U.S. juniors to get last chance to audition for WJC

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com
Junior hockey players got their first chance to audition for a spot on the U.S. World Junior Championship team in August in Lake Placid, N.Y. Then they had the first part of their respective seasons to further that impact.

And now, they'll have one final chance to show their stuff to the USA Hockey talent evaluators at a pre-tournament camp Dec. 17-19 in Grand Forks, N.D.

"We are very excited about this group of players and their performance leading up to the tournament," said Dean Blais, who will coach the U.S. team at the 2010 WJC in Saskatchewan. "Selecting our final team from this list will be difficult, and we're looking forward to Grand Forks to help us get a clearer picture on the team's final makeup." 

The list of players will be trimmed slightly after the three days of camp, and a final roster will be unveiled following an exhibition game against the Czech Republic on Dec. 22 in Regina, Sask.

Three members from the 2009 WJC squad that finished fifth in Ottawa will be at the camp -- forwards Tyler Johnson, Danny Kristo and Jordan Schroeder.

Schroeder, a 2009 first-round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, is aiming for his third straight WJC team. At the 2009 event, he led the team with 11 points in six games. In his second season at the University of Minnesota, Schroeder has 10 points in 14 games.

Johnson had 1 goal in six games, but is scoring at a near point-per-game clip with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League, with 24 points in 26 games.

Kristo, a standout at the Lake Placid camp, has 13 points in 14 games at the University of North Dakota. A 2008 third-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens, Blais lauded Kristo for his play on the ice as well as his presence in the locker room.

"I think he is a leader, real good in the dressing room," Blais told NHL.com in August. "We're not trying to get a captain out of this thing, we have enough time before all that unfolds, but I think he's got those leadership abilities."

Another potential leader that was invited was defenseman John Carlson. A 2008 first-round pick of the Washington Capitals, the 6-foot-3, 208-pounder saw his first NHL action last month, going scoreless in three games. In 20 AHL games with the Hershey Bears, Carlson had 13 assists and 14 games.

Adding strength to the blue line is the Windsor Spitfires' Cam Fowler, who leads the Ontario Hockey League with 36 assists and the league's defensemen with 39 points.

In all, 20 of the 29 players at the pre-tournament camp auditioned in Lake Placid. Among those playing their way into consideration is a pair of University of Michigan forwards, Chris Brown and David Wohlberg. Brown, a 2009 second-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, is second on his team with 11 points in 14 games. Wohlberg, a 2008 sixth-round pick of the New Jersey Devils, has 9 points and 22 penalty minutes in 14 games.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com.