After a disappointing end to his first season in a Red Wings uniform, goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic has something new to play for — his country.
Nedeljkovic headlines a long list of players with Michigan ties announced to the US Men’s National Team ahead of the 2022 IIHF Men’s World Championships in Finland (May 13-29).
University of Michigan defenseman Luke Hughes (New Jersey Devils), along with former UM standouts Thomas Bordeleau (San Jose Sharks), Nick Blankenburg (Columbus Blue Jackets) and goaltender Strauss Mann (San Jose Sharks), who recently signed with the Sharks organization after a season in the Swedish Hockey League’s Skellefteå AIK, also made the team. The final roster was announced Thursday.
Michigan leads the way in NCAA representation with those four players. Mann also represented the United States during the 2022 Olympics.
Ann Arbor native and Ottawa Senators forward Austin Watson also made the team.
Nedeljkovic, who had his season-ending media availability with the Red Wings on Wednesday, had already been made aware that he would be on the team.
“It was a pretty easy decision, honestly,” Nedeljkovic said. “Any time you get to represent your country, it’s a great honor. It’s a special opportunity. You don’t always get to do it. At any level — Olympics, World Championships, World Juniors — whatever it is, I think it’s a great honor, and I think everybody should take an advantage of it if they have the opportunity to do so.”
The team is managed by Ryan Martin, who in Aug. 2021 left his assistant general manager job with the Red Wings for an assistant GM job with the New York Rangers under Chris Drury.
“We’ve got a great group of players who we know will represent our country extremely well at the world championship,” Martin said through a release from the team. “As with all teams USA Hockey puts on the ice at any level, our goal is to bring back the gold medal and we look forward to the challenge ahead.”
Thirteen players who made the roster came through the National Team Development Program, which resides in Plymouth’s USA Hockey Arena.
Hughes led the nation in scoring by a defenseman during his freshman season, with 17 goals and 19 assists (36 points), and was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team after being drafted fourth overall by the Devils in 2021.
Bordeleau signed his entry-level deal with the Sharks shortly after Michigan’s elimination from the Frozen Four, and he put up five assists in eight games, plus a shootout-winner over the Vegas Golden Knights on April 24.
Blankenburg signed an entry-level deal with the Blue Jackets last spring after going undrafted and serving as Michigan’s captain during his final year with the program. He had a goal and two assists in seven games to close the season with Columbus.
Mann was a top-five finalist for the Mike Richter Award (nation’s top goaltender) during his final season at Michigan in 2020-21. During two appearances in the Olympics, he amassed a .945 save percentage and 1.85 goals-against average.
Team USA will depart for Finland on May 7. It will play a single exhibition game against Canada on May 11 before making its tournament debut against Latvia on May 13.
Team USA IIHF Worlds schedule
All times local.
Wednesday, May 11: Canada (exhibition), 8 a.m.
Friday, May 13: Latvia, 9:20 a.m.
Sunday, May 15: Austria, 9:20 a.m.
Monday, May 16: Finland, 1:20 p.m.
Thursday, May 19: Great Britain, 9:20 a.m.
Saturday, May 21: Sweden, 5:20 a.m.
Monday, May 23: Czechia, 9:20 a.m.
Tuesday, May 24: Norway, 9:20 a.m.
Thursday, May 26: Quarterfinal round
Saturday, May 28: Semifinal round
Sunday, May 29: Gold and Bronze medal games
Nolan Bianchi is a freelance writer.