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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Jim Johannson

USA Hockey general manager discusses talent, depth of team heading into 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / Staff Writer's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

This edition features USA Hockey general manager Jim Johannson:

BUFFALO -- Jim Johannson has had many memorable moments over the past 15 years in various capacities with the United States national junior team at the IIHF World Junior Championship.

His most cherished, however, was as the team leader for the first gold medal-winning group at the 2004 WJC in Finland. The United States was coached by Mike Eaves.

"It broke the barrier coming from behind and, in [Eaves] case, he broke the barrier at the World Under-18 Championship (in 2002) and then again in the Under-20 WJC (in 2004) so for me it's got to be that one," said Johannson, now USA Hockey general manager. "That opened the door and put the expectation [on USA Hockey] that winning is the expectation. With that came a huge appreciation on what it took to get to that point, and winning that tournament."

Johannson has been closely watching the group of 26 players he helped assemble for USA Hockey's selection camp at HarborCenter this week. The team will pack up after one final practice on Tuesday and travel to Oshawa, Ontario, to continue the evaluation process in a scrimmage against Switzerland on Wednesday.

Johannson was pleased with the intra-squad scrimmage on Monday.

"We played really well defensively in the neutral zone but maybe not as smart as the coaches would want to think at each offensive blue line," Johannson said. "Guys are out here trying to make the team so they're going to try and make plays. I loved our mobility and the five-man cohesiveness in the zones."

The 2017 WJC will be held in Toronto and Montreal from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2017. The U.S. will open the tournament against Latvia in a Group B preliminary-round game at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Dec. 26. Also in Group B are Canada, Russia and Slovakia. 

Here are Five Questions with Jim Johannson:

When will the three cuts be made to finalize the roster?

"We want to get at least one game in, so in a perfect world we will be down to our group at the end of our scrimmage against Switzerland on Wednesday. We'll leave it open-ended in case there's some lingering [injury] issue to consider, but in principle we wanted to go into that last scrimmage against Czech Republic on Friday having our team. So our goal is to get down to [the 23-man roster] after the Switzerland game."

Is it a guarantee you will keep all three goalies [Tyler Parsons, Jake Oettinger and Joseph Woll]?

"We'll be evaluating the goalies right on through our scrimmage against the Czech Republic [on Friday]. Whether we go into the tournament with three or two goalies I think is going to be based a little bit on the camp, but also probably a little bit on who the person is more than what the playing situation would be for the tournament."

Why is St. Cloud State University coach Bob Motzko a good fit as coach of the U.S. national junior team?

"Hockey in the World Junior Championship is up-tempo and pressure hockey. That's what [Motzko] believes in and coaches at St. Cloud. I think the other part is, historically, he's had teams that have produced a lot of offense. And when looking at this group we have here, there should be some pretty good offense. I think you would want a guy to try and bring that out of them; [Motzko] will do that."

What do you enjoy most about the World Junior Championship?

"The players and the people. When I look back over the years to see all the guys that have come through, I know I'll see them again at some point. I don't know when or where, but the fun part is going through this part of the process with them through the good and bad. All the time knowing that they're going to be included in a bigger picture with our program down the road. It's just fun for me to have this as a part of their body of work, and part of their experience. I think a lot of the hope from this is that they do gain a big sense of appreciation for the opportunity at this level, but then a little bit [of] devotion to USA Hockey in the future."

What does it say about USA Hockey that even without world junior-eligible players Auston Matthews (Toronto Maple Leafs), Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary Flames) or Zach Werenski (Columbus Blue Jackets), this year's team remains loaded with talent?

"It epitomizes what we want to get to and continue to get to of the depth of player that can play at this level of the tournament. Trust me, it was hard getting down to 16 names among the forward group. We're missing some good players in Matthews and Tkachuk and also Brock Boeser [wrist surgery] but I think there's a lot of depth. More importantly, there's players who can play at this level."

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