When the United States National Junior Team selection camp opens on Sunday at the University of Minnesota, goalie Jon Gillies and forwards Riley Barber and Ryan Hartman realize the real work is just beginning.
All three players are returning to camp after playing a part in the gold medal-winning effort at the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia.
Hartman, selected by the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round (No. 30) of the 2013 NHL Draft, had two goals, three points and a plus-4 rating in seven games as a checking-line forward at last season's tournament. He has 10 goals and 23 points in 22 games with the Ontario Hockey League's Plymouth Whalers in 2013-14.
"I'm extremely thrilled to be back," Hartman told NHL.com. "Whenever you are given an opportunity to represent your country, it's always an honor. It's something you really have to take advantage of."
Barber, who is a sophomore at Miami University, had three goals, six points and a plus-1 rating in seven games at the 2013 WJC. He was chosen by the Washington Capitals in the sixth round of the 2012 draft.
"I'll definitely bring a lot to the table this year in a veteran role," Barber said. "Just knowing how long the tournament is and taking it game by game and not getting too caught up in what everybody is saying about the other teams. I think I'll definitely take my leadership into the room. My play on the ice should show others how they should play, and how badly everybody else should want it. It would be an awesome experience to go back with some of the younger guys and some of the guys who didn't get the chance to put on the sweater last year."
Hartman, who will serve as a guest blogger for NHL.com during the four-day selection camp, is looking forward to leading by example.
"As a returning player, I think it will be very important to be a leader," he said. "Like [Riley] Barber and [Jon] Gillies last year, we went through this whole process and were fortunate enough to see what it takes to capture gold. It's important for us to step up as leaders."
Hartman acknowledged that the key to last year's win was the fact every player had a role on the team.
"It may have been different from their roles on their own teams, but everyone played their role and stuck with it," Hartman told NHL.com. "It's also key to improve as a team in each and every game. Getting better and better each day and gaining chemistry with your new teammates."