PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- Forward Joseph Anderson can still recall the days of going toe-to-toe against his younger brother, defenseman Michael Anderson, on their backyard rink in Roseville, Minnesota.
The 1-on-1 sessions were competitive and sometimes combative, but they played a vital part in each player realizing his future potential. For Joseph that meant playing forward, and for Michael it was all about defending and making sure his brother was denied an easy scoring opportunity.
"It all kind of started on that backyard rink even before we started playing organized hockey," Joseph said. "I was bigger, stronger and always had the puck, so he had to figure out ways to get puck away from me and not allow me to score. He has a special defensive ability, he was gifted at it."
The Anderson brothers are at it again this week, playing for the United States at the World Junior Summer Showcase at USA Hockey Arena. Joseph, 19, is playing right wing for USA White; Michael, 18, is playing defense for USA Blue. The first round of cuts by USA Hockey is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
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Michael remembers how his father, Gerry, would spend hours perfecting the rink.
"We always had a small little patio in the backyard that he would flood," Michael said. "As we got older it got bigger, and by the time we were 10 the whole backyard was the rink. That rink kind of taught us to love the game and have fun with it."
It also toughened him up.
"I just could never get the puck from [Joseph] so I kind of learned how to defend while he was busy trying to skate around me," Michael said. "It led to some good battles growing up."
The Andersons hope to become to first brothers to represent the United States National Junior Team since Peter and Chris Ferraro during the 1993 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Joseph (5-foot-11, 202 pounds), a sophomore at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, won a gold medal at the 2017 WJC and hopes for a repeat performance at the 2018 WJC in Buffalo. He was selected by the New Jersey Devils in the third round (No. 73) of the 2016 NHL Draft.
Michael (5-11, 197), who will join his brother at Minnesota-Duluth this season, was chosen by the Los Angeles Kings in the fourth round (No. 103) of the 2017 draft.
"Our personalities are different, but even though we play different positions, we play a similar game," Joseph said. "We're not flashy. He's gritty, smart and deceptive and knows when to make the right play."
Michael believes his older brother has the edge in speed but that he plays a more physical game.
"In some ways, we're very comparable with our work ethic and compete level, but I'd say he's a little faster," Michael said. "I'd say my stick is just as good, if not better than his."
Joseph finished second among rookies in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists), and was tied for second in scoring for Minnesota-Duluth despite being its youngest player. He earned a top-line role for the United States alongside Arizona Coyotes prospect Clayton Keller and Ottawa Senators prospect Colin White at the 2017 WJC, finishing with two assists in seven games.
"Joey is expected to provide offense as a wing at Duluth," NCAA hockey analyst Dave Starman said, "but in the World Junior tournament he had to play a support role for two high-end offensive guys and was able to play that puck-retrieval role where he was good enough defensively to allow those guys to really push the envelope offensively.
"I thought it was an incredible performance by him. He's probably one of my top five players in college hockey heading into 2017-18."
Michael, 18, who had 34 points (five goals, 29 assists) in 54 games in his second season with Waterloo of the United States Hockey League, likes the fact his brother can play in all situations.
"His consistency and the fact he's very reliable are key parts to his game," he said. "Joey's overall compete level is off the charts. I think that's what really separates him from other players.
"So long as he continues to do what he does, I see no reason why he shouldn't be with the New Jersey Devils soon."
Joseph, who left a good impression at Devils development camp earlier this month, is confident in his game and that he can play more of a leadership role if he's selected to play for the United States in the WJC.
"Joey is a relentless, tireless worker, with more skill than people give him credit for," Devils director of amateur scouting Paul Castron said.