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PLYMOUTH, Mich. — Matty Beniers, selected by the Seattle Kraken with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, will be one of six returning players for the United States at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The center, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, was named to the final 25-player roster at USA Hockey’s selection camp at USA Hockey Arena on Tuesday. The team consists of three goalies, eight defensemen and 14 forwards.
Beniers scored three points (one goal, two assists) in seven games to help the United States win the 2021 WJC with a 2-0 victory against Canada in the championship game. The United States will try to win back-to-back titles for the first time. Canada was the last team to do so, winning five straight from 2005-09.
“I think it’s a completely different team,” Beniers said. “We got a lot of familiar faces, which is really nice, and I think it helps that we have a lot of people who are comfortable with each other already.
“I think we did something very special last year and it was really awesome, but we have to turn the page. We have to remember what worked and what didn’t work and implement that into the team this year … try to do it even better.”
The 2022 WJC is scheduled for Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alberta.
Forwards Brett Berard (New York Rangers) and Landon Slaggert (Chicago Blackhawks), and defensemen Brock Faber (Los Angeles Kings), Tyler Kleven (Ottawa Senators) and Jake Sanderson (Senators), are the other returning players from 2021.
“We have had a long process evaluating this team dating back to the summer showcase (in July) and scouting these players throughout their seasons,” U.S. National Junior Team general manager John Vanbiesbrouck said. “We had a great camp and our players and staff have done everything we’ve asked of them. We believe in these 25 players and we all have the same goal heading into Alberta.”
Beniers and Sanderson, the No. 5 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, are two of six first-round NHL draft picks on the team. The others are defenseman Luke Hughes (New Jersey Devils, No. 4, 2021), and forwards Matt Coronato (Calgary Flames, No. 13, 2021), Chaz Lucius (Winnipeg Jets, No. 18, 2021) and Mackie Samoskevich (Florida Panthers, No. 24, 2021).
“The confidence is definitely there; we got a really skilled group here,” Sanderson said.
Hughes is hoping to become the first of the Hughes brothers to help the United States win a World Junior Championship.
Quinn Hughes, a defenseman for the Vancouver Canucks, played for the team that finished third in 2018 and second in 2019. Jack Hughes, a center with the Devils, played with Quinn in 2019.
“I don’t know about any bragging rights (within the Hughes family),” Luke Hughes said. “You’re just trying to win a gold medal for your country and the guys on that team. At the end of the day you’re representing the United States of America and that’s the most important thing. I don’t think there’s any bragging rights.”
Forward Logan Cooley is one of four players to make the team who are eligible for the 2022 NHL Draft. Cooley is the only A rated player on NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary players to watch list for the 2022 draft. The projected first-round selection has scored 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists) in 20 games for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program Under-18 Team.
“I’ve been telling [Cooley] not to worry too much about the tournament, just play his game,” Beniers said. “I told him not to defer to any of the older players. I think that was something someone told me last year, and it was pretty important advice. Don’t give up the puck so fast. He knows how to play the game and he’s here for a reason.”
The team will travel to Edmonton on Wednesday, then quarantine for 48 hours before continuing training. It’s scheduled to play two exhibition games, against the Czech Republic at Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre in Red Deer on Dec. 20 and Finland at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Dec. 22.
The United States is scheduled to play preliminary-round games at Peavey Mart Centrium in Red Deer in Group B with Russia, Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland. Canada’s preliminary-round schedule in Group A at Rogers Place features Finland, Czech Republic, Germany and Austria.
The top four teams in each group will play in the quarterfinals Jan. 2. The semifinals are Jan. 4, and the championship and third-place games are Jan. 5.
UNITED STATES WJC ROSTER
GOALIES: Drew Commesso, Boston University, HE (Chicago Blackhawks); Kaidan Mbereko, Lincoln, USHL (2022 draft eligible); Dylan Silverstein, USA U-18, NTDP (2022 draft eligible)
DEFENSEMEN: *Brock Faber, Minnesota, BIG TEN (Los Angeles Kings); Luke Hughes, Michigan, BIG TEN (New Jersey Devils); Wyatt Kaiser, Minnesota Duluth, NCHC (Chicago Blackhawks); *Tyler Kleven, North Dakota, NCHC (Ottawa Senators); Ian Moore, Harvard, ECAC (Anaheim Ducks); Scott Morrow, Massachusetts, HE (Carolina Hurricanes); Jack Peart, St. Cloud State, NCHC (Minnesota Wild); *Jake Sanderson, North Dakota, NCHC (Ottawa Senators)
FORWARDS: *Matty Beniers, Michigan, BIG TEN (Seattle Kraken); *Brett Berard, Providence, HE (New York Rangers); Logan Cooley, USA U-18, NTDP (2022 draft eligible); Matt Coronato, Harvard, ECAC (Calgary Flames); Tanner Dickinson, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL (St. Louis Blues); Dominic James, Minnesota Duluth, NCHC (2022 draft eligible); Matthew Knies, Minnesota, BIG TEN (Toronto Maple Leafs); Chaz Lucius, Minnesota, BIG TEN (Winnipeg Jets); Carter Mazur, Denver, NCHC (Detroit Red Wings); Sasha Pastujov, Guelph, OHL (Anaheim Ducks); Mackie Samoskevich, Michigan, BIG TEN (Florida Panthers); Redmond Savage, Miami, NCHC (Detroit Red Wings); *Landon Slaggert, Notre Dame, BIG TEN (Chicago Blackhawks); Ty Smilanic, Quinnipiac, ECAC (Florida Panthers)
* — Denotes returning player
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