Scout’s Analysis: Player-by-player breakdown of USA’s WJC roster

USA's Logan Cooley (18) celebrates his goal against Czechia during first period IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship quarterfinal action in Edmonton on Wednesday. (Jason Franson/CP)

Team USA announced its roster for the 2023 WJC over the weekend and they have assembled a mix a of quick-strike forwards, undersized transitional defenders, and yet-to-be-drafted goaltenders. One thing is certain, they will be a highly competitive group under the leadership of head coach Rand Pecknold (Quinnipiac).

Here’s a look at Team USA for the upcoming World Junior Championship:


Logan Cooley
Team: University of Minnesota, NCAA
Drafted: Arizona Coyotes, third overall in 2022

Cooley is a dynamic forward who has the skill set to take over games offensively. He will, most likely, see the bulk of his ice time at even strength and the primary power play unit. The third overall selection of the Arizona Coyotes is having a fantastic freshman season at Minnesota (Big Ten). He currently sits fifth in the nation with 10 goals and 15 assist through 19 games.

Jackson Blake
Team: University of North Dakota, NCAA
Drafted: Carolina Hurricanes, 109th overall in 2021

Blake is another player Team USA will be looking to for offence. He’s having a nice freshman season at North Dakota, averaging over a point per game, with nine goals and 12 assists in 19 games. Blake will be deployed at even strength and the power play. He has excellent vision in the offensive zone, a quick release, and the hockey sense to find open space. It will be interesting to see who Blake skates with at even strength. His off-the-puck detail and defensive commitment is an area of weakness in his zone that can be exposed by opponents.

Tyler Boucher
Team: Ottawa 67’s, OHL
Drafted: Ottawa Senators, 10th overall in 2021

When Boucher is at his best he plays a heavy game along the boards and out front of his opponent’s net. He can transition pucks with pace. When he gets the edge, he is heading to the paint with the puck. Team USA has plenty of skill on its roster. He’s one of the forwards who will be relied upon to extend plays and provide physical push back for the group. Boucher could see time on one of the power play units – net front – creating screens and boxing out defenders.

Cutter Gauthier
Team: Boston College, NCAA
Drafted: Philadelphia Flyers, fifth overall in 2022

Gauthier will play an important role for Team USA. He brings a combination of size, pace, and skill. Gauthier has the ability to give opponents all they can handle around the crease, and pounce on rebounds. He has a quick stick/release. What makes him even more dangerous is the fact he can cycle high in the zone, or come off the half wall, and score goals from range. Gauthier leads Boston College in scoring with 10 goals and 6 assists so far this season, his freshman year.

Rutger McGroarty
Team: University of Michigan, NCAA
Drafted: Winnipeg Jets, 14th overall in 2022

McGroarty, like Gauthier, will take on the responsibility of playing a heavy game in the trenches for Team USA. He’s not a huge threat off the rush, but from the hash-marks down in the offensive zone McGroarty give opponents all they can handle. He has the sense and commitment to be used in a variety of roles, including the penalty kill. McGroarty is a team guy who produces his share of offence, but does a lot of the little things — like blocking shots — to help his team win games.

Jimmy Snuggerud
Team: University of Minnesota, NCAA
Drafted: St. Louis Blues, 23rd overall in 2022

Snuggerud is the leading scorer at the University of Minnesota, producing 12 goals and 15 assists in the first 20 games of his freshman season. He’s a competitive player who is responsible in all three zones and has the pedigree to be used in a variety of roles. Snuggerud can be a play driver in transition, or complement his linemates with his ability to find open space in the offensive zone. When he gets the puck on his stick he’s looking to score. I’m expecting Snuggerud to play a big role for Team USA.

Charlie Stramel
Team: University of Wisconsin, NCAA
2023 Draft Eligible

Stramel is a big body forward who will be tasked with creating chaos around the opponents’ crease and extending plays along the wall. I expect him to be used at even strength in a depth role. This tournament provides draft eligible players an opportunity to showcase their ability on the big stage and Stramel projects to be a power forward at the pro level. I’m going to be monitoring his detail, compete in the trenches, and his ability to keep up with the pace at this level.

Red Savage
Team: Miami University (Ohio), NCAA
Drafted: Detroit Red Wings, 114th overall in 2021

Look for Savage to be deployed at even strength and the penalty kill. He has the skill to provide some secondary scoring, too. He’s an infectious player. Savage plays the game quick and never quits on a play. He’s an energetic forward who can match up against top six opponents in a checking role.

Chaz Lucius
Team: Manitoba, AHL
Drafted: Winnipeg Jets, 18th overall in 2021

Lucius has been skating at the AHL level with the Manitoba Moose so it will be interesting to see his impact versus players his own age. Lucius has a sneaky quick release. He doesn’t require a lot of time or space to rip pucks on goal. He also has some grind to his game. He’s not shy about battling to extend plays or take pucks off opponents in his zone. Lucius can be a streaky scorer. If he gets in a groove at this tournament, he has the ability to have a massive impact in Team USA’s potential success.

Dylan Duke
Team: University of Michigan, NCAA
Drafted: Tampa Bay Lightning, 126th overall in 2021

Duke scores goals around the crease, and four of his 10 goals this season have come with the man advantage at Michigan. He isn’t shy about taking his lumps around the crease and extending plays down low in the offensive zone. He’s an energetic player who doesn’t, generally, penalty kill so I anticipate him being used primarily at even strength and potentially one of the power play units.

Noah Laba
Team: Colorado College, NCAA
Drafted: New York Rangers, 111th overall in 2022

Laba is an interesting selection for Team USA. He’s a right shot centreman who gives the team a size option in the middle of the ice. He can take key defensive zone draws, provide some secondary offence, and potentially chip in on the penalty kill. I see Laba as a role player on this team. He should match up well with bottom six opponents. Teams need to be aware of Laba in the offensive zone. He doesn’t score a ton, but he has some sneaky skill.

Sam Lipkin
Team: Quinnipiac University, NCAA
Drafted: Arizona Coyotes, 223rd overall in 2021

Lipkin comes into the tournament on an absolute heater. In the four games preceding Team USA training camp Lipkin scored three goals and seven assists. He is deployed, mostly, at even strength and the power play at Quinnipiac. It goes without saying that USA head coach Rand Pecknold knows him better than anyone else since he sees him every day at the college level. Lipkin skates fine on straight lines, but his crossovers/edges are average. If he can keep up with the pace of the tournament, he has the puck touch to provide an additional layer of scoring for Team USA.

Kenny Connors
Drafted: LA Kings, 103rd overall in 2022

I envision Connors contributing in a variety of roles for Team USA. He leads UMASS in scoring with seven goals and 10 assists in 17 games and the freshman forward is being deployed in all situations. His detail defensively is average plus, but he’s willing to battle and block shots if required. Offensively he has shown the ability to spin off checks along the wall and head to the net with the puck on his stick. On the power play he stations himself out front of the crease, creating screens and looking for rebounds and tips. There is always a player, or two, who surprises at the world juniors. Connors could play a valuable role for Team USA.

Gavin Brindley
Team: University of Michigan, NCAA
2023 Draft Eligible

Brindley will likely play a depth role for Team USA. The draft eligible forward plays both quick and fast. He has the ability to slip under checks to extend plays along the boards. He does penalty kill at Michigan so there is a chance he fills a role on one of the PK units at the WJC. For now, I’m forecasting his role as a pursuit/energy/wear-down-the-opponent slot for Brindley.


Sean Behrens
Team: Denver University, NCAA
Drafted: Colorado Avalanche, 61st overall in 2021

Behrens is a minute muncher at the college level and is used in all situations. I expect him to see the bulk of his minutes at even strength and the penalty kill at the WJC. The depth of the team might not allow him to be deployed on the power play, but he is certainly capable. Behrens is a competitive defender who never backs down. He’s a sound skater who can lead the rush or join as a secondary layer. He is a proverbial “swiss army knife” for team USA.

Seamus Casey
Team: University of Michigan
Drafted: New Jersey Devils, 46th overall in 2022

Casey is used in all situations at the college level, but I don’t forecast him in a penalty killing role for Team USA. He will be deployed at even strength and on one of the power play units. Casey has excellent vision and he makes plays in the offensive zone. His read/react game speaks to his high-end hockey IQ. He has the ability to escape pressure and lead the rush.

Ryan Chesley
Team: University of Minnesota
Drafted: Washington Capitals, 37th overall in 2022

Chesley will not be looked upon to create offence for Team USA. Having said that, he is very capable with the puck and outlets appropriately – or chips pucks to space when under pressure. Chesley has a physical element. He closes on opponents off the rush. The right shot defender will log his minutes at even strength and on the penalty kill.

Lane Hutson
Team: Boston University, NCAA
Drafted: Montreal Canadiens, 62nd overall in 2022

One of my favourite prospects from the 2022 draft class, Hutson is a dynamic player. He’s a transitional defenceman who has high end hockey IQ and is a playmaker who sees the ice. His stature stands out as a potential red flag, but don’t underestimate this kid. He’s very competitive and never goes away when trying to win pucks back for his team. Hutson will be used at even strength and the power play.

Luke Hughes
Team: University of Michigan
Drafted: New Jersey Devils, fourth overall in 2021

In his last 10-game segment at Michigan, Hughes logged an incredible average time on ice of 24:52 per game. He topped out at just shy of 28 minutes versus Harvard. Hughes skates in all situations. He is a threat off the rush. He quarterbacks the power play and spills over the boards on the penalty kill. Expect more of the same when he suits up for Team USA. Hughes has scored three goals and 15 assists in 20 games this season, and his plus-6 rating is impressive considering the amount of ice time he logs against top-end opponents on a nightly basis.

Jack Peart
Team: St. Cloud State, NCAA
Drafted: Minnesota Wild, 54 overall in 2021

Peart is another player who logs big minutes at the college level in all situations. His average time on ice has ranged from 19-25 minutes in his past 10 games. Although he does penalty kill, it’s not his primary strength. He’s an active defender who relies on interrupting the play before his opponent can get set. There are times he is a bit hectic and ends up on the wrong side of his man. Offensively he is a playmaker. He can lead the rush or join as an extra layer. Look for Peart to play a role on one of Team USA’s power play units as a distributor more than a shooter.

Luke Mittlestadt
Team: University of Minnesota, NCAA
2023 Draft Eligible

Mittlestadt is having a nice freshman season at Minnesota, scoring two goals and 11 assists in 20 games to date. He can be used on the power play as a distributor or shooter. Mittlestadt does not penalty kill at Minnesota so I don’t expect to see him in the role at this tournament. He’s a sound skater. His defending is reliable at even strength. It’s likely Mittlestadt is a depth player for Team USA at this event.

Ryan Ufko
Drafted: Nashville Predators, 115 overall in 2021

Ufko is a reliable defender who skates very well and can be used in all situations. He has a patience about his game that speaks to his read/react/ hockey IQ. Look for him to be used in all situations at the tournament. He’s a very good passer, but he’s also willing to direct pucks on net from range. His skating allows him to get to space quickly and eliminate zone entries from opponents. Ufko logs around 24 minutes per night at the college level so he has the fitness to be used as much as coach Pecknold requires.


Trey Augustine
Team: USNTDP U18
2023 Draft Eligible

It’s not often I see a first-year draft eligible goalie at this event, but Augustine’s game has been trending up for several weeks. He tracks well, squares up to the shooter, and has quick low net coverage/pads. One of the pluses with his game is his puck play. Augustine jumps out of his crease to outlet pucks up ice on his own, launching the attack in the process. I’m not sure Team USA has settled on their starting goalie yet, but if called upon, Augustine will be tested at this U20 event.

Kaidan Mbereko
Team: Colorado College, NCAA
2023 Draft Eligible

Mbereko is the 19-year-old starting goalie at CC. He’s not tall, but he’s stocky in his net. He’s a butterfly/athletic goalie who has good feet and lateral quickness. There are times he has difficulty finding pucks through traffic, but when Mbereko is dialled in he has the ability to make second and third stops with his quickness. Rebound control and proper crease composure are keys to his success.

Andrew Oke
Team: Saginaw Spirit, OHL
2023 Draft Eligible

Oke is the biggest team USA goalie. He plays a butterfly style. In order to have success at this level Oke has to maintain sound crease composure and control his rebounds. It sounds simple enough, but it is where he has got himself into trouble at the OHL level. If he gets the net at this event it will be interesting to monitor how far his lateral quickness and big stop ability have come.


• Team USA has selected a group of players that leans offence, overall, as a team.

• They have one of the smallest defensive cores in the entire tournament. Six defencemen are under 6-feet tall, the tallest being Luke Hughes at 6-foot-2.

• Their forward group brings a nice mix of size and skill. Five are under 6-feet tall, four are between 6-feet and 6-foot-1; five are 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-3.

• The team, on balance, is one of the smallest in the tournament with a total of 12 players under six feet tall. All three goalies are draft eligible.

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