Saturday was the first day of USA Hockey selection camp to determine the 23-player roster for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship to be held in Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia, Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
EVERETT, Wash. -- The USA Hockey selection camp began Saturday with 29 players looking to make the United States roster for the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The camp runs through Monday at Angel of the Winds Arena before moving to Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia, Dec. 18-20. The U.S. will play exhibition games against Russia at Sandman Centre on Dec. 20 (10 p.m. ET) and Czech Republic at George Preston Recreation Centre in Langley, British Columbia, on Dec. 22 (10 p.m. ET).
"The focus today was getting the guys out and trying to get our pace up to what it needs to be and make sure we get everyone involved," U.S. coach Mike Hastings said. "We're going through things we want to start to implement early in camp. We'll start building on the idea of chemistry and possible line combinations over the next week and a half, but that wasn't our focus today."
The U.S. will play preliminary round games in Victoria in Group B against Finland, Kazakhstan, Slovakia and Sweden. It opens the tournament against Slovakia on Dec. 26 (6:30 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).
Hastings used much of the two-hour practice to become acquainted with the group and have the players work on playing in close quarters in each section of the ice.
"Our defense corps is going to have to defend and take time and space away, and our forwards are going to have to learn to play in tight areas, make plays and hold on to pucks," Hastings said. "We want our forwards to possess the puck and buy their own time."
Valuable evaluation time
U.S. national junior team general manager John Vanbiesbrouck said he doesn't expect to make any cuts until after the exhibition game against the Czech Republic. Vanbiesbrouck and his managerial team will need to cut six players before traveling to Victoria for the start of the tournament.
"We'll use the full amount of time, and we have to do that," Vanbiesbrouck said. "We have 29 guys and we want to give everyone an opportunity from the goal line on out. We have some new faces who are here that weren't with us at the World Junior Summer Showcase in Kamloops in August, so we'll use the full time. There's also a very good possibility that we keep all three goalies on the roster."
Jack Hughes: My greatest WJC memory
Jack Hughes of USA Hockey's Under-18 National Team Development Program said he and his brothers (Quinn and Luke) have watched many exciting games pitting the U.S. against Canada at the World Junior Championship, but his favorite memory was when defenseman John Carlson scored his second goal of the game in overtime to give the U.S. a 6-5 win in the gold medal game of the 2010 WJC in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
"After he won it for the Americans, I went into the locker room of the team I was playing for at the time (Mississauga Rebels) the next day and held my head high in front of all my Canadian teammates. That was a pretty cool moment."
Video: Hughes brothers on their passion and future
Learning from Johannson
Vanbiesbrouck is in his first year as GM, a position that Jim Johannson held nine straight years before he died of heart disease on Jan. 21.
Vanbiesbrouck doesn't take the role for granted and knows he has big shoes to fill. The U.S. won three WJC gold medals (2010, 2013, 2017) and three bronze medals (2011, 2016, 2018) under Johannson.
"This is an unbelievably fun time of the year," Vanbiesbrouck said. "I always loved to see the excitement on J.J.'s face during this tournament and how he'd talk about the players. I learned a lot from him. To see excitement at a time when people sometimes are down and feeling bad, J.J. always had a nice quip that would pick you up, make you feel that maybe things aren't so bad, because hockey is such a great sport. I appreciated that in him."
Video: Vanbiesbrouck on USA Hockey, developing hockey here
Quote of the day
"Sometimes in this tournament, your sticks can get tight, and we're not overlooking anybody. Canada is in everyone's sights. They are the host and they have great hockey players, but so does everybody else. We have to prepare for everyone equally, and we're not looking ahead to playing Canada (in the medal round) right now. We're looking at the process and getting that in place." -- Vanbiesbrouck on whether he is upset the U.S. will not play Canada in the preliminary round