Nashville Predators prospect Austin Watson
, the team's first round pick at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, was named to Team USA's final roster for this year's World Junior Championships. This year's tournament will run from Dec. 26 - Jan. 5 in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta.
Fellow Preds prospect Miikka Salomaki
was named to Team Finland's World Junior roster last week.
Watson has had a strong pre-tournament camp with Team USA. He scored the shootout winner in Sunday's intra-squad scrimmage and followed that up with an assist in Team USA's 6-3 exhibition loss to Team Russia on Tuesday. Watson also contributed to Team USA's 7-3 exhibition win over Team Switzerland on Wednesday. The US wraps up its pre-tournament schedule with an exhibition game against Slovakia on Friday.
This season Watson has posted 14 goals and 33 points in 32 games for Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League, including points in 17 of his last 18 games played for Peterborough (10 goals, 14 assists in those 18 games).
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."
Team USA is in a Preliminary Round pool with Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Finland. The top three teams after pool play advance to the single-elimination round.
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.