The US National Team won a nail-biter of a World Junior Championship tourney eleven months ago in shootout-style against Team Canada and look the favorite again, this time on Buffalo’s home ice starting December 26th.
It would be a first for the US to take the under-20 tournament playing in the States, and with ten NHL first-round picks among their forwards alone, it’s tough to bet against them.
Just looking at left wing, joining Casey Mittelstadt, Kieffer Bellows, Riley Tufte and Max Jones, consensus 2018 top-five first-round pick Brady Tkachuk will make his initial U20 appearance seeking to solidify his prospect standing.
After a stellar US Developmental Program career with 34 goals and 45 assists in 116 contests, along with a Tkachuk-like 185 penalty minutes, the tough 6-3, 196-pound power forward has continued strong during his freshman campaign at Boston University.
Playing with fellow WJC teammate and Nashville prospect Patrick Harper, who leads the Terriers with 21 points (8 G, 13 A) in 19 games, Jordan Greenway, Shane Bowers and Dante Fabbro, Tkachuk’s four goals and 10 assists along with a club-best plus-10 show he’s finding his way.
On the big WJC stage look for the scrappy and effective Tkachuk to make an even bigger impression.
He served as captain of their gold-winning U18 club last year, registering a goal, six assists and 12 penalty minutes in seven contests.
On the under-18 squad, Tkachuk also worked with this year’s U20 teammates and recent first-round picks Ryan Poehling and John Norris.
While his first campaign served to get his feet wet at the NCAA level, Canadiens’ prospect Poehling has been tearing up the college game in his sophomore year with five goals and 11 assists in 14 contests at pivot with top-ranked St. Cloud State.
Norris, also a center and Sharks’ prospect, has yet to fully hit his scoring stride (41 G, 47 A in 105 US Developmental Program games) with four goals and five assists thus far in his first NCAA season at the University of Michigan.
Ottawa’s 11th overall pick in the 2016 draft, huge (6-6, 220-pounds) Logan Brown, who spent the first few games of 2017-18 with the Senators is now torching the OHL with 24 points in 15 Windsor Spitfire contests, also joins their center corps.
Boston’s 28th overall 2016 selection and Wisconsin Badger sniper Trent Frederic rounds out this year’s U20 WJC roster at the position.
Mix in WHL scoring sensation and early season Connor McDavid linemate Kailer Yamamoto, as well as U20 team captain Joey Anderson at right wing who’s maintained nearly a point-per-game clip in 52 NCAA games with the University of Minnesota-Duluth (16 G, 30 A), and US expectations are understandably high.
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