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Youth Movement: Five Underagers Helping Team USA at U18 Worlds

04/13/2018, 12:30pm EDT
By John Tranchina

Under-17s will be expected to play a role as Team USA defends gold medal

They will play important roles for Team USA at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) Under-18 Men’s World Championship tournament, but the five players added from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program’s Under-17 Team won’t be expected to carry the team on their shoulders.

Over the past eight weeks forwards Cole Caufield (Stevens Point, Wis.), Jack Hughes (Orlando, Fla.) and Alex Turcotte (Island Lake, Ill.), defenseman Cam York (Anaheim Hills, Calif.) and goaltender Spencer Knight (Darien, Conn.), each 2001 birthyears, have assimilated into the NTDP’s Under-18 Team, which comprises of all the other players participating in this tournament.

“The guys have made real good adjustments,” said head coach Seth Appert (Cottage Grove, Minn.). “Jack Hughes has been up since January 1 basically, so he’s had plenty of time, but then the other four came up mid-February, so we’ve had some time to acclimate and we’ve had some time for the guys to get comfortable with the style of play and their roles and things of that nature.”


Jack Hughes and Cole Caufield are ready to make an impact at this month's U18 Men's Worlds

All five earned the call up after enjoying outstanding seasons helping the USA Hockey National Team Development Program’s Team USA squad claim the United States Hockey League’s Eastern Conference regular season championship, their best-ever showing in the Tier I junior hockey league.

“It’s a very dynamic group, the 2001 birth year, with a lot of really good players,” said Team USA General Manager Scott Monaghan. “Some of these guys, these five who jumped up, really established themselves as able to play at the next level during the season. They add pieces that this team needs, in the right areas, both in the net, on defense, up front — all the guys fit a role that Seth, I think, felt he needed to augment. They’ve already got three international experiences under their belt, so they’ve got a handle on it. It is an elevation of a year, and that’s a lot when you’re 16, 17 years old, but I think everybody here is really confident that they’ll do just fine.”

For Turcotte, who scored eight goals and 32 points in 31 USHL games for the U17 team, getting bumped up a level was an unexpected bonus.

“It’s obviously an honor to be recognized and be moved up as one of the five players,” said Turcotte, who is from Island Lake, Illinois. “And we all feel that way. I don’t think, coming into the year, no one really thought that would happen, and I think it’s pretty cool to be where we’re at. It’s very humbling.”

In addition to Hughes, who leads the USHL squad with an impressive 21 goals and 54 points in just 27 games and is considered an early front-runner to be chosen first overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, the other underage players all add something special to the U.S. lineup.

“I think they bring different things to the table,” Appert said. “Jack Hughes has established himself as arguably the best 2001 in the world, so that speaks for itself. Alex Turcotte plays the style of hockey we want to play as a country. He’s fast, he’s competitive, he’s attacking in nature, he plays a real downhill game, which fits our style of play very well. Cole Caufield’s an incredible goal scorer, he’s near 50 goals on the season, he’s having one of the best goal-scoring seasons in NTDP history. And then you have Cam York, who brings a real calm, puck-moving, cerebral presence to our defensive corps. We have a great D corps that’s big, physical and mobile, he’s a different element on our D corps, which is a good fit.”

In goal, Knight might be considered the backup to Drew DeRidder, but in a short tournament where Team USA has four preliminary round games in a span of six games and seven over a stretch of 11 days if they play for gold, he will likely be needed at some point.

“Spencer Knight and Drew DeRidder have been a real good co-number one punch for us since Spencer came up,” Appert said. “DeRidder’s been our guy all year and he’s been fantastic, and Spencer Knight has stepped up in with us, and has been real strong along with Drew, so we feel great about our goaltending.”

But Appert, who served as an assistant to John Wroblewski at last year’s U18 tournament that resulted in U.S. gold, made sure to point out that as talented as they are, the new guys will not be relied upon to be Team USA’s go-to players, but that they will be utilized more in supporting roles.

“It’s driven by the 2000s, not the 2001s,” Appert said of the team. “I learned that last year. First of all, you need all your guys. This tournament isn’t won with one line or one player, this tournament is won with depth and everybody needs to contribute, different players need to come up big at different times.”

One advantage the U17 call-ups have on their older teammates is that they have already played, and succeeded at, an international tournament this season in Russia. The U17s participated in the Four Nations Cup in Novgorod Oblast from Dec. 14-16 and emerged with the gold medal after Turcotte scored the game-winning goal in a shootout to cap off a 2-1 victory over the Russians in the final (Caufield scored the game’s only goal during regulation).

“I think being in Russia earlier this year is going to help us a lot, just having been there and knowing how it is there,” Turcotte said. “Nothing’s going to be new to us, the guys that were on the U17, and since we’ve experienced it, it won’t be such a shock to us. … Personally, I’m not really worried about it like I was the first time I went over there because I know what to expect. I think it’s going to help us a lot.”

One thing that won’t be different is the high expectations. This is an event the U.S. has dominated recently and the younger players understand that they are expected to bring home gold.

“I feel like playing for the United States, there’s always pressure. We’re expected to win every year,” Turcotte said. “Anything less than winning is a failure. We have high expectations and I think we’re always expected to win, so there’s always a little bit of pressure, but I think it’s good pressure.”

The U.S. opens the tournament on Thurs., April 19 against Canada in Magnitogorsk at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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U.S. Schedule

Date Opponent Round Time (Local/ET)/Results Location Television
Sun., April 15 France Exhibition W, 15-0 Traktor Ice Rink
Chelyabinsk, Russia
NHL Network
Thurs., April 19 Canada Preliminary L, 4-6 Metallurg Ice Rink
Magnitogorsk, Russia
NHL Network
Fri., April 20 Switzerland Preliminary W, 8-5 Metallurg Ice Rink
Magnitogorsk, Russia
NHL Network
Sun., April 22 Sweden Preliminary L, 1-3 Metallurg Ice Rink
Magnitogorsk, Russia
NHL Network
Tues., April 24 Belarus Preliminary W, 8-0 Metallurg Ice Rink
Magnitogorsk, Russia
NHL Network
Thurs., April 26 Russia Quarterfinals W, 5-1 Traktor Ice Rink
Chelyabinsk, Russia
NHL Network
Sat., April 28 Czech Republic Semifinals TBD Traktor Ice Rink
Chelyabinsk, Russia
NHL Network
Sun., April 29 TBD Gold/Bronze-Medal Games TBD Traktor Ice Rink
Chelyabinsk, Russia
NHL Network

2018 U18 Men's Worlds News

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