James Hagens in his own words
by Lucas AYKROYD|03 MAY 2024
U.S. superstar James Hagens (centre) is excited to meet Slovakia again in the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Wlorld Championship semi-finals.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andre Ringuette
“Generational talent” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in hockey circles. However, James Hagens is doing everything he can to merit that description.

Consider that it has taken the 17-year-old U.S. centre just five games to accumulate a tournament-high nine goals and 10 assists here in Finland.

It took Jack Hughes – the all-time U.S. National Team Development Program scoring leader (228 points) – seven games to total a U.S.-record nine goals and 11 assists with the 2019 bronze-medal winning team in Sweden. Ditto for Will Smith with the 2023 gold medal-winning team in Switzerland.

This year, Hagens could easily surpass their numbers as well as Nikita Kucherov’s single-tournament U18 Worlds points record (21, 2011).

From his dazzling skating to his shifty puckhandling to his elite goal-scoring to his competitive nature, the Long Island native has few holes in his game. Standing 177 cm and 76 kg, he’s only going to get stronger.

Teammates like assistant captain Max Plante sing his praises: “The goal he scored the other day [against Latvia], from the goal line, like, I don't know if I've ever seen a shot that good! And it's just been consistently like that throughout the whole tournament. He's just been our best player.”

Bottom line: whichever NHL club gets to draft Hagens #1 overall in 2025 should consider itself incredibly fortunate.

As coach Nick Fohr’s undefeated Americans gear up to battle Slovakia in the semi-finals, here are some of the interesting comments Hagens has made post-game to reporters.

On the NHL stars that inspire his style

You have Jack Hughes. I grew up watching Patrick Kane and John Tavares. [Tavares] was part of my hometown team, the Islanders, and then he he went over to the Maple Leafs, which kind of hurt a little bit! But I still love him to death. And Mat Barzal, too.

On his love of analyzing the game

It’s funny. When I’m back home, me and my brother, who’s a defenceman, will be sitting on the couch [watching hockey]. And my dad will be calling out if that's a good angle, if that’s a good reset. Whatever it is, he’ll be sure to let us know. That’s just something that you just pick up on, being around the game for so long. You point out those things when someone turns the puck over, what he could have done better. You sit there and learn and watch what the best do and try to take that and add as much as you can into your game.

On the key to the top-ranked U.S. power play at this tournament

It’s our coaches making sure that we're all playing together. You can't have a power play where you're going to have one guy do it all. We're all together and we're playing connected. It's just fun to be able to move the puck around and see the results that come from that.

On his chemistry with captain Brodie Ziemer

You have so much faith in that guy. Whenever he touches the puck, you know some magic is going to happen.

On what he likes about his other linemate, assistant captain Teddy Stiga

You see how much energy he brings. It’s special. And for him to be able to go out there and pot those goals, it’s a game-changer. He has a letter on his jersey for a reason. He’s a big leader on our team.

On his confidence in starting goalie Nicholas Kempf

Every team needs a goalie and we're able to rely on him. He's really helping our team right now. Being able to have that guy in your net, knowing that when [the other team] is on a breakaway or 2-on-1 that he's going to pull out something and make that save, it's huge.

On the U.S. team’s mindset about the semi-finals

Everyone's mind should be on that game coming up and no one should be looking forward. It's a huge game and we're all really excited to get there.