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Milano, Eichel top U.S. roster for World U-18

by Mike G. Morreale

NHL scouts will have a great opportunity to see some of the best American-born prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship, to be held April 17-27 in Finland.

Among the players picked for the United States team are five players in the top 30 on NHL Central Scouting's midterm ranking of the top North American skaters for this year's draft.

Leading that group is Sonny Milano, a 5-foot-11.5, 183-pound left wing who had 24 goals and 73 points in 50 games with the United States National Team Development Program's under-18 team. He's No. 16 on Central Scouting's list.


GOALIES: Edwin Minney, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014 draft eligible); Alex Nedeljkovic, Plymouth, OHL (2014)

DEFENSEMEN: Louie Belpedio, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Ryan Collins, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Jack Dougherty, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Brandon Fortunato, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Jack Glover, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Noah Hanifin, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2015); Johnathan MacLeod, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014)

FORWARDS: Anders Bjork, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Kyle Connor, Youngstown, USHL (2015); Jack Eichel, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2015); Jared Fiegl, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Shane Gersich, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Ryan Hitchcock, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Dylan Larkin, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Auston Matthews, USNTDP U-17, USHL (2016); Sonny Milano, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Dylan Pavelek, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Nolan Stevens, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Alex Tuch, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014); Joe Wegwerth, USNTDP U-18, USHL (2014)

Joining Milano are four teammates with the USNTDP U-18 team: center Dylan Larkin (No. 17), center/right wing Alex Tuch (No. 21), defenseman Jack Glover (No. 27) and defenseman Jack Dougherty (No. 29).

Also among those picked were two of Central Scouting's top five goaltenders in their midterm ranking: No. 2 Edwin Minney of the USNTDP and No. 5 Alex Nedeljkovic of the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League.

Of the 22 players picked for the roster, 18 are eligible for the 2014 draft.

Three players on the roster are eligible for the 2015 draft: defenseman Noah Hanifin, and forwards Jack Eichel and Kyle Connor. Forward Auston Matthews of Scottsdale, Ariz., is eligible for the 2016 draft.

Eichel, who led the U.S. U-18 National Team Development Program with 33 goals and 75 points this season, is the only returnee from the team that won silver last year. A Boston University recruit, Eichel (6-foot-1, 191 pounds) was the youngest player competing for the Under-18 NTDP this season.

"His speed and strength are uncommon in a player his age, and those attributes allow him to get separation on the ice offensively and excel defensively," U-18 coach Danton Cole said. "I would also add that his compete level is very high and he wants to win regardless of the situation, even at the end of practice. The bigger the moment in our games, you can tell he wants to end it and he has the ability to do so. Coaches like that in a player."

Cole will coach the United States at the tournament. The U.S. has won 10 consecutive medals at the event, including six gold medals. The Americans' streak of four straight gold medals ended last year when Canada beat the U.S. 3-2 in the championship game.

The United States will play in Group B, with the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland and Switzerland. The Group A field consists of Canada, Germany, Russia, Slovakia and Sweden.


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