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Posted On Tuesday, 12.18.2012 / 11:20 AM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

Jones looks to be first African-American to go No. 1

It's no wonder Seth Jones doesn't just throw his arms in the air and confess to the hounding media that the decision to ultimately choose hockey over basketball is the one question he's answered a million times in recent months.

Truth is, though, the 18-year-old defenseman realizes it isn't often that a potential first-overall NHL draft pick also happens to be the son of a former NBA superstar and current assistant coach of the Brooklyn Nets.

"I've been bombarded with questions about that, which is normal I guess," Jones said on the final day of U.S. National Junior Team selection camp on Tuesday. "But my dad [Popeye Jones] didn't encourage me to play hockey; we knew nothing about hockey. He asked Joe Sakic what we needed to do to get involved and I was hooked."

It was actually during Popeye's tenure with Denver Nuggets in 1999-2000 when he approached Sakic about Seth and his desire to give hockey a shot. The rest is history.


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Posted On Monday, 12.17.2012 / 7:36 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

Final U.S. cuts won't be easy for Housley

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- With just 26 players left in camp and a need to get the roster down to 23 prior to the start of the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, coach Phil Housley said the job of deciding who stays and who goes home isn't getting any easier.

Stefan Noesen was released from the team after being ruled ineligible for the tournament because of his 10-game OHL suspension, so only three more players need to be cut. However, the players are doing a nice job making those final decisions extremely difficult.

"I'm disappointed to see Noesen go with his situation," Housley said. "Certainly he would have been a part of our team. I think he's a big-time player. Even with that situation, it's going to be very hard -- especially on the back end."

Housley said the biggest part of discussions he will have with the rest of the USA Hockey staff is figuring how each player fits a necessary role.

"I think it's what role that we're going to find the players to fulfill," he said. "It's tough to be on the ice as a coach. You can watch but you can't really get a good sense of evaluating until you talk to the whole staff and see what their point of view is and where they're coming from. Those decisions are going to be tough. It's the role and where they fit into that role."

The two practice sessions were more up-tempo than the practice Sunday, as most of the players arrived in New York only hours before camp opened. The afternoon session saw things get even more physical with a 3-on-3 game played across the width of the ice. Bodies were banging around often.

"Today with both sessions we had was just great," Housley said. "The jump they had, the things that we're focusing on right now, they're understanding it more as we review our concepts. I think overall the competitive level that we saw in the small games at the end provided some very high compete, and it's fun at the same time."

The players also enjoyed the physical play at the end.

"Everyone has to get a feel for each other," Seth Jones said. "Today we played a little 3-on-3 game at the end. It was really competitive, really physical. People are battling for spots and no one's going to take anyone lightly."

Another player who was dialed into the practice was J.T. Miller, who has emerged as a team leader and could be the front-runner to be named team captain.

"Since we've been here he's put his foot down and really extended himself in that leadership role, which is good to see," Housley said. "It's the little things away from the rink that you don't see, which is great for me, to get the guys together. They're all on one page and that's great. You're going to need leaders, to get guys to say the right things in the locker room when the coach isn't there. … It's a sign of his maturity as a player. He's a guy that's playing in the American league at a very young age. There's not a lot of guys that can say that. He's a strong young man. It's great to see him lead by example. He competes out there. That's what we're going to need form our leaders, leading by example."

Heading into the final session of camp Tuesday, Housley said he's extremely happy with what he's seen so far.

"It's been great," he said. "The enthusiasm on the ice, the competitive battles -- it's everything we're looking for. Seems like these guys are coming together in a short period of time. I thought in Lake Placid they made strides toward creating that bond. Now it's really a joy to see these guys on the ice come together."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Monday, 12.17.2012 / 7:09 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

Richter impressed by talent level at U.S. camp

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- One interested observer for the afternoon session here at MSG Training Center was former New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter.

"I'm used to coaching 12-year-olds," Richter told NHL.com. "It's pretty sweet to see the skill level and the size [of the players]."

Richter said he was impressed by all the players assembled for this week's 2013 World Junior Championship selection camp, but of course he was biased toward the goalies.

"The size is impressive with all these guys, it seems," Richter said. "There's a hell of a lot more to the story than that; there's plenty of big players in the League. These guys know their games so well. The position of goaltending has changed so much over the years. These guys are starting to get in good shape physically. They know the position very, very well. They're truly small professionals. They work on their weaknesses. Lots of them have goalie coaches. They don't go out there and hope the puck hits them. They have strategy and work to perfect it. You're looking at some pretty well-honed players when you look between the pipes. These guys they have out on the ice now are very, very impressive."

Richter also reminisced about his time playing in the WJC. He had an 8.37 goals-against average in three games in 1985 when he was a high school senior. A year later, as a freshman at Yale, he helped the U.S. win its first medal at the tournament, a bronze, as he posted a 2.60 GAA in four games.

"It was just a phenomenal experience," he said. "I was a backup my first year. I was in high school and just getting up to that level was amazing. Just in practice it was an eye-opener how good the players could be at that level. The same thing [the following year], even thought I was in college, you're getting the best of the best at that age group. Adjusting to the level of shots, how fast they came, how the decision-making of the forwards, how quickly you had to be set as a goaltender. It takes a couple days to adjust. And then once you do, you say I feel pretty good about this, you see patterns in the guys you're playing with in practice. Then you go out there and your first game is against Russia or the Czechs and you're like wow, another level up. The intensity is spectacular. These are great opportunities to grow and measure yourself against the world's best at a young age."

Watching the players in practice today gave Richter a positive feeling not just for the hopes of this WJC entry from the United States, but the future of the game.

"These guys are still developing and there's a lot of upside to what you see and they're great right now," he said. "Most of these guys on the team have been drafted, first-round picks, they're really impressive athletes. You're seeing the future of the NHL on the ice right now."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Monday, 12.17.2012 / 3:19 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

Miller keeps climbing hockey ladder, succeeding

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- J.T. Miller has been a man on the move the last three seasons. Three different teams at three different levels of hockey, and about the only thing in common has been a high level of success for the New York Rangers prospect.

After scoring 50 points in 56 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program in 2010-11, Miller was selected by the Rangers with the 15th pick of the 2011 NHL Draft. He spent last season with the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, where he finished fourth on the team with 25 goals and 62 points.

He's also grown to 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, which has better equipped him to climb another rung on the hockey ladder -- to the Connecticut Whale of the American Hockey League. In 26 games, Miller is fourth on the team with 14 points. Not bad for a 19-year-old in the AHL, where most of the first-year players are 2-3 years older.

"To be able to play center on the power play in the American Hockey League speaks volumes as to where his development has gone," U.S. coach Phil Housley told NHL.com. "He's very, very strong. You're going to need grit in this tournament, especially our team -- we're playing four games in five nights -- so definitely we're going to have to have some guys that play with some consistency and I see J.T. doing that."

Miller said every season he's played in a different league, the speed and strength of the players he faces on a nightly basis has gone up. And playing against older, stronger players in the AHL could make him better equipped for anything he'll face in the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.

"It helps with the whole speed and the strength, the thing that's going to help me a lot more," Miller said. "Some of the guys we play against won't seem as strong or fast, and might prepare me that much more to make sure I'm playing my best. Use what I know and everything I've learned in the AHL."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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Posted On Monday, 12.17.2012 / 2:32 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

Bardreau would embrace grinding role for U.S.

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Forward Cole Bardreau might be the only undrafted NHL free agent on the U.S. National Team Junior camp roster this week here at the New York Rangers' practice facility during selection camp, but his international success is just too good to be ignored.

The 5-foot-10, 181-pound center, a sophomore at Cornell University this season, played a part in the United States' gold medal-winning performance at the 2011 Under-18 World Championship in Germany and a first-place showing at the 2011 U-18 Five Nations Tournament in the Czech Republic.

In 2010, he was on the U.S. National U-18 Team that was first at the Four Nations Cup in Sweden while also earning gold at the World U-17 Hockey Challenge in Ontario.

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Posted On Monday, 12.17.2012 / 2:08 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

Gibson set in net for Americans

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- If there's one player on the U.S. National Junior Team selection camp roster with a good idea what players for Canada might expect from coach Steve Spott, it's Kitchener Rangers goalie John Gibson.

Gibson just so happens to be Spott's starting goalie in Kitchener. He's currently second in the Ontario Hockey League with a 2.13 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. Spott, of course, is the coach for the Rangers when he's not instructing the Canadian National Junior Team.

Originally chosen by Kitchener in the 11th round of the 2009 OHL priority draft, Gibson would later be selected by the Anaheim Ducks in the second round of 2011 NHL Draft. Gibson, who was signed by Spott to an OHL contract on July 27, 2011, is already penciled in as the U.S. starter for the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.

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Posted On Monday, 12.17.2012 / 2:05 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

NHL Network-US, NHL.com offer live WJC coverage

The NHL Network-US and NHL.com have all of your World Junior Championship needs covered.

NHL Network-US announced Monday it will broadcast live all four of the preliminary-round games played by the United States, as well as six additional preliminary-round games and the entire medal round of the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship, which will be played in Ufa, Russia from Dec. 26 to Jan. 5.

Participating nations include Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

NHL Network-US also will air Team USA's two pre-tournament games live from Finland.

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Posted On Monday, 12.17.2012 / 12:21 PM

By Mike G. Morreale -  NHL.com Staff Writer /NHL.com - 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

Noesen ruled ineligible to play for USA

Watch WJC on NHL Network-US

NHL Network-US is the home of the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship with coverage of over 15 games as well as highlights and analysis.

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- USA Hockey general manager Jim Johannson confirmed Monday that he has no intention of inviting another player to U.S. National Junior team training camp here at the Rangers' practice facility in the absence of suspended forward Stefan Noesen.

Johannson confirmed Monday that Noesen's 10-game suspension by the Ontario Hockey League for a hit in a Dec. 8 contest against the Oshawa Generals has forced him from participation in the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russa, Dec. 26-Jan. 5. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound center is not eligible to return to the OHL until Jan. 11.

"We wanted to let the process go full and, in the end, we do not feel it's an equitable process," Johannson said. "We did send this to the [IIHF] for [its] determination since there's an opportunity for them to read and review. That was done. In the end, that suspension is behind upheld."

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Posted On Monday, 12.17.2012 / 9:56 AM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

Jones ready for the extra attention

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- The player most in the spotlight for USA Hockey at this week's World Junior Championship selection camp is defenseman Seth Jones. The 6-foot-4 blueliner is considered by some to be the most talented player in the 2013 NHL Draft class, and after losing a spot on last year's WJC team due to an injury in the final exhibition game, he's considered a lock to fill a major role on this year's team.

"He continues to be a dynamic player that happens to be 6-foot-4 and a defenseman that can do so much in the game. That's rare," U.S. team GM Jim Johansson said. "I think decision-making continues to get better and better. Not that it was poor before, but it seems like his game matures as the competition matures."

He's certainly shown the ability to step up his game to match the competition. In his first season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League this season, he's tied for fifth among WHL defensemen with 28 points, and he recently had a nine-game point-scoring streak.

"At the start I got a little uncomfortable in the league for it being my first season," Jones said. "The first couple games it really took me a while to get comfortable with the speed of play and the type of play in the league. Right now I think I'm doing great. I'm very comfortable with the way I'm playing. My teammates have been great, they've really helped me get comfortable with the league and develop with the speed of play. It's been an unbelievable year."

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Posted On Sunday, 12.16.2012 / 9:14 PM

By Adam Kimelman -  NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor /NHL.com - 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship blog

Mini-game fun end to first day of practice

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- For their first day on the ice as a full group, U.S. coach Phil Housley focused on drills that got his players' legs moving and blood pumping. And the players afterward said it was just what they needed.

"Everybody's upbeat today, good tempo, try to get the feet moving," forward J.T. Miller said. "It wasn't all that grueling of a practice. We all played [Saturday] for the most part. We've just got to make sure we take every practice like it's a game and come out ready to go."

Most of the drills focused on transition play, which Housley said will be a major part of the team's game plan when they arrive in Ufa, Russia for the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship.

A number of the drills were familiar to most of the 27 players here at the MSG Training Center, as they were the same as the ones Housley ran at the USA Hockey summer evaluation camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., in August.

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