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Feature Friday: 32 USHL Ties on World Junior Rosters

12/18/2020, 11:30am CST
By Brent Meske

When the 2021 World Junior Championship kicks off on December 25, the 10 competing teams will have a combined 32 USHL players, past and present, on the rosters.

The United States roster carries the majority of USHL ties, with 23 players accounting for all but two of the roster spots on Team USA, but Russia (3) and Slovakia (2*) also have multiple players on the roster. The 32 USHL ties is rounded out by individuals on the rosters of Czech Republic*, Finland, Germany and Switzerland (NOTE: Slovakia and the Czech Republic have not yet finalized their rosters). 

While the majority of players with USHL ties come from players who have previously appeared in USHL games, a trio of skaters enter the tournament while playing in the league this season: John Farinacci (Muskegon Lumberjacks / United States), Ondrej Psenicka (Waterloo Black Hawks / Czech Republic), Henry Thrun (Dubuque Fighting Saints / United States). 

The tournament begins with a trio of games on Friday, December 25 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta where all games will be played. Group Play will consist of each team playing four games against its Group opponents from December 25-31. January 2 will feature the Quarterfinals with the Semifinals played on January 4 and both the Championship and Third Place games played a day later. 

Name Country Current Team USHL Connection NHL Draft Pick Notes
Yegor Afanasyev Russia CSKA Moskva Muskegon Lumberjacks (2017-19) Nashville Predators (2019, Round 2, #45)
Manuel Alberg Germany RB Hockey Juniors Des Moines Buccaneers (2018-20)
Matthew Beniers United States University of Michigan USA Hockey NTDP (2018-20) 2021 NHL Draft Eligible
Brett Berard United States Providence College USA Hockey NTDP (2018-20) New York Rangers (2020, Round 5, #134)
Matthew Boldy United States Boston College USA Hockey NTDP (2017-19) Minnesota Wild (2019, Round 1, #12)
Bobby Brink United States University of Denver Sioux City Musketeers (2017-19), USA Hockey NTDP (2017-18) Philadelphia Flyers (2019, Round 2, #34) Member of 2020 U.S. National Junior Team
Brendan Brisson United States University of Michigan Green Bay Gamblers (2018-19), Chicago Steel (2019-20) Vegas Golden Knights (2020, Round 1, #29)
Cole Caufield United States University of Wisconsin USA Hockey NTDP (2017-19) Montreal Canadiens (2019, Round 1, #15) Member of 2020 U.S. National Junior Team
Sam Colangelo United States Northeastern University Chicago Steel (2018-20) Anaheim Ducks (2020, Round 2, #36)
Brock Faber United States University of Minnesota USA Hockey NTDP (2018-20) Los Angeles Kings (2020, Round 2, #45)
John Farinacci United States Muskegon Lumberjacks Muskegon Lumberjacks (2017-19, 2020-21), USA Hockey NTDP (2017-19) Arizona Coyotes (2019, Round 3, #76) Currently on Muskegon Roster
Cedric Fiedler Switzerland Western Michigan University Fargo Force (2018-20)
Vladislav Firstov Russia University of Connecticut Waterloo Black Hawks Minnesota Wild (2019, Round 2, #42)
Drew Helleson United States Boston College USA Hockey NTDP (2017-19) Colorado Avalanche (2019, Round 2, #47)
Samuel Hlavaj Slovakia * Sherbrooke Phoenix Lincoln Stars (2018-19) Slovakia roster is not finalized
Ryan Johnson United States University of Minnesota Sioux Falls Stampede (2018-19) Buffalo Sabres (2019, Round 1, #31)
Tyler Kleven United States University of North Dakota USA Hockey NTDP (2018-20) Ottawa Senators (2020, Round 2, #44)
Spencer Knight United States Boston College USA Hockey NTDP (2018-20) Florida Panthers (2019, Round 1, #13) Member of 2020 U.S. National Junior Team | Member of 2019 U.S. National Junior Team (Silver Medal)
Yan Kuznetsov Russia University of Connecticut Sioux Falls Stampede (2018-19) Calgary Flames (2020, Round 2, #50)
Jackson LaCombe United States University of Minnesota Chicago Steel (2018-19) Anaheim Ducks (2019, Round 2, #39)
Simon Latkoczy Slovakia * HK Dukla Trencin Madison Capitols (2019-20) Slovakia roster is not finalized
Patrick Moynihan United States Providence College USA Hockey NTDP (2017-19) New Jersey Devils (2019, Round 6, #158)
Ondrej Psenicka Czech Republic * Waterloo Black Hawks Waterloo Black Hawks (2019-21) Committed to Cornell University | Currently on Waterloo's Import Protection List | Czech Republic roster is not finalized
Ruben Rafkin Finland TPS Tri-City Storm (2018-19)
Jake Sanderson United States University of North Dakota USA Hockey NTDP (2018-20) Ottawa Senators (2020, Round 1, #5)
Hunter Skinner United States London Knights Muskegon Lumberjacks (2017-19), Lincoln Stars (2018-19) New York Rangers (2019, Round 4, #112)
Landon Slaggert United States University of Notre Dame USA Hockey NTDP (2018-20) Chicago Blackhawks (2020, Round 3, #79)
Logan Stein United States Ferris State University Waterloo Black Hawks (2018-20)
Henry Thrun United States Dubuque Fighting Saints USA Hockey NTDP (2017-19), Dubuque Fighting Saints (2020-21) Anaheim Ducks (2019, Round 4, #101) Currently on Dubuque Roster
Alex Turcotte United States University of Wisconsin USA Hockey NTDP (2017-19) Los Angeles Kings (2019, Round 1, #5) Member of 2020 U.S. National Junior Team
Cameron York United States University of Michigan USA Hockey NTDP (2017-19) Philadelphia Flyers (2019, Round 1, #14) Member of 2020 U.S. National Junior Team
Trevor Zegras United States San Diego Gulls USA Hockey NTDP (2017-19) Anaheim Ducks (2019, Round 1, #9) Member of 2020 U.S. National Junior Team

2 - Russia

Last year's Silver Medal winner Team Russia will feature a trio of former USHL skaters. Defenseman Yan Kuznetsov is currently in his sophomore season at University of Connecticut after an 11-point (2-9-11) freshman campaign in 34 games. The former Sioux Falls Stampede blueliner, and Calgary Flames prospect (2020, Round 2, #50) spent a single season with the team but was part of the 2019 Clark Cup Champion squad. Fellow Huskies sophomore Vladislav Firstov, a Minnesota Wild prospect (2019, Round 2, #42), is coming off a rookie season that landed him on the Hockey East All-Rookie Team after putting up 23 points (11-12-23) in 34 games. The former Waterloo Black Hawks forward was also a member of the USHL All-Rookie Team for the 2018-19 season after collecting 58 points (26-32-58) in the 62-game regular season. Joining the UConn pair is Nashville Predators prospect (2019, Round 2, #45) Yegor Afanasyev who signed his entry level contract with the Predators in October of 2019. Afanasyev was drafted after a pair of seasons with the Muskegon Lumberjacks that saw the forward record a combined 76 points (33-43-76) and earn a spot on the All-USHL Third Team in his final season in Muskegon. 

4 - Finland

Former Tri-CIty Storm defenseman Ruben Rafkin joins Team Finland, who are trying to build upon a loss in last tournament's Bronze Medal game. Rafkin had 10 points (2-8-10) in 38 games with the Storm and currently has three points (1-2-3) in 10 games with TPS (Liiga) this season. Rafkin won a Silver Medal with the Under-17 Finland squad in the 2018-19 season. 

5 - Switzerland

Cédric Fiedler, a former Fargo Force defenseman, is the lone USHL skater on the roster for Switzerland. The Boca Raton, Fla. native served as an Alternate Captain for the Force in his second USHL season and had a combined 16 points (4-12-16) in 92 career league games and is now in his freshman season at Western Michigan University. 

6 - United States

Two of the United States' 23 players on roster are currently members of USHL rosters. Thrun, a former USA Hockey NTDP defenseman, has appeared in a pair of games with the Dubuque Fighting Saints this season  after having registered a combined 43 points (7-36-43) in two seasons (2017-19) with the NTDP. The Anaheim Ducks prospect (2019, Round 4, #101) returned to the USHL this season after spending his freshman season at Harvard University last season where he had 21 points (3-18-21) in 31 games, earning a spot on the ECAC All-Rookie Team. Fellow Harvard returnee and 2020 ECAC All-Rookie Team member Farinacci is an Alternate Captain for the Muskegon Lumberjacks this season and has already recorded eight points (4-4-8) in six games. The Arizona Coyotes prospect (2019, Round 3, #76) had 22 points (10-12-22) in 31 games with the Crimson last season. Farinacci, a former forward for the NTDP and Lumberjacks has combined for 14 points (8-6-14) in 17 combined games in the USHL. 

Hunter Skinner, who is currently a defenseman for the London Knights (OHL), also played for the Lumberjacks as well as the Lincoln Stars, combining for a total 22 points (5-17-22) in 83 games in the USHL. The New York Rangers prospect (2019, Round 4, #112). The Western Conference also claims former goaltender Logan Stein and defenseman Ryan Johnson. Stein appeared in two seasons with the Waterloo Black Hawks (2018-20), posting a 28-12-1 record in 47 appearances with five shutouts as well as a 2.60 goals against average and 0.901 save percentage. The Suwanee, Ga. native is currently in his freshman season at Ferris State University. Johnson, who was selected by the Buffalo Sabres in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft (31 overall), played for the Clark Cup Champion Sioux Falls Stampede and posted 25 points (6-19-25) in 54 games before adding eight points (2-6-8) in 12 games as the Stampede went 11-1-0 on their way to the championship. The blueliner is in his sophomore season at University of Minnesota and has a combined 12 points (0-12-12) in 43 total games for the Golden Gophers. 

The Chicago Steel have a trio of former skaters lacing up for Team USA, including forward Brendan Brisson who began his USHL career with the Green Bay Gamblers. The Vegas Golden Knights prospect (2020, Round 1, #29) had 59 points (24-35-59) for the Anderson Cup-winning Steel last season and was named the USHL Rookie of the Year, earning spots on both the All-USHL First Team and USHL All-Rookie Team. The freshman forward at University of Michigan has already put up seven points (2-5-7) in eight games at college. Defenseman Jackson LaCombe is also playing in the Big Ten, but as a conference rival Golden Gopher. The Ducks prospect (2019, Round 2, #39) appeared in a handful of games with the Steel, including a pair of games in the 2019 Clark Cup runner-up run for Chicago. LaCombe is currently a sophomore at Minnesota where he has a combined 15 points (3-12-15) in 43 games. Forward Sam Colangelo rounds out the Steel skaters on Team USA's roster. The current Northeastern University freshman is also an Anaheim prospect (2020, Round 2, #36) and recorded a combined 61 points (31-30-61) in 55 USHL games with Chicago. Colangelo's plus-32 rating led the league last season. 

Bobby Brink also joins the Team USA roster during his sophomore season at University of Denver where he has a combined 27 points (11-16-27) in 31 games the last two seasons, including earning a spot on the NCHC All-Rookie Team last season. The Philadelphia Flyers prospect (2019, Round 2, #34) played two seasons with the Sioux City Musketeers (2017-19) where he had a combined 72 points (37-35-72) in 56 games. Brink's second season in the USHL saw him record 68 points (35-33-68) in 43 games en route to being named USHL Forward of the Year and earning a spot on the All-USHL First Team. Brink was also part of the NTDP's playoff roster for the 2017-18 season, the first team in Program history to win a USHL playoff series. 

The rest of the Team USA roster consists of 14 players who appeared in USHL games on the NTDP roster including goaltender Spencer Knight, defensemen Brock Faber, Drew Helleson, Tyler Kleven, Jake Sanderson and Cameron York, and forwards Matthew Beniers, Brett Berard, Matthew Boldy, Cole Caufield, Patrick Moynihan, Landon Slaggert, Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras

7 - Czech Republic

Ondrej Psenicka is fighting for his spot on the Czech Republic team that will cut three more skaters after its pair of exhibition games next week. Psenicka is currently in his second season with the Waterloo Black Hawks after registering 18 points (6-12-18) in 43 games last season, his first in North America. The Cornell University commit joined the Black Hawks after leading the Czech U19 playoffs in both goals (7) and points (17) during the 2018-19 season as his team, HC Sparta Praha, won a silver medal. Psenicka finished the regular season with 70 points (30-40-70) in 45 games. 

8 - Slovakia

Team Slovakia is also in the process of finalizing its roster as a pair of former USHL netminders, Samuel Hlavaj and Simon Latkoczy, are among four goaltenders on the roster. Hlavaj appeared in 22 games with the Lincoln Stars during the 2018-19 season and is now a member of the Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL). The former member of the Stars had a great first season with the Phoenix, posting a 33-3-2 record with a 2.25 goals against average and 0.915 save percentage in 39 games, including three shutouts. The great season earned Hlavaj a spot on the QMJHL All-Rookie Team and Second All-Star Team, as well as leading the league in GAA (Jacques Plante Trophy) and winning the Defensive Rookie of the Year award (Raymond Lagacé Trophy). 

Latkoczy is coming off 20 appearances with the Madison Capitols last season and earned a spot on the USHL All-Rookie Team. The netminder has a 0.984 save percentage and 0.48 goals against average in two games this season, including a shutout. 

9 - Germany

Rounding out the USHL ties on the World Junior rosters is German forward Manuel Alberg. The former Des Moines Buccaneers blueliner is currently playing for the RB Hockey Juniors (AlpsHL) with eight points (2-6-8) in 10 games. Alberg had also put up eight points (3-5-8) in 20 games with the Bucs last season and is looking for his third medal in a Team Germany jersey (U18 WJC Gold, 2018-19; U18 WJC Silver, 2017-18). 

Headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, the 2020-21 season will be the USHL's 19th season as the nation's only Tier I junior hockey league. The USHL had 51 players selected at the 2020 NHL Draft, marking the third-straight season with 50-or-more USHL players selected in the Draft. More than 800 league alumni are currently on NCAA Division I rosters, further establishing the USHL as the world’s foremost producer of junior hockey talent.

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