After USA Hockey announced their 2012 World Junior Championship Preliminary roster, we know the USA will be likely be bringing it.
As expected, the USA Hockey selected big bodies Monday night, especially on the blue line, with no defenceman weighing in less than 190 pounds.
USA Hockey continued the trend of bringing big forwards back with the likes of returnees Nick Bjugstad (6’4”, 204 lbs.) and Charlie Coyle (6’2”, 207). A new crop of big forwards were also brought in to compete for forward spots headlined by first time selections Austin Watson (6’3”, 195) and Brian Ferlin (6’1” 200).
There was much skepticism amongst the internet communities on whether or not Brandon Saad, after declining an invitation for undisclosed reasons to the summer Evaluation Camp in August, would be named to the preliminary roster by the USA Hockey committee. The debate was quickly ended as Saad was one of the 17 forwards named on the NHL Network’s selection show.
While the debate has begun on which 22 players will be selected to represent the United States come Boxing Day, I have offered my predictions below.
Jack Campbell – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
John Gibson – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Adam Clendening – Boston University (Hockey East)
Jarred Tinordi – London Knights (OHL)
Seth Jones – USNTDP (USHL)
Derek Forbort – University of North Dakota (WCHA)
Jon Merrill – University of Michigan (CCHA)
Stephen Johns – University of Notre Dame (CCHA)
Austin Levi – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Jason Zucker – Denver University (WCHA)
Nick Bjugstad – University of Minnesota (WCHA)
Emerson Etem – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Brandon Saad – Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Charlie Coyle – Boston University (Hockey East)
Kyle Rau – University of Minnesota (WCHA)
Shane Prince – Ottawa 67s (OHL)
Austin Watson – Peterborough Petes (OHL)
Connor Brickley – University of Vermont (Hockey East)
T.J. Tynan – University of Notre Dame (CCHA)
J.T. Miller – Plymouth Whalers (OHL)
Brian Ferlin – Cornell University (ECAC)
Bill Arnold – Boston College (Hockey East)
Much has been made of USA Hockey’s omissions of OHL forwards Vincent Trocheck, Jared Knight, and Stefan Noesen on the selection camp roster. While I projected Knight and Noesen would make the USA squad before the selection show, I can understand why the selection committee left the trio off. No, it has nothing to do with a pro-NCAA bias, rather more to do with the players’ primary roles already being filled by better players. With maybe a minor exception to the a winger on the second line, the US’ top six forwards are already solidified with Saad, Bjugstad, Coyle, Emerson Etem, Jason Zucker, and Shane Prince upfront.
Having the three traditional top six forwards, especially Trocheck and Noesen, playing on the third line would likely not be a good fit for USA upfront. Nonetheless, I believe players like Ferlin, Connor Brickley, Bill Arnold, and J.T. Miller can gel to create a third line that can wreak havoc with their grit and the ability to provide scoring pop if need be.
There still remains a major question mark on whether or not the Carolina Hurricanes will release would-be returnee Justin Faulk to play in week and a half tournament. Similar to the situation Team Canada has with Erik Gudbranson and the decision to include him on the preliminary roster, leads me to believe Faulk will be wearing the red, white, and blue against Denmark on Boxing Day. If that’s the case, expect Austin Levi left off.
Much of the overall success of Team USA I believe will be determined by the play of defenceman that currently reside in Ann Arbor, Mich. area. University of Michigan’s Jon Merrill, who has yet to play a game this season due to team suspension, will be a likely key returner as he led last year’s US defenceman with five points (1 G, 4 A). 17-year-old Seth Jones has anchored the U18 National Team Development Program and was one of the best players on the ice during the Summer Evaluation Camp. Look for Jones to not only make this team, but make a strong case on why he needs to be in the debate for the first overall choice in 2013 NHL Entry Draft throughout the course of the tournament.
Will this group of players be able to improve on last year’s bronze performance and/or clinch gold like the last time the World Junior Championships was held in Canada? The picture will become clearer when the team begins practices on Dec. 17 in Camrose, Alberta.
Andrew Weiss is a draft correspondent at Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!