EDMONTON, AB - Phil Kemp was close. So close.
All indications were that the Yale defenceman was part of Team USA's 2018 World Junior Championship squad last December until the unthinkable happened.
"I actually touched down in Buffalo, got off the bus and the coach pulled me into a room," the Oilers 2017 seventh-round pick said Tuesday at Development Camp. "It was tough last year."
Kemp was snubbed from the bronze medal-winning U.S. club, which featured 2017 first-round selection Kailer Yamamoto. It stained his mind and the 6-foot-3, 201-pound rearguard hopes not to experience it again.
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Rather, he wants to make up for it this upcoming season.
"It's something I'll never forget but I knew I had one year left of eligibility," Kemp, entering his second Oilers Development Camp, said. "It's up to me to not waste it."
Kemp has already been invited to the 2018 World Junior Summer Showcase, which takes place in Kamloops, BC, from July 28 to Aug. 4. Teams use the event as a preliminary training camp, of sorts, leading up to the World Juniors.
"That definitely fired me up for the next year and a half to try to get ready," he said, stressing the importance the circuit will have. "It's huge. I'm going to do whatever I can this summer leading into the Fall."
Kemp is firm in his ability. The 19-year-old knows what services he can provide to his nation on the ice when the best players aged 20 and younger compete for global supremacy.
"I think I'm a little more than a role guy but at the World Juniors, role players are pivotal," he said. "Obviously, the power play is crucial but I think I'm a really good asset on the penalty kill. It's pivotal in a game like that where one power play, one penalty kill makes the difference.
"That's my role and that will help me make the team."