The Americans have great experience in Cory Schneider. The 33-year-old has played at the U18 (2004), the U20 (2005, 2006), and the World Cup (2016), and has been an NHLer since 2008. He’ll be helped by Thatcher Demko, a decade his junior, who played nine games with the Vancouver Canucks this past year and who also played at both the U18 and U20 for the U.S. (in 2013 and 2015, respectively). The third goalie is 19-year-old junior Cayden Primeau, who was drafted 199th overall by Montreal in 2017.
A blend of experience and youth, proven skill and great promise, the American blue line looks to be one of the best. Let’s start with Ryan Suter, who played his 1,000th NHL game this past season and at 34 is still going strong. He has played at every level for USA Hockey, winning gold at the 2002 U18 and 2004 U20. This will be his fifth WM and first since 2009. Alec Martinez of the L.A. Kings is another experienced defenceman who played in his first WM last year. They will be joined by a plethora of top young players, including Quinn Hughes, who was drafted 7th overall by Vancouver last year and played five game with the Canucks this past season. The 22-year-old Noah Hanifin is one of the Calgary Flames’ best young blueliners, and Brady Skjei is playing his third Worlds in the last four years. Adam Fox, who was traded for Hanifin a year ago, just finished his third year at Harvard University and is now with the New York Rangers, rounds out the defenders.
Patrick Kane played at the World Championship last year for the first time since 2008. He led the tournament in scoring, was named tournament MVP, and helped the Americans win a bronze medal. He is back, wearing the “C,” and he has a very strong supporting cast. Let’s start with Jack Eichel. The second overall draft choice of Buffalo in 2015 is one of the game’s top young guns and has an “odd” appreciation for the Worlds. That is, he played in 2015 and 2017, and now 2019. He has speed and skill that make him an elite player. James van Riemsdyk is another veteran player who has plenty of offensive skill and has been part of the USA Hockey program since 2006. Johnny Gaudreau is listed generously at 5’9” but put simply he is one of the best players in the world. His scoring touch, speed, and puck skill make his lack of size totally irrelevant, as fans of the Calgary Flames well know. Dylan Larkin is only 22, but his name seems to have been in hockey for years already. This is his fifth World Championship. But no matter how much these experienced NHL stars will be a part of the team’s success, all eyes will surely be on 17-year-old Jack Hughes, who is expected to be the first overall selection at the upcoming NHL draft in June. One might think it would be risky for coach Blashill and his staff to put the youngster in the lineup, but he has shown poise and maturity—and skill—beyond his years. In 2018-19, Hughes, the younger brother of teammate Quinn, has won a bronze medal at the U18 and a silver at the U20. He will be only the fourth player in IIHF history to play U18, U20, and WM in the same season (after Andrei Kostitsyn and Vadim Karaga of Belarus and Kevin Fiala of Switzerland).
Coming off a bronze medal in 2018, Jeff Blashill is back for a third straight year. He has been the coach of the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings for the last four years and before that he was in the AHL for several years, winning the Calder Cup with Grand Rapids in 2013. He knows the USA Hockey system, and the players know him, so this is a good and proven combination.
The Americans beat Canada to win bronze last year after a one-sided 6-0 loss to Sweden in the semi-finals, but this year’s team is even better. Rare are the times when the U.S. has a team that “should” win a medal at the World Championship, but that is certainly the case this year. The young stars, many of whom have gone through the USNTDP, realize the value of international play and have shown up in force this year, so it’s podium or bust for Kane and his crew.