But even with suggestions and support from NHL superstars, Bryson was a late bloomer. Thanks to the long-awaited growth spurt and increased confidence, their game came together in the 2018–19 season, when they led Shatch-St. Mary’s under-18 team with 101 points in 55 matches. He set the stage for being selected in the first round by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2020 NHL Draft two weeks before his 19th birthday.
“When we first play in Cali, he was just an average player,” said York, who played against Bryson at a young age. “He has come so far in such a short time.”
Two other Californians are also on this year’s American roster – defenseman Ryan Johnson, a 2019 Buffalo Sabers first round pick, and goalkeeper Dustin Wolf, a Calgary Flames 2019 selection.
The current generation has greatly benefited top-level NHL players who lived in California in retirement. Along with Junior Duck, John and Johnson were coached by Johnson’s father, Craig, who played 10 years in the NHL, as well as Hall of Fame defenseman and three-time cup-winner Scott Nidermayer.
On the Junior Kings, Bryson and Wolf were coached by the current general manager of the Los Angeles Kings, Rob Blake, Hall of Famer and Cup champion, and their current personnel director, Nelson Emerson, a veteran of the 7th NHL Games.
After the disappointing World Juniors debut in 2020, when Team USA were knocked out by Finland in the quarter-finals, York has shone around this time. He was second in scoring among defensemen with six points from five matches reaching the semi-finals against Finland. Playing at the bottom of the lineup, Bryson has two goals in five matches.
“We all grow up watching this tournament,” Bryson said. “As a young kid, you follow all those individual players. Now I am one of those individual players watching a child. It can be in Iowa, can be in Chicago – can be in the United States or around North America. It is bigger than the tournament. “