Speed, goaltending and a deep roster are three important components United States National Junior Team general manager Jim Johannson knows are critical at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Johannson feels he has plenty of that among the 30-man roster of players USA Hockey invited to selection camp that will be held on the campus of Boston University at Walter Brown Arena from Dec. 16-19. The select camp will help determine the final 23-man roster that will represent the country at the 2015 WJC beginning Dec. 26 in Montreal and Toronto.
The U.S. has medaled in three of the past five WJC tournaments, including gold in 2010 and 2013 and bronze in 2011.
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"The game is about speed now and we have speed and our depth is going to be excellent," Johannson told USAHockey.com. "You also need good goaltending and we have good candidates. These [goalies] are going to have to take charge in there and it'll be a good competition since there are good goalies vying for the starting job.
"I think we'll be a team that has the puck a lot and will play with the puck; it'll be an exciting brand of hockey."
The three goaltenders invited to camp are Brandon Halverson (New York Rangers, No. 59, 2014) of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the Ontario Hockey League, Thatcher Demko (Vancouver Canucks, No. 36, 2014) of Boston College and Alex Nedeljkovic (Carolina Hurricanes, No. 37, 2014) of the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL.
Demko is the only returning player of that trio but the 6-foot-3, 192-pound goalie did not see any action at the 2014 WJC in Malmo, Sweden.
After celebrating a third gold medal at the 2013 WJC, the United States arrived home empty-handed in 2014 after dropping a 5-3 decision to eventual bronze-medalist Russia in the quarterfinal round of the tournament. The 2014 U.S. National Junior Team received goals from 12 different players, including four from a defensive unit that chipped in with six goals and 17 points.
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This year's list of invites includes returning top-line center Jack Eichel of Boston University. Eichel, who is considered by many a top-two pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, had one goal and five points in five tournament games last year.
Johannson knows much of the focus will be on Eichel.
"From an overall team standpoint this is probably the deepest group of forwards we've had in a long time," Johannson said. 'Certainly Jack will be one of the leaders up front and, on defense, we're hopeful that [Boston College defenseman] Steve Santini is able to get healthy and join us. He's an experienced guy who can lead us on the back end."
Santini has been out since Oct. 25 when he sustained a wrist injury in a 4-1 win against the University of Massachusetts that required surgery three days later. Boston College announced after his surgery that he would be out until early January. The WJC runs Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
Johannson is looking forward to having the tournament played in Canada.
"What I know is that Canada truly appreciates good hockey and they will cheer for Canada, but also cheer for the tournament and great plays," Johannson said. "It'll be our job as players to win over the crowd with our play and I think we will be capable of doing that."