Local product Riley Barber may get the chance to help Team USA defend its gold medal at the World Junior Championship and represent Pittsburgh on the international stage once again.
On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh native was named to the preliminary roster for the 2014 U.S. National Junior Team that will participate in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship Dec. 26, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014, in Malmo, Sweden.
A year ago, Barber and three other kids that also spent time developing in the Pittsburgh youth hockey system – goalie John Gibson and forwards J.T. Miller and Vince Trocheck – helped Team USA win a gold medal at the 2013 World Junior Championship with their 3-1 win over Sweden in Ufa, Russia and showcased the tremendous growth of the sport in Western Pennsylvania.
Barber – whose dad, former NHLer Don Barber, coached him and his three Team USA teammates at the Pittsburgh Hornets – finished the tournament with six points (3G-3A) in seven games.
While the other three have all turned professional – Miller has played 15 games with the New York Rangers this season, the team that made him the highest-drafted Pittsburgh born-and-trained player when they took him 15th overall in 2011; Anaheim Ducks prospect Gibson is dominating in the American Hockey League for the Norfolk Admirals; and Florida Panthers prospect Trocheck has 18 points in 21 games with San Antonio – Barber is in his sophomore season with the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks. The 2012 sixth-round draft pick of the Washington Capitals is tied for third in the country with 15 points.
There are a few other notable names with Penguins connections on Team USA’s preliminary roster.
Henrik Samuelsson, who is the son of former Penguin Ulf Samuelsson and the brother of Philip Samuelsson, a 2009 second-round pick of the Penguins currently with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, is looking to make his first U.S. National Junior Team.
Henrik may have inherited his size from his dad (6-foot-3, 205 pounds), but not his position. The forward, drafted by Phoenix in the first round (27th overall) back in 2012, has 10 goals and 33 points in 25 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League.
Ryan Fitzgerald, the son of Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, was also named to Team USA’s preliminary roster in hopes of playing in his first World Junior Championship. The forward has earned consideration after a strong start to his freshman season at Boston College, as he’s on a point-per-game pace with 7 goals and 7 assists in 14 contests.
Fitzgerald was named the MVP of the first annual CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in 2012, which the Penguins hosted this September. Fans in the area got a chance to watch the brightest American talent on the cusp of being drafted and becoming high-profile and well-known, and a couple of those players are also on this roster: goaltender Thatcher Demko and forward Tony DeAngelo.
Both helped Team Johnson to a 5-2 victory over Team Mullen in that game, as starting goaltender Demko (Boston College) was flawless in 28:23 of action, stopping all six shots he faced, and Philadelpia native DeAngelo collected a pretty assist on the power-play when he made a no-look pass that resulted in a goal.
The 26 total players will participate in a training camp Dec. 15-18 at the University of Minnesota's Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis, with preparations continuing in Angelholm, Sweden, before the final 23-man roster is announced on Dec. 23. The U.S. will play three games before the start of the IIHF World Junior Championship, including Dec. 17 against Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minn., and contests in Angelholm vs. Finland on Dec. 20 and Sweden on Dec. 22.