2021 World Junior Hockey Championships: Skill, Depth, & Superstardom Aplenty on Team USAby Dom Lunardo January 11, 2021 0 comments
Anyone who watched the action unfold at the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championships inside the bubble in Edmonton, Alberta likely marveled at the team in red, blue, and white. Not only was this rendition of Team USA one of the deepest (and most talented) in recent memory. Many experts in and around the game pegged them to have one heck of a showing.-That’s precisely what happened en route to a Gold Medal.
What made this team so special, and why will the Americans be remembered for all the right reasons on junior hockey’s greatest stage? Let’s read on and find out.
High-End Skill, Speed, & Talent
As the title suggests, the Americans iced a roster that was just oozing with raw skill, speed, and electrifying talent. In fact, nine players in total were selected in the first round at the NHL Entry Draft over the past two years, with a few others set to make the jump by the 2021 Draft. In a tournament known for its flare, high-octane drama, and showcasing of top, young talent, the U.S. found their stride at just the right time. Much to the dismay of the rest of the participants in the tournament.
After falling to Team Russia in their opening game, the U.S. quickly evolved into a full-steam-ahead locomotive that just wasn’t going to be denied. From players such as Cole Caufield, Jake Sanderson, Ryan Johnson, Trevor Zegras, Cameron York, Bobby Brink, Arthur Kaliyev, and Spencer Knight between the pipes, the Americans were something to behold all tournament long. In fact, if you’re a big fan of the game, you may want to circle back on some of these players over the next few years-these kids are going to be something special at the NHL level.
From a sheer “eye-test” perspective, this entire roster was just wave after wave after wave of speed, talent, grit, and goal-scoring acumen that opposing teams simply could not handle. The Americans were confident, “in your face”, and focused on the task at hand each and every night even beating out the likes of the heavily-favored Canadians in their own backyard in the all-important Gold Medal Game.
Not only was this a testament to their head coach Nate Leaman, but it’s also a tribute to USA Hockey at all levels. As they’ve proven before and will continue to do so moving forward, USA Hockey and the trajectory of that organization is very promising. After outlasting the pesky Finns in the Semi-Finals, the Americans, once again, found themselves playing for Gold. Let’s further examine how the Americans accomplished such an incredible feat in their final game (for all the marbles) against Team Canada.
Gold Rush: USA vs. Canada
When the puck dropped on the tournament’s final game, the U.S. entered the heavily-anticipated encounter as heavy underdogs. However, right from the opening face-off, the Americans quickly asserted their “will” on the game and were well-prepared for the Canadians in all three zones. A hockey fans’ dream, every puck battle was contested and every blade of ice was accounted for. This game certainly wasn’t for the faint of heart.
Over the course of the 60-minute game, the U.S. proved its ability to lock it down defensively. They were quicker, more efficient, astute with the puck, and played one of the best “team games” in recent tournament history. After an early goal settled the nerves, the Americans capitalized on the lackluster Canadians and quickly formed a 2-0 lead after a crafty goal by the ever-talented Zegras-widely regarded as one of the best prospects on the planet. The rest, as they say, is history. When all was said and done the Americans won Gold, Zegras won Most Valuable Player (MVP), and the States sat atop of the junior hockey world for the fifth time in 2021 after previous triumphs in 2004, 2010, 2013, and 2017.
When you look at some of the finest young U.S. born players in the National Hockey League today which include the likes of Quinn Hughes, Auston Matthews, John Gibson, Matthew Tkachuk, Jack Eichel, John Carlson, Clayton Keller, and Dylan Larkin (among others), it comes as no surprise that the state of hockey in the United States is very prosperous. I would even go as far as claiming that we are now living in the golden age of hockey south of the Canadian border. If this tournament is any indication, hockey is certainly on the rise in the U.S. Adding to the proverbial fuel, your 2021 World Junior Hockey Champions-Team USA.