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World Juniors

Luke Kunin named captain for United States at WJC

Wild forward prospect no stranger to leadership role on international stage

by Mike G. Morreale @mikemorrealeNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

BUFFALO -- Forward Luke Kunin of the University of Wisconsin was named captain Sunday for the United States at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The U.S. is conducting selection camp this week at HarborCenter to determine the 23 players who will make up the roster at the 2017 WJC.

Defenseman Charlie McAvoy (Boston Bruins) of Boston University and forward Colin White (Ottawa Senators) of Boston College were named alternates. McAvoy and White are returning players for the United States at the tournament.

"I couldn't be happier to have these three guys leading this locker room," U.S. coach Bob Motzko said. "Luke, Charlie and Colin play with a tremendous amount of heart and really lead by example. We're really pleased to have them leading Team USA."

Video: Luke Kunin joins the show to discuss the 2017 WJC

The 2017 WJC will be held at Air Canada Centre in Toronto and Bell Centre in Montreal from Dec. 26, 2016, through Jan. 5, 2017. The United States will open the 11-day tournament against Latvia in a Group B preliminary-round game in Toronto on Dec. 26. Canada, Russia and Slovakia also are in Group B.

Kunin, selected in the first round (No. 15) of the 2016 NHL Draft by the Minnesota Wild, has twice before served in a leadership role for the U.S. on an international stage. The 5-foot-11, 196-pound forward scored two goals and had six points as an alternate to help the U.S. to a gold medal at the IIHF 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Championship, and scored six goals as captain in a gold medal-winning effort at the 2015 World Under-18 Championship.

Kunin, a sophomore, is captain at Wisconsin this season. He leads the Badgers with 11 goals and is second with 17 points in 16 games.

Here are four other things learned after Day 3 at USA Hockey selection camp:

 

Players prepare for scrimmage

Motzko and his staff will continue their evaluation of players Monday in a scrimmage-type setting.

"We'll have referees and looking to have three, 10-minute periods; we want to keep score and have time on the clock," Motzko said. "This will be a good chance to have our goaltenders get that work in."

Motzko did a little bit of everything at the practice on Sunday.

"We're touching on little parts of our game and [Sunday] was neutral zone play," Motzko said. "Our theme was how fast we want to get up and down the rink and transitioning the puck. We wanted to battle at the end of practice as well. We've got some fanciness, but we want to remind them that to play fancy you also have to play hard."

 

Harper gets opportunity

Forward Patrick Harper (Nashville Predators) of Boston University was the only player invited to selection camp who wasn't a part of development camp in Plymouth, Michigan, in August.

"Every year there's somebody; that's what this country does," Motzko said. "It develops great hockey players and [Harper] had a terrific first half at BU. Coaches around the league say he's a special hockey player."

Harper leads the Terriers with 13 assists and 20 points in 17 games.

"I think I can bring some creativity, good hockey sense and an ability to push the pace," Harper said. "I like reading off of other players and making some plays out there."

 

Healthy Keller ready to go

Forward Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes) declared himself 100 percent healthy and ready to do what is asked after missing seven games for Boston University because of a lower-body injury sustained Nov. 5.

He entered selection camp having played in three games since returning to the lineup for the Terriers and had two goals and four assists during that stretch.  

The freshman is third on Boston University with 15 points (seven goals, eight assists) in 10 games.

"Nothing has necessarily changed in my game since coming to BU; I play the same game, really," Keller said. "If anything, I'm continuing to get better defensively and in tracking down pucks, forcing turnovers. My offensive game will take care of itself."

Keller was a late cut from the United States roster that won a bronze medal at the 2017 WJC in Finland.

 

BU or BC

Defenseman Chad Krys (Chicago Blackhawks) of Boston University said he almost chose Boston College during the recruiting stage before finally settling on the college at which he dad, Mark, served as captain as a senior in 1990-91.

Krys told NHL.com that Boston College assistant coach Greg Brown, who is an assistant on the U.S. national junior team this year, made the decision a difficult one.

"[Brown] was a guy I really felt I connected with; someone I really respected at the defensive position," Krys said. "Growing up in Connecticut a lot of people wanted to go to BC and it was during that period when the school was making those runs at the national championship and at the top of national rankings each year.

"I kind of grew up a fan of BU since both my dad and mom went there, but I was just as much a fan of BC which was, at that time, kind of the team everyone in our area wanted to be a part of."

Krys has a goal and two assists in 17 games as a freshman for Boston University this season.

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