MINNEAPOLIS -- Without players like Johnny Gaudreau, Alex Galchenyuk and J.T. Miller leading the way offensively for the United States at the IIHF World Junior Championships this year, it will be up to a number of players to help pick up the scoring slack if the U.S. is going to repeat as champions for the first time.
Top-end offensive talent is not expected to be a hallmark of this year' team, but there are players at this week's U.S. selection camp with a scoring pedigree.
One such player is forward Henrik Samuelsson, a 2012 first round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes and current Edmonton Oil King of the Western Hockey League. With 29 players currently on the preliminary roster, a number expected to decrease by as many as five or six players after an exhibition game Tuesday at Minnesota State, Samuelsson said he needs to show U.S. coach Don Lucia and general manager Jim Johannson that he can be counted on to help lead the way offensively.
"I can score goals, I can make plays and my defensive game has gotten a lot better," Samuelsson said. "I can score big goals too."
Samuelsson has done that this season for the Oil Kings, scoring 14 goals and 24 assists in 28 games. After recovering from an early season injury, Samuelsson has established himself as one of the WHL's top playmakers.
Edmonton decided over the summer to move Samuelsson from wing to center, splitting up a two-year partnership with Samuelsson and linemate Curtis Lazar. It was a move that was difficult at first, but has proven valuable for both Samuelsson and the first-place Oil Kings. It's also an added element of versatility that could play to Samuelsson's benefit when the U.S.' final roster shakes out later this week.
"It's helped me be a little more aware in the defensive zone," Samuelsson said. "It's a lot more work so it has gotten me in better shape. Just being able to play wing as well, maybe it gives me a better chance to make the team."
The exhibition game in Mankato will be a proving game for many on the U.S. roster. Lucia alluded to that fact in his opening remarks Sunday, when he indicated a number of bubble guys will likely get extended playing time against the Mavericks. Samuelsson said he considers himself one of those guys.
"I have to prove myself a little bit," Samuelsson said Monday. "I didn't have the best summer camp. I have to play good in tomorrow's game and just see how it goes.”
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