The 2021 World Junior Championship begins December 25th, highlighting some of the top young hockey talents today. Earlier this week, Team USA announced its preliminary roster for the tournament. Included on the roster are two 2019 Philadelphia Flyers draft picks, Cam York and Bobby Brink. Team USA’s camp begins December 6th, and the team will cut four players before the camp comes to a close on December 13th.
York and Brink made the Team USA roster last year, playing limited roles in the 2020 World Junior Championships. Both Flyers prospects should make the roster again this time around. Of course, their team roles are still uncertain as a lot can happen from now and the start of the tournament. Let’s take a look at some realistic expectations for both Flyers prospects as they gear up to bring a gold medal to the United States.
Overall, Team USA’s blueline is a bit thin. The 2020 fifth-overall selection, Jake Sanderson, is the name that probably stands out the most. However, this is his first World Juniors. After Sanderson, York is likely the second-biggest name on this prospective defensive unit. He served mainly as a seventh defenseman in the last tournament, playing in five games with very little ice time. This year, it will be a completely different story.
Expect York to be the lifeblood of Team USA’s defense. There’s an excellent chance he is on the top pairing, as well as the quarterback for the first power-play unit. To split up the top defensive talent, York might find himself with a more complementary partner on five-on-five scenarios. Of course, this will provide countless opportunities for York to get involved in the offensive game plan. If he can serve as more of a fourth forward at times, bringing the puck deep into the offensive zone, Team USA becomes a much more dynamic and threatening opponent.
Going from a seventh defenseman one year to the top guy the following season seems like a strange situation. However, that is how the World Juniors go. After one tournament, York becomes an elder statesman on the blueline and will likely thrive in a scenario where he receives a great deal of ice-time.
Unlike the defense, Team USA’s forward group is stacked with top-end talent. Just one look at the list of names, and it is easy to predict that the United States will be able to roll with four incredibly talented lines. Although this is a problem every team hopes to have, it becomes challenging when trying to slot each forward into an appropriate role.
For Brink, he is most effective when in a scoring role on one of the top two lines. Unfortunately, that is the case for more than half of the USA’s forwards. If we are looking strictly at wingers, Brink should slot easily into a top-six role. Unfortunately, the team has more quality centers than spots available at that position. Likely one or two of those centers will inhabit a spot at the wing, placing Brink’s chance of starting on the top-six in jeopardy.
Look for Brink to begin the tournament on the third-line while receiving some quality time on the power play. Just because he starts on the third-line does not mean he will stay there for the WJC’s entirety. He likely becomes a player that is placed up and down the top-nine, depending on others’ performance.
Team USA will be a very entertaining group to keep track of during the 2021 World Junior Championships. Brink and York did not provide a whole lot last tournament but should be in different situations this time around. Most importantly, this tournament is an incredible opportunity from a developmental standpoint, providing two future Flyers the opportunities for success on the world’s stage.
Mandatory Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton/Icon Sportswire