Forty-five of the United States' top players under the age of 20 will arrive in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Friday (Aug. 3) for the 2007 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp. The players will be auditioning for a spot on the US National Junior Team that will take part in the 2008 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, Dec. 26, 2007-Jan. 5, 2008, in Pardubice and Liberec, Czech Republic.
The Islanders will be sending four of their own draft picks to the camp on Friday – 2006 selections Kyle Okposo
(1st round, 7th overall), Rhett Rakhshani
(4th round, 100th overall), Doug Rogers (4th round, 110th overall) and Brian Day (6th round, 171st overall).
The four camp invitees are a testament to the Islanders scouting staff and the high quality draft choices selected recently. Only Colorado and Nashville – who each have five prospects attending - have more draft picks traveling to Lake Placid this week.
"It is great for each player to be selected to participate in this camp," said Islanders assistant GM and Director of Amateur Scouting, Ryan Jankowski. "It is a tribute to them as players to be selected as part of the top 45 in the US. For the players to compete among the best in the US is an excellent developmental tool for them and exposes each player to an elite level of hockey.
Okposo competed at the NCAA level for the first time last season, playing for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. In 40 games, the St. Paul native placed second on the team in goals with 19 and second in points with 40. His point total was tied for seventh in the country among rookies. Okposo also ranked tied for third on the team with three game-winning goals and six power play goals.
The Minnesota native's year-long performance earned him spots on the WCHA All-Rookie team and the All-WCHA second team. He was the only freshman picked to be on one of the top two conference teams.
Okposo is looking to compete in his second World Junior Championship. Last season he was a member of the US team that captured a Bronze Medal after losing to Canada in a shootout in the semifinals.
"For Kyle Okposo
, it is a chance for him to participate in his second World Junior Championship and is an opportunity for him to be a leader and a go-to player on the team," said Jankowski.
Rakhshani fell just short of making the World Junior team last year after being invited to the evaluation camp. With a year under his belt playing for Denver, Rakhshani has gained experience and confidence. He led the Pioneers in assists with 26, as a freshman, and placed third on the team in points with 36.
|Doug Rogers |
"This camp is an opportunity for him to learn from last year and play a key part on this year's team as an experienced international player," said Jankowski.
Rogers and Day are making their first bids to compete for the US World Junior team. Last season, Rogers placed second on Harvard in assists with 17 and points with 24. Day, meanwhile, will be attending Colgate next season after leading New England prep school Governor Academy in all major offensive categories.
"Brian and Doug are at this camp for the first time and although it will be a new experience for each of them, they have the opportunity to prove that they belong at this level," said Jankowski. "If nothing more, they can take away a sense of the level of hockey and intensity it takes to play among the best in the United States."
|Brian Day |
The camp will feature practices and eight international scrimmages. The 45 American players will be split into two teams, Team White and Team Blue, and will compete against Under-20 teams from Sweden and Finland.
Jankowski will be attending the last couple of days, when the scrimmages will be in session. He will be watching not only the progress of the Islanders players, but also searching for potential future picks.
"Not only is this a good exposure for the Islanders to see our own prospects at this level, but many other NHL teams will have their drafted players among the group attending as well," said Jankowski. "Some players are draft eligible for the upcoming 2008 Entry Draft, which gives us a snapshot of the top junior-aged players in the US, Sweden and Finland."