Four players with Los Angeles Jr. Kings ties - forward Brendan Brisson, goaltender Dustin Wolf and defensemen Drew Helleson and Jackson LaCombe - celebrated gold medals as members of the 2021 U.S. National Junior Team after its 2-0 triumph over Canada in Tuesday’s World Junior Championship finale showcased in Edmonton.
Helleson assisted on the first U.S. goal scored by Los Angeles Kings prospect Alex Turcotte, the nephew of Jr. Kings coach Jeff Turcotte.
For the tournament, Brisson finished with two goals, while Helleson struck for two goals and an assist and Lacombe an assist. Wolf (pictured) picked up a win between the pipes while not allowing a goal in his two appearances.
“I’m very proud of this group of guys, we really came together as a team over the course of this tournament,” said head coach Nate Leaman. “We played a great Canadian team today and we’re very fortunate to have beat them. I’m proud of how this team played together. This will be a memory they have forever.”
Brisson, who was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the first round of this year’s NHL Entry Draft (29th overall), is in his freshman season at the University of Michigan. Last season, Brisson skated for the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Chicago Steel and was named the USHL Rookie of the Year and to the All-USHL First Team.
Wolf, a member of last year's U.S. World Junior Team who signed an entry-level contract with the Calgary Flames in May - the organization that selected him in the seventh round of last year's draft (214th overall) - capped off an award-laden 2019-20 season himself with the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Everett Silvertips, earning a spot on the WHL Western Conference First-Team while also being named the WHL Western Conference Goaltender of the Year and ultimately the league’s Goaltender of the Year and Canadian Hockey League Goaltender of the Year.
LaCombe, who was selected by the Anaheim Ducks in last year's draft (second round, 39th overall), is in his sophomore season at the University of Minnesota. A second-round draft pick of the Colorado Avalanche last year (47th overall), Helleson is in his sophomore campaign at Boston College.
All four players are 2001 birth years.
The U.S. opened the preliminary round of the tournament with a 5-3 loss to Russia followed by victories over Austria (11-0), the Czech Republic (7-0) and Sweden (4-0). Team USA then knocked off Slovakia in the quarterfinals, 5-3, before downing Finland in the semifinals, 4-3, staging the gold-medal matchup against Canada.
Team USA has medaled at the World Junior Championship five times in the last six years, the best medal stretch in the history of the country. This year’s championship marks Team USA's fifth gold medal overall, with the previous four coming in 2017, 2013, 2010 and 2004.