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Five gold-medal winners back for U.S. U-18 team

by Mike G. Morreale
Five players who won gold at the 2009 IIHF Under-18 Championship for the United States will be back to defend that title next month.

The 2010 tournament will be held April 13-23 in Belarus.

Goalie Jack Campbell, named to the media all-star team at last year's event and a projected first-round draft pick at the Entry Draft in June, returns between the pipes. Additionally, defensemen Adam Clendening and Jonathon Merrill and forwards Matthew Nieto and Jason Zucker return from last year's title team in North Dakota.

Zucker, also a highly rated prospect for the June draft, and Campbell won gold medals in January at the World Junior Championship.

Other top prospects for the 2010 Draft include seven of NHL Central Scouting's top 42 prospects from its midterm report -- defensemen Derek Forbort (No. 11), Merrill (20), Stephen Johns (28), Justin Faulk (40) and Jarred Tinordi (42), and forwards Austin Watson (25) and Billy Arnold (30). In all, 14 of the 22 players on the roster are eligible for the 2010 Entry Draft.

The team will be coached by U.S. National Team Developmental Program Under-18 team coach Kurt Kleinendorst, and he'll be assisted by John Wroblewski, Tim Taylor, Joe Exter and Cole Bassett.

The 10-team tournament includes host Belarus, Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. The United States will play two pre-tournament games, against Belarus on April 8 and Slovakia on April 10, before facing Sweden in the first game of the tournament on April 13 in Bobruisk.

Twenty of the 22 players picked play for the U.S. Under-18 team except for two -- Watson, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Peterborough Petes, and forward Connor Brickley, who skates for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the United States Hockey League.

The U.S. team had a successful run in Belarus in February, winning the Six Nations Tournament there.

Contact Mike Morreale at
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