Last year’s United States World Junior Hockey Championship team featured four players with Pittsburgh ties as it claimed a rare gold medal.
This year’s squad will have only one western Pennsylvanian while seeking a repeat, but what Pittsburgh hockey lacks in numbers it will make up in importance.
Washington, Pa., native Riley Barber was named team captain on Sunday as USA Hockey finalized its roster for the annual convocation of the world’s best teenage hockey talent, which will take place in Sweden. The 19-year-old Barber scored six points (3g, 3a) in last year’s tournament, where he played alongside fellow Pittsburgh-area products J.T. Miller, John Gibson and Vince Trocheck.
Barber, a 2012 draft pick of the Washington Capitals, will be making his second appearance at the World Junior Championship, continuing a career on the rise. The son of former NHL winger Don Barber, the 6-foot right-handed shooting Riley trained at the United States National Team Development Program in Michigan for two years before moving on to the University of Miami.
While with the perennially-contending RedHawks, Barber has scored 67 points (26g, 41a) in 58 NCAA games. According to Hockey’s Future, “his offensive instincts are very strong,” even though his size is just average for an NHL prospect. He has played a significant special teams role for Miami, and USA Hockey expert Chris Peters projects Barber to be a top-line right winger in the upcoming tournament.
The United States will seek its first back-to-back titles in the history of the WJC starting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday against the Czech Republic. Every USA game from Sweden will be broadcast on NHL Network and streamed on NHL.com. Find the full schedule here.
Andrew Copp and Matthew Grzelczyk will assist Barber as alternate captains. Henrik Samuelsson, son of former Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Ulf Samuelsson, was one of the last cuts for Team USA. Ulf’s older son Philip made his NHL debut with the Pens this week.