Men's World U18 Championship Preview; NCAA coaching news; NHL Draft lottery and more
Plus: Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, Rescheduled WJC dates revealed
MUNICH — The 2022 IIHF World Men’s Under-18 Championship is going to have a different feel. Russia and Belarus are out of the competition, barred by the IIHF which continues to sanction those two countries’ hockey federations in response to Russian aggression in Ukraine. Now an eight-team tournament, this feels like a four-team race to gold.
Canada, USA, Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Switzerland, Germany and Czechia are all in the field, but it’s those first four that look to have the leg up as they so often do. Canada will have a young, but exciting team that certainly lacks the depth they had last season as they won gold. The U.S. probably has the best team on paper 1-25, but Sweden offers a ton of intrigue and talent as well, with some experienced returnees.
For the next two weeks, I’m based in Munich, Germany and will be covering the entire tournament for Daily Faceoff and you the Hockey Sense subscribers. I will not be at every USA or Canada game due to needing to see more of the European teams for NHL Draft coverage, but I’ll be sure I share what I see while in Kaufbeueren and Landshut.
I have a full preview of players to watch over at DailyFaceoff.com, but here are some other things that I’ll be paying attention to while in Germany…
USA’s gold medal drought
The U.S. has not won the gold medal at the World U18 Championship since 2017. Even if you throw out the 2020 tournament, which was cancelled amid the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, this is the longest Team USA has gone without winning the tournament since it began in 1999. They have won 10 golds total, but have fallen short in each of the last three tries and did not medal at all in 2021, getting bounced in the quarterfinals. That was the first time the U.S. didn’t win a medal of any color since 2003.
It’s a different batch of players every year, but the pressure is on to break the golden drought. USA had won seven of the previous 10 gold medals before failing to win any of the last three. The NTDP is believed to have an advantage by being together year-round, but this tournament — just as any with a single-elimination playoff format — proves that anything can happen on any given day. The 2001 birth year had to settle for bronze after previously dominating international events. They ran into a hot goalie and that was all she wrote for one of the greatest collections of talent the NTDP has ever enjoyed. But still, this is the tournament they train for and the pinnacle of their two years at the program. They should win it more than they lose it.
This year’s U.S. team looks like the favorite. They’re the deepest team on paper, with strength in all positions including a top nine forward group that should be expected to score an awful lot. Logan Cooley, Frank Nazar, Cutter Gauthier, Rutger McGroarty, Isaac Howard and Jimmy Snuggerud all appear poised to go in the first round of the 2022 draft, while Charlie Stramel looks like a good bet to go in the first round in 2023 and outside addition Gavin Brindley produced well when he joined the team for a mid-season international tournament.
Their defensive group is not as talented as some previous years, but they are absolutely capable of carrying this team to gold. Lane Hutson has averaged better than a point per game from the back end, while Ryan Chesley has been a solid two-way force, as has Seamus Casey, while Charlie Leddy is a good shutdown blueliner, just to mention a few.
In net, the U.S. will likely lean on Tyler Muszelik, who has had a strong second half as he’s gotten the bulk of the starts. The team will not be bringing Dylan Silverstein, who was on the World Junior Roster and then missed a lot of the second half for various reasons. Underagers Trey Augustine and Michael Chambre will be available if needed.
This team has the talent to get the job done, but this is going to be a tough tournament no matter how you slice it. One bad game, one bad bounce really can be the difference in events like this with a razor-thin margin for error.
Here is the schedule to follow Team USA as they will be on NHL Network for most of the tournament.