LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- The players invited by USA Hockey to attend this week's national junior evaluation camp spent their time making a first impression in a quest to earn a spot with Team USA for the 2013 World Junior Championship.
That group includes Cole Bardreau, but he's working toward something more -- finding an NHL job.
Bardreau, a 5-foot-10, 184-pound center, is an NHL free agent after being passed over in the draft the last three years.
Bardreau said he isn't dwelling on that disappointment, instead focusing on the opportunity he has now to showcase himself against high-level competition.
"I try not to think about it," he told NHL.com. "I try to go out there and have some fun and play hockey. At the same time, it's a great opportunity so I'm going to try to take advantage of it every shift."
He's done that this week in Lake Placid, impressing the coaching staff with on-ice presence and defensive abilities. U.S. coach Phil Housley used him as one of his primary penalty-killing forwards in his four games this week.
"I think he's a smart player," U.S. coach Phil Housley told NHL.com. "He's in shooting lanes, he does the little things well. That's why he's been killing penalties."
Bardreau had just four goals and four assists in 34 games as a freshman at Cornell University last season, and understands if he does make Team USA for the WJC, it'll be in a more defensive-oriented role.
"That's one of the most important parts of my game," Bardreau said of his defensive play. "Especially after my [age] 17 year at the [United States National Team Development Program]. I got into a different role there, wasn't much of a scorer, and I had to become more of a defensive player. I get limited time out there, but while I am out there I try to take advantage of it."
Has he done enough to draw a few more scouts for another look this season at Cornell?
"I think I'm showcasing my skills pretty good," he said. "There's a few plays I'd like to have back, but I think for the most part I'm playing pretty well."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK