The United States Men's National Under-18 Team will look to capture a fifth straight gold medal when the International Ice Hockey Federation's World U-18 Championship is held in Sochi, Russia, April 18-28.
USA Hockey on Monday announced the 23-man roster, which includes 17 players eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft, to be held in Newark, N.J., on June 30. All 23 players are members of the United States National Team Development Program.
The U.S., which will be coached by Don Granato, will include 13 forwards, seven defenseman and three goalies. Leading a talented group of forwards are highly regarded 2013 draft prospects J.T. Compher, Michael McCarron, Hudson Fasching and John Hayden.
U.S. U-18 CHAMPIONSHIP ROSTER
GOALIES: Thatcher Demko, USNTDP U-18; Hunter Miska, USNTDP U-18*; Blake Weyrick, USNTDP U-17
DEFENSEMEN: Gage Ausmus, USNTDP U-18*; Will Butcher, USNTDP U-18*; Connor Clifton, USNTDP U-18*; Clint Lewis, USNTDP U-18*; Steven Santini, USNTDP U-18*; Keaton Thompson, USNTDP U-18*; Thomas Vannelli, USNTDP U-18*
FORWARDS: Evan Allen, USNTDP U-18*; J.T. Compher, USNTDP U-18*; Dawson Cook, USNTDP U-18*; Jack Eichel, USNTDP U-17; Shane Eiserman, USNTDP U-18; Hudson Fasching, USNTDP U-18*; John Hayden, USNTDP U-18*; Tyler Kelleher, USNTDP U-18*; Kevin Labanc, USNTDP U-18; Anthony Louis, USNTDP U-18*; Sean Malone, USNTDP U-18*; Michael McCarron, USNTDP U-18*; Tyler Motte, USNTDP U-18*
*- eligible for 2013 NHL Draft
Compher, who was No. 20 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of the top draft-eligible North American skaters, has 15 goals and 43 points in 44 games with the USNTDP Under-18 team this season.
Compher is one of three returnees from last year's World U-18 team, along with forward Anthony Louis and defenseman Will Butcher. Louis is second on the USNTDP U-18 team with 47 points (21 goals).
McCarron, who was No. 31 on Central Scouting's rankings, has 13 goals, 30 points and 166 penalty minutes in 51 games.
Fasching, ranked No. 42 at the midterm, has 11 goals and 29 points, while Hayden, No. 59 on the list, has 16 goals, 32 points and 78 penalty minutes.
Forward Jack Eichel, at 16 the youngest player on the team, has 19 goals and 34 points in 36 games with the USNTDP U-17 team this season. Because of his late birthday Eichel, who is committed to Boston University, will be eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft.
Also named to the team is Tyson Kelleher, who led the U-18 team with 26 goals and 52 points this season.
All seven players on defense are eligible for the 2013 draft, including highly regarded prospects Steven Santini, Keaton Thompson, Connor Clifton and Thomas Vannelli. Vannelli, who spent most of the season with Minnetonka (Minn.) High School, played 12 games with the NTDP and had one goal and two points.
"Vannelli is a big kid (6-foot-2, 170 pounds) who moves well and is a skilled defenseman," NHL Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen told NHL.com. "He has all the attributes you want in a [defenseman] today … he gets back to the pucks. He's one of those players who, when he gets with better players, his compete level and thinking elevates."
Among the goalies, only Hunter Miska could hear his name called at the 2013 draft. California natives Thatcher Demko and Blake Weyrick aren't eligible until 2014.
The U.S. will play one pre-tournament game, against Canada on April 14 in Sochi, before opening the tournament against Russia at the Bolshoy Ice Dome four days later. The U.S. has won a record nine consecutive medals at the U-18 Championship -- six gold medals, two silver and one bronze.
The U.S. is part of Group A, with the Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia and Russia. Canada will compete in Group B with Germany, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland.