Freshman Nick Bjugstad will be the lone Gopher playing for the United States. A highly touted freshman, Bjugstad has underperformed statistically this season with just two goals and two assists in 13 games.
Despite the mundane numbers, Bjugstad has played well in Minnesota, spending time on both the penalty kill and the power play. At 6-foot-4, he is a big strong kid who is a terror when he gets up to full speed and will certainly benefit from having the best players in the country as his linemates.
Erik Haula played his high school hockey at Shattuck-St. Mary's in Faribault, Minnesota but is originally from Pori, Finland. Haula will lead a talented Finnish squad to the World Juniors after an impressive start to his freshman campaign.
So far he has three goals and 12 assists, for 15 points, tied for third best on the Gophers. Haula is a very smart player who knows when and where to make a pass to set his teammates up for easy goals. Look for big things from Haula once the tournament gets underway.
Bjugstad and Haula will have to play against each other when the United States faces off against Finland on December, 26th. This game will be the first test of the tournament for each team.
This year's tournament features a stacked field of the United States, Switzerland, Finland, Slovakia, Germany, Canada, Russia, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Norway. Former Gopher Jordan Schroeder helped the United States win the gold medal last year, beating Canada in the finals by a score of 6-5 in overtime.