Colorado Avalanche prospect and University of Denver sophomore defenseman Will Butcher represented the United States at this year’s IIHF World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal, Canada. Despite USA falling 5-3 to Team Canada on New Year’s Eve and eventually being eliminated by Russia in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year, Butcher enjoyed his experience playing at this year’s tournament in North America.
“It was a pretty cool experience with it being in Canada this year, especially that New Year’s Eve game,” said Butcher, who was also a member of the U.S. team at the 2014 tournament in Malmo, Sweden. “I think Montreal did a great job hosting it. It was a cool city that I’ve never been to before so it was pretty neat seeing that.
“Being in North America, it’s kind of the same type of vibes in Montreal compared to what it was last year in Sweden. I think tournament schedule-wise, it’s pretty much the same. They kind of ran it the same way so it wasn’t too much different in that aspect.”
Butcher was one of only five returners on this year’s USA World Juniors squad, earning himself a leadership role as one of the older guys on the roster. He was named an alternate captain for the U.S. prior to the start of the tournament.
“It just gave me experience to take with me down the road in my career,” Butcher said. “I was honored to wear an ‘A’ and represent the team in a leadership role.
“Just being an older guy there and having an older presence helped our team at some points, like when we were playing Canada in front of 22,000 people. I think it was a good experience for me, and I can take it with me in my career.”
Although Team USA was unable to come away with a medal this year, Butcher was still able to showcase his talents to the world, even if those skills weren’t reflected on the scoresheet every game. Butcher finished the tournament with one assist and a plus-2 rating in five games for his home country.
The Sun Praire, Wis., native was also named one of the top three players on the U.S. squad by tournament coaches.
“I showed that I’m a versatile player," he said. "I was used in a lot of roles, playing on the penalty kill and power play and getting to play against some of the other team’s top lines. I think I was able to show a little bit more in this tournament than in the previous one last year.”
Other than the World Juniors, Butcher has represented the United States in many other international events, including the 2012 and 2013 Under-18 World Championship where he won gold and silver medals, respectively. He was also a member of the U.S. under-17 roster and played at the U.S. National Team Development Program for two seasons (2011-2013).
Looking back at his time representing the United States, Butcher is able to take away several invaluable experiences.
“It’s always an honor to represent your country and play with your peers,” said Butcher. “A lot of those guys are my close friends, and they’ll be my close friends for the rest of my career. I think just representing something bigger than yourself is special. That is pretty neat for myself to do.”
With the U.S. training camp and the World Juniors held in late December and early January, Butcher missed being around family and friends during the holiday season.
However at the conclusion of the tournament, Butcher was able to return home to Wisconsin for a few days to spend time with his family. He arrived back in Colorado last week in preparation for the final months of his second season at the University of Denver.
When asked what his goals are for the rest of his season at DU, Butcher stated: “To win a national championship. All of my focus is back here at school, so I want to get stronger in the weight room and help myself get better every day.”