One of the keys for Team USA on their way to winning gold at the most recent World Juniors tournament was New York Rangers prospect Brett Berard. He was joined on the team by fellow Rangers prospect Hunter Skinner. Team Canada, the silver medalist, also had two prospects on their team in Dylan Garand and Braden Schneider.
Berard made the most of his world junior experience, especially early on. Playing for his Providence College coach Nate Leaman, the left-winger moved his way up from the fourth to the third line and has been particularly effective on a trio with center John Farinacci and right winger Bobby Brink. Berard posted four points in his first three games while making opponents wince anytime they saw him bearing down on the puck. Getting a shot of confidence early certainly helps the world junior first-timer. Berard finished the tournament with a goal, 4 assists, and a plus 8 rating.
Brett Berard and Hunter Skinner: World Junior Champions.
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) January 6, 2021
Berard was the second-youngest player on the United States’ roster and one of only six players born in 2002 that represented the United States in the tournament. This is the first time he represented the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championship, he has played with Team USA in several tournaments in his career, including the 2018 World U17 Hockey Challenge.
What has intrigued the Rangers is how Berard plays the game. He has been described as a “tiger on the ice”. The Providence College freshman is quick, skilled, and tenacious, bringing a gritty element to the forecheck. This was very evident in the gold medal game as his tenacity frequently frustrated the talented Canadian forwards. In a pre-tournament interview, Berard attributed much of this from a childhood where he always had a hockey buddy in younger brother Brady, a 2022 NHL draft prospect currently playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program.
As recent reports have the Rangers showing interest in Brian Boyle so they can add some grit to their lineup, it appears that they won’t have to wait too much longer to add some grit from their own prospects.