When the World Junior Hockey Championships open up later this month, the United States will be looking for gold. And to do it they’ll need to rely on a young group of players with very little experience in the high stakes tournament.
When USA Hockey announced the list of invites to their selection camp there were only three players on it that played in last year’s tournament. Some would say that this puts the Americans at a disadvantage, especially when they’re pooled with the Russians and Canadians.
But there will be plenty of firepower on team USA and one potential name that could help lead the charge is Minnesota Wild prospect, Mario Lucia. He’s also the lone Wild prospect to be among those vying for a spot to make Team USA.
Lucia, a Plymouth, Minnesota native is currently playing for the University of Notre Dame of the CCHA and is just getting back to playing after suffering a broken tibia and ankle injury. It was an injury that just about had Lucia get picked over for the selection camp.
He’s only been back in game action for a couple of weeks with his Fighting Irish teammates, but already he’s proving he’s going to make a run at Team USA.
As Michael Russo of the Star Tribune reports, Lucia has five goals in eight games since returning from the injury and was recently named the CCHA Rookie of the Week last week when he dazzled offensively with a three goal-weekend. He also has three assists on the season giving him a point a game average thus far.
Hockey Future’s analyzes Lucia as a speedy winger with good size and if his junior days are any indication, he can fill the net.
Prior to joining the Irish, Lucia played for the Penticton Vees last season where he racked up an impressive league leading 42 goals to go with 51 assists in 56 games. He also helped lead the Vees to the Royal Bank Championship which crowns Canada’s Junior A hockey champion.
Lucia does have some international experience when he suited up for Team USA at the under-19 World Junior A Championship, a team that took home the bronze in 2011. It’s experience that could help Lucia’s case to make the world junior squad this year.
With only one returning forward the competition appears to be wide open and for Lucia, who is finally healthy and ready to give it his all, he might just be what the team needs. He has the size, the speed and everyone who has ever watched him knows he can put the puck in the net. For Team USA, they can never have to many of those players especially when they’ll have to play Canada and Russia at least once.