Rangers’ Berard Poised For Big World Juniors For Team USA

Brett Berard is a high-powered forward whose skill is evident. At 5-foot-9, the undersized winger plummeted to the fifth round in the 2020 NHL Draft despite finishing third on the U.S. National Development Team in scoring. The Rhode Island native was selected 134th overall by the New York Rangers, billed as a player who could be a skilled pest, following the molds of Brad Marchand and Brendan Gallagher.

He made the 2021 World Junior Championship roster for the United States, playing a pivotal role in helping Team USA capture the gold. Tallying five points in seven games, Berard’s motor was evident, and his willingness to get to the gritty areas despite the size he was giving up was inspirational.

Although primarily a role player on that 2021 roster, Berard scored a highlight-reel goal and consistently factored into the offense. After winning gold, he returned to Providence college, capping off the first 20 games of his collegiate career with 10 points.

Berard didn’t just sit back and admire his success during the 2020-21 collegiate season and his first stint at the World Juniors. He took it upon himself to work effortlessly in the offseason, coming into this new campaign ready to improve upon his already rising prospect stock in the Rangers’ system.

Sophomore Berard Is Wildly Improved

With the United States officially announcing its roster for the 2022 World Juniors, the familiar name of Berard made its second consecutive appearance. But as NHL Network reporter Jon Morosi tweets, the Rhode Island native won’t be a role player on this year’s squad.

Instead, Berard will be playing alongside Matty Beniers, the 2021 second overall selection, on arguably the top line. This move up the depth chart should be a shock to no one. The 19-year-old has had a monster sophomore season, registering 12 goals and 12 assists through Providence’s first 21 games.

That is good for the seventh-highest total in NCAA Division I and the highest mark by a sophomore through the early portion of this season. Seeing all this first-hand is Providence and Team USA’s head coach Nate Leaman, who looks to win his second-consecutive gold medal behind the bench. And with a player he has helped mold in Berard powering his way up the prospect totem pole, there was no hesitation in placing Berard amongst his top forwards.

Heading into his second tournament, Berard is now a World Junior vet who enters the competition a significantly improved player. After accumulating one goal and four assists in 2021, a chance to play alongside talented players like Beniers and Matthew Coronato could mean a big WJC is coming for the Rangers’ prospect.

What To Expect From Berard This WJC

The reigning Hockey East Player of the Month, Berard enters the WJC ready to make a statement. One can expect increased ice time, an increased role, and perhaps increased special teams time for Berard, all of which could accumulate in a point-per-game showing for the Rangers’ prospect.

His potential linemate at the World Juniors, Beniers, told NHL.com’s Mike G. Morreale that he has pre-existing chemistry with Berard.

“I was pretty lucky that I was with Brett Berard (New York Rangers) today. We’ve been playing together our whole lives, so it’s not too hard to find chemistry there because that’s kind of always been there for me and him.” 

Matty Beniers

Two high-powered offensive players with chemistry playing top-flight minutes? That is a recipe for success and indicates Berard is on his way to having a tournament to remember. Last season, Trevor Zegras led all skaters with 18 points in seven games. He was miraculous for Team USA en route to a gold medal, dominating everyone he played against.

Related: 2022 World Junior Championship Team Canada Final Roster

Although Berard, nor anyone for that matter, is likely to have a tournament like that, I could see him falling near the top of the points category come to the end of the WJC. I could see him matching Arthur Kaliyev’s eight points from a year ago, though a fifth-round pick achieving that total would be eye-popping.

Trending upwards since the last World Juniors, Berard is playing the best hockey of his career heading into this year’s event. He has torn up Hockey East and Division I and now has his sights set on being a standout on what USA Hockey hopes is the first repeat champion since Canada won five straight times from 2005-2009.

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