VANTAA, Finland - The Canadians have six returning players plus Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. The Russians are at home and have captain Nail Yakupov leading them. The Swedes are the defending champions. So, Seth Jones, where does your team fit in?
"Right in there. I think we're the best team," the American defenceman said on Thursday. "We have a lot of speed up front, we're great defensively and we have good goaltending so I think we have all the pieces to win the gold medal."
Considering Team USA failed to get past the round-robin stage last year and has only three returning players (forward J.T. Miller, defenceman Jacob Trouba and goalie John Gibson) that may be considered a bold statement.
"That's just confidence," said Jones, among the top contenders to be picked first in next June's NHL draft. "We can hang with any team here to be honest with you. There's not much another team can do to really take us off our game."
But American forward Alex Galchenyuk wouldn't go as far as his teammate.
"Confidence is key, but we can't just walk around and say we're the best team," the Montreal Canadiens draft pick, taken third overall in last June's draft, said. "We got to beat everyone. We have to focus shift by shift. Definitely gold is in our mind, it's our No. 1 priority, but we just have to focus."
Team USA beat Sweden 3-2 in overtime on Thursday evening in their first pre-tournament game. For five Americans, however, preparing for the exhibition opener wasn't easy.
Some luggage didn't make it over to Helsinki with the team on Wednesday so defencemen Connor Murphy and Matt Grzelcyk, forward Cole Bardreau and goalies Jon Gillies and John Gibson were unable to skate with their teammates the last two days. Team USA was able to get a local Finnish goalie to help them out while Gibson and Gillies watched from the bench. The only netminder able to skate was Garret Sparks.
The missing equipment finally arrived around noon on Thursday right after the team's morning skate so the group of five got on the ice while the rest of their teammates went back to the hotel.
The situation didn't seem to faze Murphy, who opened the scoring for the Americans in the first period.
Harvard forward Jim Vesey had to wake up early (6:30) on Thursday to write an exam for an American government class on Thursday.
"I had to get a lot of signatures before I left," he said. "I had to petition the school to let me come here and we had [director of player personnel] Tim Taylor proctor my exam, because he's a Harvard graduate so they really liked that idea. It was a long process, but I'm happy I'm here."
How does he think he did on the exam?
"I don't think I aced it, but I think I did well enough to get by."
It was an incredibly taxing day for Vesey, who was also in the lineup against Sweden.
"I think I felt it most after the pre-game skate and then lunch. I went back to the hotel and passed straight out and it was hard for me to get up from the nap, but once I took a shower I was fine," he said.
When asked what was harder – the exam or the game – Vesey claims the mental workout was easier than the physical one.
"Definitely the game," he said. "Anything that puts stress on my body, I'd rather take an exam then go through such a grueling game like that."