Defensemen Chris Bigras and Will Butcher will be the elder statesmen this week as the two Colorado Avalanche prospects get set to participate in their respective countries' summer development camps for the 2015 World Junior Championship.
Butcher will take part in the United States camp, which begins Saturday and runs through Sunday, Aug. 9, in Lake Placid, N.Y., while Bigras will be at Canada's camp, which starts Sunday and goes until next Friday in Brossard, Montreal and Sherbrooke, Quebec. The summer pre-World Junior Championship camps comprise both practices and exhibition games and serve as an audition for players before training camps in December.
The development camps will be the second for Bigras and Butcher as they both participated in summer camps last year and played for Canada and USA at the 2014 World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden. Russia defeated both teams at last year's tournament as the Americans lost in the quarterfinals while the Canadians fell short in the bronze medal game.
Bigras and Butcher are both products of the 2013 NHL Draft as the Avalanche chose Bigras at No. 32 overall in the second round and picked Butcher in the fifth round at 123rd overall.
Butcher is one of 42 players invited to the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp and is one of six returning members from last year's squad. The defenseman has deep USA Hockey roots as he won gold and silver medals at the 2012 and 2013 Under-18 World Championship, but he is looking for his first piece of hardware at the under-20 event in his final year of eligibility.
The Sun Prairie, Wis., native is entering his sophomore season at the University of Denver after posting 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 38 games and helping the Pioneers to the inaugural National Collegiate Hockey Conference Tournament championship last year.
USA Hockey will split its 42 players into two teams at the camp, Team White and Team Blue, before trimming its roster to one squad on Tuesday. Butcher is on Team White and begins play Saturday with an intrasquad matchup against Team Blue. USA will also play exhibition games against Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.
Bigras is one of 10 returnees that make up the 41 players invited to Canada's development camp, which opens with practices on Sunday before Tuesday's exhibition game against the Czech Republic in Montreal. The Canadians will play two games each against the Czech Republic and Russia.
A native of Orillia, Ontario, Bigras had 26 points (four goals, 22 assists) in 55 games last season with Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League. The defenseman also had three points (one goal, two assists) in five playoff games.
Like Butcher, this is Bigras' last chance to medal at the world juniors after winning gold at both the 2013 Under-18 World Championship and the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and a bronze medal with Team Ontario at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Team Canada will face a little extra pressure at the Dec. 26, 2014 to Jan. 5, 2015 tournament as it is the host country and will have games played at two NHL arenas, Air Canada Centre in Toronto and Bell Centre in Montreal.