USA Hockey's Facebook account was flooded with visitors Wednesday morning following the release of the 22-player roster for the U.S. National Junior Team that hopes to defend its gold medal at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., which begins Sunday.
The roster includes eight returning players from last year's team, nine first-round NHL Draft choices and seven second-round picks. Just one player, backup goalie Andy Iles (Cornell University), is eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft. The roster also has three players with NHL experience -- Nick Leddy and Jeremy Morin of the Chicago Blackhawks and Kyle Palmieri of the Anaheim Ducks.
Among those returnees are goalie Jack Campbell of the Ontario Hockey League's Windsor Spitfires, who was in goal when the U.S. won the gold with a 6-5 overtime victory against Canada in Saskatoon last January. Also coming back to defend the gold are defenceman John Ramage of the University of Wisconsin and forwards Ryan Bourque of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Quebec Remparts, Jerry D'Amigo of the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies
, Chris Kreider of Boston College, Morin, Palmieri and Jason Zucker of the University of Denver.
Campbell appeared in three games at last year's tournament, going 2-1 with a 2.54 goals-against average and .921 save percentage. His breakout moment came when he replaced Mike Lee in net for Team USA 3:56 into the second period of the gold-medal game against Canada. He allowed only two goals on 34 shots to help lead the U.S. to victory.
Of the players taken in the first round, three were chosen in 2009 and six in 2010. From the 2009 class are Leddy, a defenseman taken No. 16 by the Wild and subsequently traded to the Blackhawks; Kreider, a forward taken at No. 19 by the Rangers); and Palmieri, taken at No. 26 by the Ducks and currently playing for their AHL team, the Syracuse Crunch. Taken this past June were Campbell (No. 11, Stars), defensemen Derek Forbort (No. 15, Kings), and forwards Nick Bjugstad (No. 19, Panthers), Charlie Coyle (No. 28, Sharks), Emerson Etem (No. 29, Ducks) and Brock Nelson (No. 30, Islanders).
The seven players cut early Wednesday morning following the team's 3-2 shootout loss to the Czech Republic in an exhibition game were defencemen Adam Clendening (Boston University), Jamieson Oleksiak (Northeastern) and Philip Samuelsson (Boston College), and forwards Connor Brickley (Vermont), Rocco Grimaldi (USNTDP), Matthew Nieto (Boston University) and Brandon Saad (Saginaw, OHL).
The U.S. National Junior Team will be coached by Keith Allain, who also is the coach of No. 1-ranked Yale University.
Veteran broadcaster Dave Starman, who will serve as color analyst for NHL Network's coverage of Team USA's games in this year's tournament, considers Allain the perfect fit for a U.S. team looking to repeat.
"Take a look at the job he's done at Yale University (No. 1 in the nation in this week's men's hockey poll)," Starman said. "That transcends well to what he's going to have to do with this team. He went to Yale and changed the culture there and has made that program unbelievably exciting to watch. Their defensemen are in the play, they hit like crazy, their little guys are tough, they have tremendous scoring, three lines that are legitimate threats and a fourth line that will knock the hell out of you. He's really put together a good team and he'll want Team USA to play the same way."
This will be Allain's third time coaching the U.S. at the World Juniors, following back-to-back fifth place finishes in 2001 and 2002.
"For me, the two keys to success in this tournament are you have to come together as a team as quickly as possible because teams win hockey tournaments, not individuals," Allain said. "You also have to build as the tournament goes on. It's a challenge to be in competitive games and know you have to win games at the same time, but you have to slowly build your game so that when you get to the end, you're playing your best hockey."
While Team USA does possess a few snipers and bona fide playmakers, Allain also will have the luxury to call upon a few grinders. In particular, forward Mitchell Callahan, a 5-foot-11, 175-pound bundle of energy who has 15 goals, 33 points and 62 penalty minutes in his third season with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. Of all the drafted players on the roster, Callahan was taken the latest -- sixth round (No. 180 overall) by the Detroit Red Wings in 2009.
Shane McColgan, Callahan's teammate in Kelowna, predicted last week in his exclusive NHL.com blog that his fellow Californian would be a perfect fit for Team USA.
"For the U.S. team, I think he can bring an energy-line role as well as an agitating role," McColgan wrote. "He gets under the players' skin pretty well and obviously he's leading our team in scoring, so he can do that, as well. He can bring the whole package, but I'm sure what the U.S. will want from him is to bring energy, bring those big hits to get the team going."
Allain, who preaches puck possession and speed through the neutral zone, will be looking to counter opposing speed with some grit of his own.
Team USA, which earned its second-ever World Juniors gold medal and first since 2004 last year, will start its title defence in preliminary-round action at 8 p.m. on Dec. 26 against Finland at HSBC Arena. They'll also play Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany during the preliminary round. The quarterfinals will be played Jan. 2 at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET; the semifinals on Jan. 3 at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The bronze-medal game will be Jan. 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET; and the gold-medal game will be played Jan. 5 at 7:30 p.m. ET. All knockout-round games will be played at HSBC Arena and broadcast on NHL Network-U.S. and TSN. Author: Mike G. Morreale | NHL.com Staff Writer