP, 0 G, 6 A, 6 PTS, 2 PIM, +8, 7 SOG, 17:08 TOI/GP

I thought Casey had a so-so start to the tournament, but he got better every game and by the end was a critical piece for Team USA in the way they expected him to be. Casey finished with six assists in just six games – the best of which came in the semifinal against Finland during which he played 21-plus minutes.

Casey also made a play that helped set up USA’s first goal in the gold-medal game on a fancy zone entry where he beat a defender and put a puck into space for Rutger McGroarty who started the goal-scoring play. He made a lot of plays in the tournament, but I also thought his defending was solid. 

Casey has improved his strength over the last two years, allowing him to be more disruptive in the defensive zone. He also turns pucks up ice quickly, doing so with either his feet or moving pucks up ice with good outlet passes. He can also extend plays at the offensive blue line and picks his spots well of when to jump in the play.

Zeev Buium, LHD, Denver (2024 NHL Draft)

Stats: 7 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 PTS, 4 PIM, +11, 4 SOG, 18:06 TOI/GP

Buium’s tournament was a little inconsistent, but when he was good he was really good. The dynamic elements of his game made him a threat and he had a penchant for big goals. There was none bigger than his insurance goal in the gold-medal game where he hammered a puck through Hugo Havelid to make it 4-2 and suck all the air out of the building. 

He only took four shots in the tournament… three of them went in. On top of that, Buium showed off some make-you-miss puck skills to create other opportunities for his teammates and was able to keep opposing players guessing. It was funny how often his 28 looked like Lane Hutson’s No. 20. There were so many elements that Hutson has displayed over the years and Buium was taking a page right out of his book.

It wasn’t a perfect tournament by any means for the draft-eligible. There were a few decisions with the puck and a few times he got knocked off the puck that left a lot to be desired. Still, his skating, his ability to read plays and his dynamic puck skills leave a lot to like about his game. His draft stock is definitely on the rise as one of the best offensive-minded blueliners in the forthcoming selections.

Ryan Chesley, RHD, Minnesota (WSH)

Stats: 7 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 PTS, 0 PIM, +9, 11 SOG, 21:01 TOI/GP

I thought this year’s WJC was some of the best hockey I’ve seen Chesley play. As a guy who doesn’t get a lot of points, it can be harder for him to impact the game, but I thought he impacted every game he played in Sweden in a positive way. He finished with three points including a big goal against Czechia in USA’s most difficult game of the tournament.

Chesley played big minutes, including 25:16 in the gold-medal game and 25:13 in the semifinal. The coaching staff leaned on him for the toughest defensive matchups and he also had to be the stay-at-home guy with Lane Hutson on his pairing. Chesley played his role perfectly, engaged physically, dug pucks out of trouble and made the odd play when needed.

Drew Fortescue, LHD, Boston College (NYR)

Stats: 7 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 PTS, 6 PIM, +6, 7 SOG, 16:54 TOI/GP

You have to remember that Fortescue is 18 and thus one of USA’s younger defensemen. The spot they put him in was a big one as a top-four shut-down defenseman playing alongside the offensive-minded Seamus Casey. It was a lot of responsibility, but Fortescue delivered.

He assisted USA’s go-ahead goal in the second period that sprung Isaac Howard on a breakaway, which was a big moment in that game. I thought his puck play in the tournament was a little shaky at times otherwise, with a few miscues that led to some problems in the defensive zone. Largely, however, Fortescue played a responsible game and didn’t try to do too much.

He’s a highly-mobile player with some good size and he reads plays reasonably well. I think he’s going to play a lot of minutes in the next World Juniors and be a critical piece if USA wants to repeat.

Eric Pohlkamp, RHD, Bemidiji State (SJS)

Stats: 7 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 PTS, 4 PIM, +3, 9 SOG, 6:49 TOI/GP

Despite limited ice time, Pohlkamp got some points including a goal against Switzerland and an assist in the tough game against the Czech Republic. When Seamus casey was out, it afforded Pohlkamp more ice time and he played adequately with that opportunity.

That said, his role diminished as the tournament went on and he did not play a shift in the semifinal. He got two in the gold-medal game towards the end. Despite the limited ice, he still had nine shots on goal with that absolute bomb he has.

If there was one noticeable downside for Pohlkamp, I thought the pace of the games gave him a bit of trouble. He didn’t necessarily have the same kind of footspeed or mobility that the rest of USA’s D corps did. Still, this was going to be a great experience for him to find where he can work on things. Being part of this team from a smaller hockey school is a big, big credit to him.

Sam Rinzel, RHD, Minnesota (CHI)

Stats: 7 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS, 2 PIM, +3, 8 SOG, 14:50 TOI/GP

Rinzel had some very good moments and some very bad ones where he made some poor puck decisions. It’s another step in what is going to be a longer development process for him. Patience is going to be the key for the Blackhawks, which I’ve said a lot and they’ve said it too. Because there are some really intriguing physical tools.

What impressed me about Rinzel is that he grew into the tournament. He got a regular shift in every single game as a bottom-pairing guy. He wasn’t on the power play and rarely on the PKbut at 5-on-5, he handled his business. He was able to make stops defensively and he could get pucks up ice.

Rinzel is a very good skater, especially for his size, but I wondered if he could keep up with the pace of play heading into the tournament. He proved he could, which is why he played a regular shift and was even out there in late-game situations where USA was protecting a lead. He’s taken some massive steps as a young defenseman over the last two years.


Trey Augustine, Michigan State (DET)

Stats: 4 GP, 4-0, .936 SV%, 1.75 GAA, 103 SVS, 7 GA

A calm, steady presence in the net, Augustine was able to shake off the demons of a tough semifinal as an underager last year and prove the staff right in selecting him for their most important games. 

Augustine has become known as a big-game goalie and he proved it again. David Carle gave him a ton of credit for giving up two early goals to Finland before slamming the door and giving his team a chance to win. Then he made a ton of big saves in the gold-medal game.

There’s a steadiness and calmness to Augustine. Even when you speak to him, he’s just kind of chill. That’s a great quality in a goalie. He was steady, reliable, technically sound, aggressive when he had to be and he just gave a consistent, predictable effort each night.

With two IIHF gold medals in the last few months, who knows what the next steps are going to be for a young goaltender who can still come back for next year’s WJC.

Jacob Fowler, Boston College (MTL)

Stats: 3 GP, 3-0, .889 SV%, 2.59 GAA, 64 SVS, 8 GA

Fowler only got three starts, but he got a signature moment in this WJC. He stopped six of seven shooters in a shootout win over Czechia, which allowed USA to stay on track to win their group. It proved that seeding really mattered and USA got an easier path to the gold medal thanks to taking two of a possible three points from that game instead of one.

Aside from that game, Fowler was playing in some tough games to get into a rhythm. He started the 11-3 win over Switzerland and the 7-2 win over Latvia. His numbers don’t look great, but I didn’t think Fowler played poorly. There might have been one or two goals that he probably regrets, but beyond that, he contributed to a gold medal.

So now Fowler has won the World Junior A Challenge, USHL Clark Cup and a World Junior gold medal. Even if he wasn’t the starter for this team, the guy just wins. Let’s see if that trend continues at BC this year. Beanpot is on the horizon.

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