Photo credit:MATT TIDCOMBE / CHL
Canucks prospect Hunter Brzustewicz unfairly left off of Team USA’s World Junior invitation list
By Dave Hall2 months ago
We are just weeks away from the highly-anticipated World Junior Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Each year, this tournament brings the world’s top U20 competition to the centre stage as they compete for the coveted Gold Medal.
Unfortunately, one American-born Vancouver Canucks prospect will not be attending this year’s competition.
Despite producing phenomenal statistical numbers with the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, Hunter Brzustewicz was not invited to the Team USA camp tryout.
The Michigan native has amassed 46 points in just 28 games this year, putting him on an absurd 112 pace. That, in addition to being a 6-foot, right-shot defender with a pedigree for playing a strong two-way game.
It has been documented that the US National team doesn’t take kindly to those who jump ship to take their talents outside their program.
In this case, following a two-year stint with the US National Development Team, putting up 22 points across 58 games, Brzustewicz elected to cross the border and play CHL hockey.
Brzustewicz joined the Canucks Conversation podcast earlier in the year and spoke about why he made the switch.
“I was going to Michigan [University], which is my favourite school,” Hunter said. “It was really hard for me to leave, but obviously I wanted to play a lot more hockey and play more minutes and I needed to do what I needed to do to get to the next level and that was to come to Kitchener.”
As it stands, the US has invited a strong list of offensive defencemen to their camp. This includes the likes of Lane Hutson (LHD) and Seamus Casey (RHD), who are putting on a show of their own in their respective 2023–24 campaigns and are expected to play big roles for the US during this tournament.
Additionally, names such as Ryan Chesley (Washington Capitals) and Sam Rinzel (Chicago Blackhawks) were offered an invitation, to no surprise.
In the context of looking at names that were invited over Brzustewicz, on the right side, specifically, we have Aram Minnetian and Eric Pohlkamp.
Minnetian, a recent Dallas Stars fourth-round draft pick, is in the midst of his Freshman year at Boston College. Through 16 games, the 5-foot-11 defender has put up one goal and four points, while skating in a third-pairing role for the Eagles.
Eric Pohlkamp, meanwhile, is a recent fifth-round pick of the San Jose Sharks and has eight points (four goals, four assists) and is a minus-8 through 14 games as a Freshman with Bemidji State University.
In their scouting report, Elite Prospects described Pohlkamp in the following manner.
“Pohlkamp’s value comes in two forms: High-impact shots and even higher impact hits. His power beats goaltenders across the net, even from the point. On the power play, he builds play before unwinding, drawing pressure towards himself, passing, then relocating for the one-timer. Tight gap on- and off-puck, poke checks timed just as the opponent exposes the puck, quiet footwork, and thunderous hits.”
This profile lines up quite similarly to Brzustewicz, amplifying the interesting choice to omit his name from a camp invite.
The difference? Each of these names currently plays within the NCAA circuit.
Given the competition, the jury is out on whether he’d crack an official spot following camp. However, to be left off the list completely is a devastating reality and an unfortunate snubbing.
As a 19-year-old, this would have been his final shot at dooning the USA jersey at the U20 level, officially eliminating his World Junior hopes.
Drafted in the third round this past summer, Brzustewicz has quickly placed his name as an early candidate as a draft table “steal” and has offered significant promise as a member of the Canucks’ depth chart.
Fans will have to settle for catching him in his usual spot, eating up minutes in Kitchener, as his team will play four games while the tournament is live in Sweden.
Here is the interview with Brzustewicz from earlier this season:
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