PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- One of the toughest decisions for United States coach Bob Motzko will be determining his No. 1 goaltender for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo in December.
The frontrunners among the four invited to the World Junior Summer Showcase this week are Joseph Woll (Toronto Maple Leafs) of Boston College and Jake Oettinger (Dallas Stars) of Boston University. Keith Petruzzelli (Detroit Red Wings) of Quinnipiac, and Dylan St. Cyr of Notre Dame are also in the running.
There's a strong possibility Motzko will take the same approach he took in the 2017 WJC when he alternated between Tyler Parsons (Calgary Flames) of London in the Ontario Hockey League and Woll on the way to a first-place finish in Group B after the four preliminary-round games.
[RELATED: Seven from United States team that won 2017 WJC seek 2018 spot | NHL Network World Junior Summer Showcase schedule]
Parsons played every game of the playoff round, making 19 saves in a 3-2 win against Switzerland in the quarterfinals before winning back-to-back shootouts against Russia 4-3 in the semifinal and Canada 5-4 in the gold medal game.
"We have confidence whoever the goalies are that come out of here, we're going to have depth at the position so I think we are going to give the guys an opportunity to earn it," U.S. goalie coach Kris Mayotte said. "Whichever goalies we end up taking are going to be big-time and can help us win games no matter which one it is."
NCAA hockey analyst Dave Starman can envision a time share in goal to begin the tournament.
"For stability reasons the one-guy thing kind of works," Starman said. "But it's always good to have two goalies with games under their belt because having two battle-ready goalies is a big deal in this tournament."
Starman pointed to the 2010 WJC when the United States won gold behind the play of two goalies: Michael Lee and Jack Campbell. Campbell replaced Lee in the second period of the gold medal game against Canada and made 34 saves in a 6-5 overtime win.
Woll won his two preliminary-round games with a 1.50 goals-against average and .934 save percentage, making 18 saves in a 5-2 win against Slovakia and 25 saves in a 3-1 win against Canada on New Year's Eve at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
"[Woll] handled himself incredibly well," Mayotte said. "The New Year's Eve game against Canada was a tough spot and he handled it like it was nothing."
Oettinger, the highest Minnesota-born goaltender ever chosen in the NHL Draft(2017, No. 26), never played a game as the third-string goalie for the U.S. at the 2017 WJC.
"Woll and Oettinger have such a history together that the ability to push each other is healthy," Starman said. "To me, I'd much rather beat out my buddy than a guy I don't like because the friendly competition is what drives you and you know your friend is going to make you better. I think they are very interchangeable. You could throw either one of those two guys in there and know that when the game starts, you're going to get saves."
Oettinger and Woll know nothing is guaranteed, but are glad to be going through the process once again together.
"We've been battling for three years now so it's only fitting we're going at it again," Oettinger said. "At the end of the day we're friends and teammates so whatever happens I have his back and I know he has mine. At the same time, everything I do now until the start of the World Junior Championship is to make sure I'm the guy in the net for the first game, so I have work to do."
Said Woll: "We're working toward the same goal, and on the ice it's competition and you're battling. But being friends with him makes it a lot easier because you know that whatever happens you're still going to be friends."
When asked if he will opt for a goalie timeshare during the preliminary round before choosing one to carry the U.S. in the medal round, Motzko said it was too early to speculate what might happen, but did provide insight into his thought process at the 2017 WJC.
"We knew we had to get two goalies going because it's a long tournament," he said. "You want to make sure going in that you have two goalies playing minutes, and it's really how they play that dictates the next decision. I think it will be the same type of situation this year.
"There are some tournaments you run a guy from start to finish. At some point, though, you need a rest and another guy goes in, he plays well and that gives you confidence and the players' confidence in what you're doing."