First-round picks dot U.S. selection camp roster
Tuesday, 12.04.2012 / 1:49 PM
By Mike G. Morreale
Armed with eight first-round NHL draft picks, three returning players and two promising draft-eligible prospects, USA Hockey on Tuesday announced its selection camp roster for the team that will comprise the U.S. National Junior Team competing in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia, later this month.
Team USA's training camp will take place Dec. 16-18 at the New York Rangers' training facility in Greenburgh, N.Y. The camp then will move to Helsinki, Finland, Dec. 19-23 before the final 23-man roster, which will include three goalies, is determined Dec. 23.
"Our goal in this was to get as many assets as we could to the coaches' staff and allow them to work with the players and ultimately build out what our final roster will be," Team USA general manager Jim Johannson said. "We're confident in the players we have named, but we certainly know it's going to be a very competitive tournament."
In addition to practice sessions in Helsinki at the Tikkurila Valtti Arena, the U.S. will have pre-tournament exhibition games against Sweden on Dec. 20 and Finland on Dec. 22.
U.S. National Team coach Phil Housley will oversee a 27-man preliminary roster at camp that includes 15 forwards and nine defensemen. There are 13 states and 18 NHL clubs represented on the roster.
Johannson informed the media via conference call on Tuesday that the final roster will include three goalies, seven defensemen and 13 forwards.
"In building a team I think of two things," Johannson said. "There's speed and skating, and size and grit, and you have to combine those two for six or seven games in 10 nights. You have to build a team that can survive that type of schedule and thrive in the end."
Among those returnees from last year's WJC team are goalie John Gibson of the Kitchener Rangers, defenseman Jacob Trouba of the University of Michigan and forward J.T. Miller of the Connecticut Whale.
"It's important to have some players who have been through the grind and know how difficult this tournament can be," Housley said. "They want to improve their play from last year … sort of a redemption thing. It's great to have a goalie with international experience [in Gibson], and you know that the speed and pace of the every game is heightened. It's nice to have some players coming back so they can share their experiences with other members of the team."
Gibson, who hasn't played since suffering a strained hip flexor last Tuesday, likely will be the starter when the U.S. opens the tournament Dec. 27 against Germany. Jon Gillies of Providence College and Garret Sparks of the Guelph Storm will compete for backup duty during selection camp.
The U.S. roster is stocked with first-round draftees -- defensemen Connor Murphy (Phoenix, 2011), Brady Skjei (N.Y. Rangers, 2012) and Trouba (Winnipeg, 2012), and forwards Tyler Biggs (Toronto, 2011), Alex Galchenyuk (Montreal, 2012), Stefan Matteau (New Jersey, 2012), Miller (N.Y. Rangers, 2011) and Stefan Noesen (Ottawa, 2011).
At USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., in August, Biggs finished second only to fellow camp invitee Sean Kuraly of Miami University with four goals and seven points in five games.
Galchenyuk, born in Milwaukee while his father, Alex Sr., was playing for the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL, lived all over Europe while his father played in Russia, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Belarus. Alex speaks Italian, Russian and English and holds dual U.S./Russian citizenship, but his sights always have been set on representing the U.S. in international competitions.
"Alex is a smart player who can disperse the puck very well and make plays," Housley said. "He's not afraid to go in the tough areas and is gritty, and that will be important against bigger teams when we need to generate offense."
There are two promising 2013 draft prospects on the roster, defenseman Seth Jones of the Portland Winterhawks and forward Ryan Hartman of the Plymouth Whalers. Jones likely would have represented the U.S. at last year's tournament if not for a shoulder injury sustained in the last exhibition game.
Jones, rated No. 1 among WHL skaters in NHL Central Scouting's preliminary league rankings, will serve as captain for Team Orr at the Home Hardware CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Jan. 16.
"Seth would have been a key component to the team if not for the injury, so heading into this, I'm excited for him because a player of his caliber was made for this tournament," Johannson said. "He's grown into a great leader on the ice and has a great demeanor off of it, so that reflects well on others."
Over the summer, Jones served as captain for the United States at the World Under-18 Championship, totaling eight points in six games as the U.S. earned the gold medal.
"If Seth Jones was eligible for the 2012 Draft, he would have given Ryan Murray (taken by the Columbus Blue Jackets with the second pick) a run for his money as the top defender chosen," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com.
Central Scouting has Hartman No. 11 among skaters in the OHL. The 5-foot-11, 187-pound versatile forward has struck for 11 goals and 27 points in 26 games for Plymouth this season.
"He's a player who can play center or wing, so that proves to me the range he has as a player," Housley said of Hartman. "I've heard nothing but great things about him as far as his development goes and I'm excited to see him in New York [at camp]."
The U.S. is coming off a seventh-place finish at the 2012 WJC, its worst showing since finishing eighth in 1999.
The 2013 WJC will run Dec. 26 through Jan. 5. All preliminary-round games for the U.S. and Canada will be played at the 7,950-seat Ufa Arena. The U.S. will play in Group B, with Canada, Slovakia, Germany and host Russia. Defending gold medalist Sweden, which scored a 1-0 overtime victory against Russia in last year's final, heads the Group A field, with Finland, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Latvia.
"On a big ice surface, we're going to need good skaters to cover a lot of ground," Housley said. "We'll need guys who are able to move the puck on the power play because special teams play an important role, and that's why I'm excited about our defensive corps -- they can all skate and are very reliable defensively. We're going to need that since we want to transition well, especially in the neutral zone. We need to react quickly on turnovers."
The quarterfinals will be played Jan. 2 and semifinals Jan. 3. The bronze-medal game will be Jan. 5 at 4 a.m. ET; and the gold-medal game will follow at 8 a.m. ET.
NHL Network-U.S. is the home of the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, with coverage of more than 15 games -- including every U.S. and Canada game -- as well as highlights and analysis.