USA World Junior Championships Preview (Part 3) Defenseman

The United States defense is led by team USA captain Cam York. The Philadelphia Flyers first-round pick did not play a huge role in last year’s tournament but will anchor the first or second defensive pair this year for the USA. The United States naming him captain speaks for his character off the ice. York was a first-round pick for good reason. He anticipates plays before they happen and is one of the best outlet passers in the entire tournament. 

The top defenseman in the USA lineup is Jake Sanderson, who was the first-round pick of the Ottawa Senators in this year’s draft. There are really no flaws in his game in the defensive zone. Sanderson also has an exceptional wrist shot and knows when to join the rush. He is a high caliber two-way defenseman and is in the conversation for best defenseman of the tournament. His hockey IQ is off the charts. Sanderson also has exceptional speed and can make impactful plays when needed. The six-foot-one defenseman also brings a physical presence that will help the USA slowdown the top dogs of the tournament.  

The next defenseman has two things in common with the previous two. He was a first-round selection and is a left-shot defenseman. Ryan Johnson was a first-round selection of the Buffalo Sabres and the best skater on the backend for the USA. He has a knack for being able to keep the puck in the offensive zone and keep the play alive. He also has incredible awareness in the defensive zone to break up plays. The left side of the United States defense is incredibly deep. 

However, I have to be honest. The right side is not as strong. Jackson LaCombe and Brock Faber will have to carry the right side through the tournament, along with some help from Spencer Knight. LaCombe is a second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks and an offensive defenseman that can move the puck at an elite level. Faber is a second-round pick of the Los Angeles Kings and uses his hockey IQ and positioning to force players to the outside and away from the dangerous areas. 

With strong goaltending, this defensive unit is more than enough for the United States to give Canada a run for their money and walk away from Alberta with a gold medal. Will Jake Sanderson be the first player to receive a gold medal around his neck? We will see. 

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