After winning three straight U18 World Championships, Team USA hopes to triumph again this year in the Czech Republic. Among the top players who will lead the team through this tournament is defenceman Jacob Trouba.
Trouba is not only the top-ranked U.S. player by the scouts, but he’s also the only one who has already played at the next level with the U20 national team at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship in Alberta.
Even though the seventh-place finish was a big setback for the Americans, the 18-year-old appreciates his experience in Calgary and Edmonton.
“The World Junior Championship didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, but it was a good experience for me and we had a good time as a team,” Trouba said. “We struggled, but then we came back and won the two relegation games. That’s all we could do at that point. I’m proud how we handled it.”
Born in Rochester, Trouba grew up playing for Compuware in the state of Michigan for six years before joining USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, where the top U18 and U17 prospects of the country are centralized in Ann Arbor, Michigan, to play against junior and colleague teams.
The NTDP, as it is usually abbreviated, is seen as the key for the success of the U18 national team and also for the progress that has been made in the U20 category, with World Junior gold in 2010 and bronze last year on home ice in Buffalo.
“It’s a great program. It’s tough sometimes, but that’s why you go there. If you want to go far in hockey, it’s a good place to go,” Trouba said. “We got a lot of different backgrounds in our team and we have a really good time there.”
“Playing USHL teams last year was a challenge for us as 17-year-olds, and this year we also played against college teams. Every team is a challenge for us, so you have to be ready every game and it’s definitely hard games to play, but that’s good for us.”
Trouba is one of three returnees from last year’s gold-winning team, defenceman Seth Jones and forward Nick Kerdiles being the others.
“Having played in the World Juniors and at the U18 World Championship last year will definitely help me for this year,” Trouba said.
“I hope it will be a good time over here. It’s a big tournament for our junior program, it’s our main goal of the year. We won three straight now, so we have to keep going.”
The United States play in Group A and will start tonight at 20:00 (2pm ET) in Brno against Finland. The other opponents in the Preliminary Round are the Czech Republic, Denmark and Canada.