By Organizing Committee – IIHF.com
Ambassador’s take: Petr Mrazek
The ambassador of Team USA is goaltender Petr Mrazek, who currently plays in the NHL for the Carolina Hurricanes. Before becoming a pro, he attracted attention at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship. “I remember it well. It was a great group of guys and we came together as a team really well. We enjoyed the tournament and I think it is a gateway to professional hockey for a lot of guys,” says Mrazek.
The World Juniors are a major international event also because all countries will send the best to the fight and viewers will be able to watch top players, including those from the United States. “There will be many future stars in the NHL and European leagues – many good teams. Canada and the USA will send the best teams they have, as well as Finland and Sweden – the hockey will be excellent. In Canada and the USA, this is bigger than the men’s World Championships. Scouts from every NHL team will sit there, so you are under close scrutiny,” Mrazek shares his own experiences.
Historic World Junior Championship results
Alongside Canada, Sweden, Finland, Russia and the Czech Republic, the USA is one of only six teams that have never been relegated since the World Juniors began in 1977. Despite this long history, however, the Americans had to wait nearly 30 years for their first gold medal – that came in 2004 in Helsinki when they beat Canada 4-3 in the final. Key players in that victory were goalie Al Montoya, who was chosen Best Goalkeeper of the tournament, and forward Zach Parise, whose 11 points placed him third in scoring.
Since then, the American youngsters have been dominant, winning the World Juniors three more times in 2010, 2013 and 2017. In addition to those four gold medals, they have also won two silvers and six bronzes – the first of which came in 1986.
The United States has been a dominant team at youth levels recently. In the last four World Junior Championships, it has taken home a medal from each one – last year it was silver. The Americans finished second in Group B and then beat the Czech Republic 3-1 in the quarter-finals.
After that, they won by a one-goal margin against Russia and advanced to the final, where they fell just short against Finland. Throughout the tournament, scouts, media and fans closely monitored the then 17-year-old Jack Hughes, who played in three different World Championships in 2019 and in June was selected first overall in the NHL Entry Draft by the New Jersey Devils.
Although Hughes is still eligible to play at this tournament, he is not expected to appear considering his role in New Jersey. The Americans could put their hopes in the arms of players like Oliver Wahlstrom, a 2018 first-rounder praised for more than just their hockey sense.
Same as goaltender Spencer Knight, defencemen K’Andre Miller and Mattias Samuelsson, and forward Jack Drury he’s a returnee from last year’s team. Although Knight was the backup goalie last year in Vancouver, in June he was selected in the first round of the Draft by the Florida Panthers and, as a 2001-born player, will have a chance to present his skills in the crease – in particular his calmness and mobility.
And those aren’t the only high draft picks on a U.S. team that will certainly be worth watching.
In April 2019, USA Hockey named Scott Sandelin as head coach of the national junior team, who was an assistant coach of last year’s silver-medal team. As a player, Sandelin played in the NHL for the Montreal Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers and Minnesota North Stars, as well as in the AHL and NCAA. At the 1984 World Juniors, he was the captain of the American squad and two years later also participated at the senior World Championship. He has spent most of his coaching career in the NCAA – since 2000/01 he has been head coach at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Preparations for the tournament
After the World Junior Summer Showcase, the Americans attended a training camp in December where the roster was finalized. Just before the tournament, the United States played exhibition games in the Czech Republic against Sweden and Germany.
Team schedule at 2020 WJC (local time / ET)
26 December 2019: Canada – USA (19:00 / 1 PM)
27 December 2019: Germany – USA (19:00 / 1 PM)
29 December 2019: USA – Russia (19:00 / 1 PM)
30 December 2019: USA – Czech Republic (19:00 / 1 PM)