Entering the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships, the United States were one of the favourites to win the gold medal. And why not. Just look at Team USA’s roster. With players like Oliver Wahlstrom, Cole Caufield, Alex Turcotte, and Bobby Brink. Not to mention the returning players that included K’Andre Miller, Spencer Knight, and Mattias Samuelsson.
Unfortunately, the United States tournament came to an end earlier than they would have liked. The United States lost to Finland 1-0 in Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup. It left a bitter taste in their mouths, but more importantly, it reestablished the fact, that when it came down to crunch time, Team USA’s top players did not step when the team needed them the most.
Top Names Dissapoint the US at the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships
Top Players Came Up Short
Despite the United States averaging 4.25 goals in four games in the preliminary round. The team could not score on any of the 30 shots they had on goal. If you look at the stat sheet, Wahlstrom, Caufield and Turcotte combined for nine points in five games. That is not good enough if the United States wanted to win a gold medal. The trio combined for just two goals in five games. That does not cut in a tournament like this. Considering Wahlstrom was bringing NHL experience to this tournament, it was surprising he only had one goal and four assists during the tournament. You would have thought, he would have been more productive.
Those expecting Caufield to light up the tournament should have tempered their expectations. Even though he broke all kinds of records playing for the U.S. National Development Team, the World Juniors is a whole different animal. There is a reason this tournament is normally dominated by 19-year olds. Caufield, only 18-years-old, will get another crack at this tournament next year.
His Wisconsin Badgers teammate Turcotte also had a poor tournament. For most of the tournament, Turcotte and Caufield played together on the same line. Head coach Scott Sandelin felt keeping these two players together would be ideal for the United States. While this duo’s creativity was on display against the Czech Republic, they could not generate much offensively. Having experienced this tournament this year, these two players will know what to expect next year.
Realize Who You Are
Instead of relying on and expecting the stars to score goals on every shift, Team USA needs to realize they need to grind out goals on every shift. Just look at the players who led the way for Team USA on the scoresheet. Trevor Zegras led the team in assists, while Shane Pinto and Arthur Kaliyev were tied for the team lead in goals with four. All the goals from Pinto and Kaliyev came from the dirty areas right in front of the net.
While having a physical presence is ideal, you can’t be undisciplined. From the beginning of the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships, Team USA took way too many penalties. They could not find their rhythm at all, especially five-on-five. And when most of the game is being played short-handed, a lot of the more highly skilled players are on the bench instead of on the ice. This leads to those players getting out of rhythm.
While it is nice having highly skilled players on a young team, not every team is going to be like Russia, Sweden, or Canada. Those countries could put together two World Junior teams. The depth those countries have is amazing. Even though Team USA has that depth, most of it is playing in the NHL now. Team USA needs to get back to grinding out games. That is how they won gold in the past.
The future is bright for the United States going forward at the World Junior Hockey Championships. They are one of five teams that could win a gold medal each and every year. But they will need to realize that going forward things will not be easy. That was one of their downfalls in this tournament. Team USA relied too much on its past success as they entered the preliminary round. In the end, that confidence ultimately costs Team USA.