Bolstered by four first-round NHL draft picks, three returning players and two 2014 NHL Draft-eligible prospects, USA Hockey on Wednesday announced the 26 players invited to the selection camp for the team that will comprise the U.S. National Junior Team that will play in the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden later this month.
The United States selection camp will take place Dec. 15-18 in Minneapolis. It will include five practices at Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota as well as a pre-tournament game at Minnesota State University on Dec. 17. When training in Minneapolis is complete, the team will travel to Angelholm, Sweden, to continue the evaluation process from Dec. 19-23.
The final 22-player tournament roster will be announced Dec. 23.
USA SELECTION CAMP ROSTER
DEFENSEMEN: Matthew Grzelcyk, Boston University, HEA (Boston); Brady Skjei, University of Minnesota, Big Ten (New York Rangers); Ian McCoshen, Boston College, HEA (Florida); Steven Santini, Boston College, HEA (New Jersey); Brett Pesce, University of New Hampshire, HEA (Carolina); Anthony DeAngelo, Sarnia, OHL (2014); Will Butcher, University of Denver, NCHC (Colorado); Connor Carrick, Plymouth, OHL (Washington)
FORWARDS: Nicolas Kerdiles, University of Wisconsin, Big Ten (Anaheim); Adam Erne, Quebec, QMJHL (Tampa Bay); Stefan Matteau, Rimouski, QMJHL (New Jersey); Thomas Di Pauli, University of Notre Dame, HEA (Washington); Tyler Motte, University of Michigan, Big Ten (Chicago); Daniel O'Regan, Boston University, HEA (San Jose); Jack Eichel, USA U-18, USHL (2015 draft eligible); Andrew Copp, University of Michigan, Big Ten (Winnipeg); J.T. Compher, University of Michigan, Big Ten (Buffalo); Quentin Shore, University of Denver, NCHC (Ottawa); *Ryan Hartman, Plymouth, OHL (Chicago); *Riley Barber, Miami University, NCHC (Washington); Hudson Fasching, University of Minnesota, Big Ten (Los Angeles); Henrik Samuelsson, Edmonton, WHL (Phoenix); Ryan Fitzgerald, Boston College, HEA (Boston)
*- Returning player
U.S. coach Don Lucia will oversee a camp that includes 15 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies. There are 13 states and 18 NHL clubs represented on the roster. It's possible that Jim Johannson, who serves as general manager of the U.S. National Junior Team, could invite a few other skaters prior to the opening of selection camp.
"Our foundation has to be that we have good goaltending, we play well defensively and get some timely goals," Lucia told NHL.com. "I didn't see a team [at the summer orientation camp in August] that was really dynamic from an offensive standpoint, and hopefully we'll get more of that as we get going here in December. We have a high-character group of kids."
Returning from last year's gold medal-winning team are forwards Riley Barber of Miami University and Ryan Hartman of the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League, and goalie Jon Gillies of Providence College.
"The most important factor to winning gold is just coming together as a team in such a short period of time," Barber told NHL.com. "Becoming a team as fast as you can and really just putting all the egos aside and doing the best you can for the betterment of the team. I think everyone knows you have to play different roles when you get there."
Among the first-round picks invited to the camp are defenseman Brady Skjei (New York Rangers, 2012), and forwards Hartman (Chicago Blackhawks, 2013), Stefan Matteau (New Jersey Devils, 2012) and Henrik Samuelsson (Phoenix Coyotes, 2012).
Also invited to the camp are two promising 2014 draft prospects. Goalie Thatcher Demko of Boston College and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo of the Sarnia Sting of the OHL are regarded as A-rated prospects on NHL Central Scouting's November players to watch list for the 2014 draft.
Demko, the youngest player in the NCAA, could become the first American-born goalie drafted in the first round since Jack Campbell by the Dallas Stars in 2010. The native of San Diego, Calif., is 3-1-1 with a 2.57 goals-against average and .899 save percentage in five games.
"He's a huge (6-foot-3.75, 192 pounds), strong goalie with excellent net coverage; he has that NHL presence in the net," Central Scouting's Al Jensen said of Demko. "He is more of a positional-style goalie, relying on his angles and size. He plays big in his stance and when he drops in the butterfly gets his body in front of a lot of shots. He's smart at reading the play and gets set quickly."
DeAngelo was upgraded from a B rating on Central Scouting's preliminary players to watch list to an A rating in the November release. The 5-10.75, 175-pounder leads all OHL defensemen with 39 points in 27 games.
"[DeAngelo] has excellent speed and quickness and is improving his ability to manage the risks versus the rewards in decisions," NHL Director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "He's a very dynamic player with good offensive tools. He can generate chances, competes hard and always plays with energy."
The youngest player on the roster is center Jack Eichel, a 2015 draft-eligible forward who plays for the United States National Team Development Program Under-18 team. The 17-year-old, who is committed to Boston University in 2014-15, has 17 goals and 35 points in 19 games.
The U.S. defeated Sweden in the gold-medal game at the 2013 WJC in Ufa, Russia, to win its third tournament championship. The Americans outscored the opposition 15-2 during its three-game roll through the medal round, defeating Czech Republic (7-0), Canada (5-1) and Sweden (3-1).
Four other players from that team were eligible to be invited to the camp but will not take part. Nashville Predators defenseman Seth Jones, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba and Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk were not released by their NHL teams. Defenseman Patrick Sieloff, a Calgary Flames prospect playing his first professional season with the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League, hasn't played Oct. 5 and is home in Michigan being treated for an infection.
The 2014 WJC will run Dec. 26 through Jan. 5, 2014. The U.S. will play in Group A, with Canada, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Germany. Silver medalist Sweden heads the Group B field, with Russia, Finland, Norway and Switzerland.