Right wing Kailer Yamamoto has plenty of motivation entering USA Hockey's selection camp for possible participation in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The selection camp, which runs Friday through Tuesday at Nationwide Arena and the OhioHealth Ice Haus in Columbus, Ohio, will include 15 forwards, eight defensemen and three goalies. Training camp will begin at Northwest Arena in Jamestown, New York, on Wednesday.
U.S. coach Bob Motzko said he'd like to have his 23-player roster (three goaltenders, seven defensemen, 13 forwards) in place by the end of the first exhibition game against Belarus on Wednesday.
Yamamoto, who was one of the final cuts from the gold medal-winning 2017 United States national junior team, is also the player with the most NHL experience at camp. He played nine games for the Edmonton Oilers to begin this season before being returned to Spokane of the Western Hockey League.
"I'm really determined this year to make the team and help USA win the gold medal again," said Yamamoto, chosen with the No. 22 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft. "Last year was disappointing not making the team but it was a good lesson. I want to come in with a lot of confidence and help the team however I can."
Motzko, the coach at St. Cloud State University, led the U.S. to gold at the 2017 tournament with a 5-4 shootout win against Canada in the final. The United States has a chance to win a medal for the third straight tournament for the first time. It won the bronze medal in 2016.
The 2018 WJC will be held in Buffalo from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5, 2018.
Here are five things to watch entering select camp:
Who will be captain?
The logical choice would be one of the five returning skaters who played a part in the gold medal-winning effort at the 2017 WJC in Montreal, including defensemen Adam Fox (Calgary Flames) and Ryan Lindgren (Boston Bruins), or forwards Joseph Anderson (New Jersey Devils), Patrick Harper (Nashville Predators) and Kieffer Bellows (New York Islanders). Goaltenders Jake Oettinger (Dallas Stars) and Joseph Woll (Toronto Maple Leafs) are also returning players. Motzko said he wants to identify his leadership group quickly, so a captain will likely be announced during select camp.
The competition to earn the No. 1 job could turn out to be the most intriguing of any positional battle at camp. In the mix are college sophomores Oettinger of Boston University and Woll of Boston College. Jeremy Swayman (Boston Bruins) of the University of Maine was also invited.
It's possible Motzko will take the same approach he took at the 2017 WJC when he alternated between Tyler Parsons (Calgary Flames) of Kansas City in the ECHL and Woll on the way to a first-place finish in Group B after the four preliminary-round games. Parsons then played every game of the medal round.
2018 NHL Draft-eligible invites
Boston University freshman center Brady Tkachuk and University of Michigan defenseman Quintin Hughes, each a projected first-round candidate for the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22-23, are two of four NHL draft-eligible players on the select camp roster.
They are joined by defenseman Scott Perunovich (University of Minnesota-Duluth) and forward Hugh McGing (Western Michigan University).
"[Hughes] is great with the puck and he has ice in his veins and an ability to make plays at top speed," Motzko said. "Tkachuk plays like a Tkachuk. His energy and level to battle was high and those are ingredients that were encouraging."
Top line success
Can the trio of Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo Sabres), Logan Brown (Ottawa Senators) and Yamamoto be even more productive than the threesome (Clayton Keller-Colin White-Joey Anderson) that totaled 21 points (10 goals, 11 assists) in seven games at the 2017 WJC?
Mittelstadt, Brown and Yamamoto combined for 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in five games during the World Junior Summer Showcase in Plymouth, Michigan, in August. They were linemates and helped the United States win the bronze medal at the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, combining for 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) at that event.
Video: MTL@OTT: Brown tips in his second goal of the game
There will be 10 first-round NHL draft picks at the camp: Forwards Yamamoto, Mittelstadt (Sabres, No. 8, 2017), Bellows (Islanders, No. 19, 2016), Logan Brown (Senators, No. 11, 2016), Ryan Poehling (Canadiens, No. 25, 2017), Joshua Norris (San Jose Sharks, No. 19, 2017), Max Jones (Anaheim Ducks, No. 24, 2016), Riley Tufte (Dallas Stars, No. 25, 2016) and Trent Frederic (Bruins, No. 29, 2016), and goalie Oettinger (Stars, No. 26, 2017).
USA HOCKEY SELECT CAMP ROSTER
GOALIES: Jake Oettinger, Boston University, H-EAST (Dallas Stars); Joseph Woll, Boston College, H-EAST (Toronto Maple Leafs); Jeremy Swayman, Maine, H-EAST (Boston Bruins)
DEFENSEMEN: Michael Anderson, Minnesota Duluth, NCHC (Los Angeles Kings); Adam Fox, Harvard, ECAC (Calgary Flames); Quinton Hughes, Michigan, BIG10 (2018 draft eligible); Philip Kemp, Yale, ECAC (Edmonton Oilers); Ryan Lindgren, Minnesota, BIG10 (Boston Bruins); Andrew Peeke, Notre Dame, H-EAST (Columbus Blue Jackets); Dylan Samberg, Minnesota Duluth, NCHC (Winnipeg Jets); Cole Hults, Penn State, Big Ten (Los Angeles Kings); Scott Perunovich, Minnesota Duluth, NCHC (2018 draft eligible); Reilly Walsh, Harvard, ECAC (New Jersey Devils)
FORWARDS: Joseph Anderson, Minnesota Duluth, NCHC (New Jersey Devils); Jack Badini, Harvard, ECAC (Anaheim Ducks); Kieffer Bellows, Portland, WHL (New York Islanders); Logan Brown, Windsor, OHL (Ottawa Senators); Trent Frederic, Wisconsin, Big Ten (Boston Bruins); Patrick Harper, Boston University, H-EAST (Nashville Predators); Max Jones, London, OHL (Anaheim Ducks); William Lockwood, Michigan, Big Ten (Vancouver Canucks); Hugh McGing, Western Michigan, WCHA (2018 draft eligible); Casey Mittelstadt, Minnesota, Big Ten (Buffalo Sabres); Joshua Norris, Michigan, Big Ten (San Jose Sharks); Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State, NCHC (Montreal Canadiens); Brady Tkachuk, Boston University, H-EAST (2018 draft eligible); Riley Tufte, Minnesota Duluth, NCHC (Dallas Stars); Kailer Yamamoto, Spokane, WHL (Edmonton Oilers)