The winner of the 2016 World Junior Championship won’t be decided until January, but the journey is already underway for three Nashville Predators prospects.
Defenseman Jack Dougherty of Team USA, defenseman Alexandre Carrier of Canada and goaltender Karel Vejmelka of the Czech Republic are skating for their respective countries this week, all vying for a shot to play for Gold at the 2016 WJC.
USA Hockey invites approximately 45 players to their National Junior Evaluation Camp each August, part of the process to select the U.S. National Junior Team to compete in the WJC each December, this year being held Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Helsinki, Finland. Teams from Sweden and Finland are also participating in the USA Camp, which began on Aug. 1.
Dougherty, who inked an entry-level deal with the Preds on July 24, has already skated in three games for the Blue squad at the camp held in Lake Placid, New York, recording two penalty minutes. Drafted by Nashville in 2014, Dougherty is expected to play his first season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League in 2015-16.
Canada’s National Junior Team Summer Development Camp also includes teams from Russia and the Czech Republic, with a handful of games over the coming days.
Both Carrier (fourth round) and Vejmelka (fifth round), slated to appear at the Canada camp, were selected by the Predators in the 2015 NHL Draft.
All three Preds prospects have previously made appearances for their countries at the U-18 World Championships, including a Gold Medal win for Dougherty in 2014.
Currently, there are 25 players in the Nashville system who have participated in the World Juniors, including the likes of Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Seth Jones and Filip Forsberg.
Weber, Forsberg and Jones, along with Ryan Ellis, Cody Hodgson, Jimmy Vesey, Saku Maenalanen, Mikko Vainonen and Juuse Saros have all won Gold at the WJC.
Aug. 4 Update:
Carrier and Team Canada defeated Russia 4-1 on Monday night in the first game of the Summer Development Camp. The Canadians face Vejmelka and the Czech Republic on Tuesday. Dougherty was among the cuts as Team USA trimmed their roster on Tuesday.
Stay tuned to NashvillePredators.com throughout the week for updates on how the Preds prospects are faring at their respective camps.