COLUMBUS, OHIO - Columbus Blue Jackets prospects Sonny Milano, Zach Werenski, Paul Bittner and Ryan Collins are among the 29 players selected to the preliminary roster of the 2016 U.S. National Junior Team, USA Hockey announced today. The USA’s training camp begins on Monday, December 14 at Boston University’s Agganis Arena in Boston, Massachusetts with the final 23-man roster being named by December 24.
Team USA, led by Head Coach Ron Wilson, will compete in the 2016 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship to be held from December 26-January 5 in Helsinki, Finland. At the tournament, the U.S. will compete in a group with Canada, Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden. All U.S. games will be broadcast live on NHL Network.
Milano, 19, has registered four goals and seven assists for 11 points with eight penalty minutes and a +2 plus/minus rating in 22 games with Cleveland’s Lake Erie Monsters in his first American Hockey League season. The 6-1, 205-pound left wing was the Blue Jackets’ first pick, 16th overall, in the 2014 NHL Draft. He tallied 2-2-4 in five games at the 2015 World Junior Championships and notched 22-46-68 and 24 penalty minutes in 50 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers in 2014-15. The Massapequa, New York native spent the previous two seasons playing for the United States National Development Program.
Werenski, 18, has tallied 4-6-10 and four penalty minutes in 13 games as a sophomore at the University of Michigan. The 6-2, 209-pound defenseman was Columbus’ first pick, eighth overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft. A native of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, he has collected 13-22-35 and 12 penalty minutes in 48 games during his Michigan career. Last season, he led all Big Ten defensemen in goals and was second in points with 9-16-25 in 35 games, earning First Team All-Big Ten and All-Rookie Team honors.
Bittner, 19, has racked up 10-11-21 and 21 penalty minutes in 25 games with the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks this season. The Jackets’ third pick, 38th overall, in the 2015 NHL Draft has registered 78-86-164 and 112 penalty minutes in 199 career WHL games over the past four seasons, including a career-high 34-37-71 with 52 penalty minutes in 66 outings in 2014-15.
Collins, 19, has collected 0-3-3 and 31 penalty minutes in 13 games during his sophomore season at the University of Minnesota. The 6-5, 216-pound defenseman was the club’s second pick, 47th overall, in the 2014 NHL Draft. The Bloomington, Minnesota native has registered 1-11-12 and 45 penalty minutes in 45 games as a Gopher, including 1-8-9 and 14 penalty minutes in 32 games as a freshman in 2014-15 after playing for the USNDP from 2012-14.