prospect Jason Zucker
on Friday was named captain of the U.S. National Junior Team for the upcoming 2012 World Junior Championship in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta.
Zucker, drafted in the second round (No. 59) by the Wild in 2010, is one of two players on this year's roster who has appeared in the last three WJC events for Team USA. Goalie Jack Campbell
is the other.
Defenseman Jarred Tinordi
and forward Emerson Etem
were named alternate captains. Zucker, Campbell, Tinordi and Etem are four of seven returning players from last year's bronze medal-winning team in Buffalo, N.Y. The U.S. will begin preliminary-round play in Group B of this year's tournament in Edmonton at Rexall Place on Monday against Denmark (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).
"Jason Zucker just accepted his role in Saskatoon [in 2010]. He did whatever we asked him to do and that'll be a big deal for us this year as well."
-- Dean Blais
U.S. coach Dean Blais, who led the U.S. to a gold medal in Saskatoon, Sask., in 2010, has never hid his appreciation of Zucker's tenacious style on the ice. The decision isn't at all surprising.
just accepted his role in Saskatoon [in 2010]," Blais said. "He did whatever we asked him to do and that'll be a big deal for us this year as well."
Zucker, who stars at the University of Denver, has dutifully exemplified that quality the past two seasons for the U.S. National Junior Team. Despite the fact Zucker was tied for first in scoring at the University of Denver as a freshman last season with 45 points, including 23 goals, he reveled in his role as a ferocious checker and versatile role player for the bronze medal-winning Americans in Buffalo. Zucker played a similar role under Blais during the team's gold medal-winning run at the 2010 WJC.
"Jason doesn't really have a weakness," Blais said. "He's a leader at the University. He's fast and tough, finishes checks and blocks shots. I can see a future for him in the NHL. He's a leader and he's the type of player who rubs off on others in a positive way."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at @mike_morreale