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Compher determined to earn place among junior elites

by Mike G. Morreale

BOSTON -- University of Michigan sophomore JT Compher has certainly experienced his share of untimely injuries.

In December 2013, the hard-nosed wing sustained a foot injury while attempting to block a shot in a practice during the United States National Junior Team selection camp in Minneapolis, Minn. The injury left him in a walking boot and gave the managerial team no other choice but to leave him off the U.S. roster headed to Sweden for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Compher would enjoy a fantastic season as a freshman with the Wolverines, leading the team with 31 points (11 goals, 20 assists), a plus-13 rating and three shorthanded goals in 35 games. The 19-year-old was invited to the U.S. National Junior Team development camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., in August and, once again, was hurt while attempting to block a shot; this time he sustained a left hand injury and was limited the remainder of the camp.

He has once again rebounded and is determined to work hard in order to solidify a place on the U.S. roster for the 2015 WJC.

A second-round pick (No. 35) of the Buffalo Sabres in the 2013 NHL Draft, Compher has been used in several different situations during the four-day selection camp at Walter Brown Arena on the campus of Boston University this week. A place on the roster would appear to be his to lose at this point.

So long as he remains healthy.

"I guess it just goes to show you that you only get one chance at this, and being one of the older guys I really wanted to come in here and do whatever I could to do to help the team win," Compher said. "Being able to go through that last year was a disappointment, but you have to learn from everything you encounter and go out there every day, take advantage of it."

U.S. National Junior Team coach Mark Osiecki believes Compher is the type of player who could thrive with any style linemate and in any situation. In other words, he's a coach's dream.

"Coming in we wanted to play with speed and want to be competitive," he said. "It's really been a competitive camp so far and I think we want to push each other and get better as we go through the next couple of weeks. The coach is trying to figure out who plays with who, but anyone you get put on a line with you can play beside so there's no problem with that."

Compher has three goals, 11 points and 36 shots on goal in 15 games for the Wolverines this season. He said playing with Michigan teammates and fellow USA Hockey select camp invites Dylan Larkin (Detroit Red Wings), Tyler Motte (Chicago Blackhawks), Michael Downing (Florida Panthers) and 2015 NHL Draft-eligible defenseman Zach Werenski has been a real treat this season.

He wants to be considered an all-situation performer.

"I think that going forward in your hockey career, the more places you can play on the ice the more time you're actually going to be on the ice, so if I can help the team by winning faceoffs, playing physical or being strong on the penalty-kill, that's awesome," Compher said. "Any way to help the team win. You want to do as much as you can to help. I'm staying within myself and doing what I know I can do."

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