Boston College goaltender Spencer Knight during an NCAA hockey game against the Wisconsin on Friday, Oct. 11, 2019 in Chestnut Hill, Mass. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
- USA (+450) among three favorites to win World Junior Championship, while Canada is favored to repeat, and Russia is listed at +385 odds
- The tournament, featuring the World’s best teen-age talent, will be held in Edmonton, Canada starting December 25th, 2020
- Here is a look at USA’s roster and odds, plus an analysis of its chances
History wasn’t on USA’s side when the IIHF World Junior Championships started in 1977. USA only won one medal in the first 10 years, two in the first 20, and four in the first 30 years of the World Juniors tournament.
But thanks to America’s dramatic hockey growth, particularly to non-traditional hockey areas such as California, USA has become a regular contender at the WJC.
The Americans are considered a serious threat to win their fifth medal in the past six years. They have captured seven medals in the past 11 years. Three of those have been gold medals. Led by Florida Panthers first-rounder Spencer Knight in net and Montreal Canadiens top prospect Cole Caufield up front, USA has the third-best odds to win it all this year in Edmonton, Alberta.
Team USA’s 2021 World Junior Roster
|Spencer Knight (Florida Panthers)||Goalie||2019, 13th (1st Round)|
|Logan Stein (Undrafted)||Goalie||2021 Draft Eligible|
|Dustin Wolf (Calgary Flames)||Goalie||2019, 214th (7th Round)|
|Brock Faber (Los Angeles Kings)||Defenseman||2020, 45th (2nd Round)|
|Drew Helleson (Colorado Avalanche)||Defenseman||2019, 47th (2nd Round)|
|Ryan Johnson (Buffalo Sabres)||Defenseman||2019, 31st (1st Round)|
|Tyler Kleven (Ottawa Senators)||Defenseman||2020, 44th (2nd Round)|
|Jackson LaCombe (Anaheim Ducks)||Defenseman||2019, 39th (2nd Round)|
|Jake Sanderson (Ottawa Senators)||Defenseman||2020, 5th (1st Round)|
|Hunter Skinner (New York Rangers)||Defenseman||2019,112th (4th Round)|
|Henry Thrun (Ottawa Senators)||Defenseman||2019, 101st (4th Round)|
|Cam York (Philadelphia Flyers)||Defenseman||2019, 14th (1st Round)|
|Matthew Beniers (Undrafted)||Forward||Eligible 2021|
|Brett Berard (New York Rangers)||Forward||2020, 134th (5th Round)|
|Matthew Boldy (Minnesota Wild)||Forward||2020, 5th (1st Round)|
|Bobby Brink (Philadelphia Flyers)||Forward||2019, 34th (2nd Round)|
|Brendan Brisson (Vegas Golden Knights)||Forward||2020, 29th (1st Round)|
|Cole Caufield (Montreal Canadiens)||Forward||2019, 15th (1st Round)|
|Sam Colengelo (Anaheim Ducks)||Forward||2020, 36th (2nd Round)|
|John Farinacci (Arizona Coyotes)||Forward||2019, 76th (3rd Round)|
|Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings)||Forward||2019, 33rd (2nd Round)|
|Patrick Moynihan (New Jersey Devils)||Forward||2019, 158th (6th Round)|
|Landon Slaggert(Chicago Blackhawks)||Forward||2020, 79th (3rd Round)|
|Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings)||Forward||2019, 5th (1st Round)|
|Trevor Zegras (Anaheim Ducks)||Forward||2019, 9th (1st Round)|
Americans Boast Strong Chance to Win the Gold
With a first-round NHL pick in net, three on defense and five more up front, USA has a roster that can compete against any team in the tournament.
With 25 goals and 48 points in his first 45 college games at Wisconsin, Caufield is expected to be a dynamic force in the tournament. Alex Turcotte and Zegras could easily be playing in the NHL when the season starts on Jan. 13. Boldy is off to a strong start at Boston College with eight points in his first four games.
Kaliyev wasn’t a first-rounder, falling to the Kings in the second round in 2019. However, he has played like a first-rounder in the Ontario Hockey League over the past two seasons. He has netted 95 goals in two seasons with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs. He can find the net.
Some WJC bets I like:
Caufield top goal scorer +1000
Kaliyev top goal scorer +1400
Dach most points +700
Zegras most points +3300
— Jared (@jar_bell17) December 21, 2020
Caufield might have the quickest shot release of any player in the tournament. He’s expected to be USA’s leading scorer in the tournament. Look for him to play with center Alex Turcotte who is a superb passer. The two have history together from their time together at U.S. National Team Development Program.
2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Odds
Odds as of Dec. 22
Russia favored Over USA to win B Pool
While Russia is a slight favorite, most pundits would call this a toss-up based on the rosters. The Americans used to have difficulty with the Russians at the WJC. However, they are 4-1 in their last five meetings against the Russians, including a 3-1 win last season. Kaliyev led that effort with a pair of goals, and Knight was tight in nets. The Americans were 6-for-6 on the penalty kill against Russia.
In the NHL community, the USA vs Russia game will be looked at as Knight vs Yaroslav Askarov who is Russia’s top goaltending prospect. He was Nashville’s first-round pick in the 2020 draft. Some scouts say Askarov will have an NHL impact like Andrei Vasilevskiy. But some scouts believe Knight could end up having the same level of NHL impact. In his pre-tournament interviews, Knight has indicated he is focused on giving USA a shot at winning this tournament.
One other factor to consider in assessing this pool is that Sweden has a skillful roster and is capable of upsetting both USA and Russia.
2021 NHL Divisional Odds Tracker
2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Group B Odds
USA a Good Value Bet to Win the Gold
Given the team’s talent and the potential payoff, USA (+500) might give you the best value for a gold medal bet. Canada is trying to win its third gold medal in four years. The Canadians always deserve to be the favorite. But this American team has the kind of skill that gives them a shot, particularly with Knight in goal.
Agree. Spencer Knight – Dustin Wolf is a great 1-2 punch in net for Team USA. https://t.co/tNqFUx3pw8
— NHLnewsCZ Roman Blaha (@NHLNEWSCZ_Blaha) December 16, 2020
Canada offers you some security with a bet, but the Americans offer the chance for a larger payoff. The Americans haven’t won since 2017 but were second in 2019.
The key for the Americans will be avoiding a preliminary round upset that could give them a tougher path through the medal round. Another key for USA is getting key contributions up and down the lineup. Look for Sanderson to turn heads on defense.
Kevin Allen has covered most major events, including the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals and Stanley Cup Final. He covered the NHL for USA Today from 1986-2020, receiving the Lester Patrick Award in 2013 and was honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014 with the Elmer Ferguson Award.