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Trio Of Panthers Named To Team USA

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers
Nick Bjugstad, who scored the game-winner in the bronze medal game in last year Worlds Juniors Championships returns for a second straight season for Team USA. (Getty Images)
The Panthers will be well represented at the upcoming World Juniors held in Calgary and Edmonton and starting on December 26.

Team USA was the latest to announce their final roster for the Championship tournament pitting the best players under the age of 20 and three Panthers prospects will be donning the red, white and blue.

Nick Bjugstad returns for a second go around as he looks to lead the United States as they hope to upgrade on their bronze medal taken in Buffalo last season. The Cats first round pick (19th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft recorded four points including the game-winner against Sweden in the bronze medal game in last year's tournament.

He'll be joined by University of Minnesota teammate Kyle Rau. Drafted in the third round (91st overall) of this past summer's draft, the forward has had a scintilating start to his first year in college, registering 22 points (12-10-22) in 20 games with the Gophers.

Rounding out Team USA in regards to Panthers futures is forward Connor Brickley. The Panthers second round pick (50th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft has recorded eight goals among his 10 points (8-2-10) in 15 games and is one of the bright spots for the University of Vermont in his second season with the program.

Bjugstad, Rau and Brickley join Quinton Howden and Jonathan Huberdeau (Team Canada) at this year's tournament. Team Finland and Team Russia have yet to announce their final rosters for the tournament but two more Cats prospects could be joining the five in hopes of gold. On Finland's preliminary roster and looking to return for a second straight go is forward Joonas Donskoi who was selected in the fourth round (99th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. For Russia, fifth-round selection (124th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft forward Yaroslav Kosov is among 32 players listed on the preliminary roster.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - USA Hockey today announced the 22 members of the U.S. National Junior Team that will compete at the 2012 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Dec. 26, 2011-Jan. 5, 2012, in Edmonton and Calgary, Alta.

Among those on the U.S. roster are seven returning players from the bronze medal-winning 2011 U.S. National Junior Team, including goaltender Jack Campbell (Port Huron, Mich./Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds); defensemen Derek Forbort (Duluth, Minn./Univ. of North Dakota) and Jon Merrill (Brighton, Mich./Univ. of Michigan); and forwards Nick Bjugstad (Blaine, Minn./Univ. of Minnesota), Charlie Coyle (East Weymouth, Mass./Boston Univ.), Emerson Etem (Long Beach, Calif./Medicine Hat Tigers) and Jason Zucker (Las Vegas, Nev./Univ. of Denver).

Both Campbell and Zucker were also members of the gold medal-winning 2010 U.S. National Junior Team.

"Every year this decision seems to get harder," said Jim Johannson, general manager of the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team and also the assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. "The number of talented players from which we get to form a team says a lot about hockey's growth in the United States as a whole."

"Having been behind the bench when we won the gold medal two years ago, I can't wait to get started again," said Dean Blais, head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. "This is an incredible group of players whose speed and tenacity should help us succeed in Edmonton and Calgary."

The U.S. will look to earn its third straight medal after capturing the bronze medal at the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship in Buffalo, N.Y., and the gold medal at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship in Saskatoon, Sask.
NOTES: The U.S. National Junior Team is currently in the midst of a pre-tournament camp taking place in Alberta, Canada. Team USA has already taken part in two pre-tournament games, and will play its final pre-tournament contest tomorrow (Dec. 23) against Slovakia in Three Hills, Alta. ... The U.S. roster includes 15 first- or second-round NHL Entry Draft picks, including eight first-rounders ... NHL Network U.S. will televise all Team USA games in the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship and 15 games total in the event. For the complete broadcast schedule, click here... Dean Blais, head men's ice hockey coach at the University of Nebraska Omaha, is serving as head coach of the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team. He is assisted by Scott Sandelin, head men's ice hockey coach at the University of Minnesota Duluth; Tom Ward, head ice hockey coach of the Shattuck-St. Mary's School's boys' prep team; and Joe Exter, assistant men's ice hockey coach at Ohio State University ... Jim Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, is serving as the general manager of Team USA for the third consecutive year. Tim Taylor (Guilford, Conn.), former U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team head coach and longtime Yale University men's ice hockey team head coach, is also serving his third straight year as Team USA's director of player personnel ... The U.S. National Junior Team blog will include daily updates with game recaps, photos and multimedia content. The blog can be found here... Use the hashtag #USAWJC to join the conversation on Twitter.
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