Team USA isn't taking any chances with the younger kids, as every member of the 2011 squad already is property of an NHL team, save for backup goalie Andy Iles, who deserves to be there by virtue of his talent, commitment and experience (his lack of size prevents him from being considered a legitimate pro prospect, but you're likely to hear from him at some point).
So, with that in mind. Here's an initial look at the Team USA roster that stacks up on paper with the best and favorites given the balance of skill, size, pro experience and familiarity with the systems that have brought USA Hockey a ton of international success in recent years.
Jack Campbell, G-- He was Mr. Everything for USA Hockey over the past several years, leading the Americans to consecutive gold medals in the Under-18s and their first Under-20 gold since 2004, breaking Canada's stranglehold of five straight championships. Campbell is big, athletic and simply money when it comes to international play. He's struggled to meet expectations for the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, but he's still an immensely talented player who will be at home in his element in this tourney. He's got a ton of expectations on him both as a Dallas Stars 1st-rounder last June and as his team's go-to guy in net. As Campbell goes, so go USA's title hopes.
Andy Iles, G-- Campbell's backup on the U.S. Under-18 team last year is an excellent goalie in his own right. He was tremendous in leading the Salisbury School to the 2009 NEPSIHA championship and has some of the quickest pads I've ever seen in any goalie. The size works against him, but he's a battler and smart kid (doing well as a freshman at Cornell). If he sees the puck, he stops it. Unfortunately, because he's only about 5-8, when teams crash the net and take away his sight lines, he becomes vulnerable.
John Ramage, D-- The only returning defender from last year's champion, Ramage is as solid and savvy as they come. He's not spectacular out there, but the old adage that a defenseman is doing his job best if you don't notice him holds true for Ramage. He was a rock in Saskatoon and will be another key cog for USA this time around. Calgary prospect.
Jon Merrill, D-- He had off-ice troubles that dogged him last year, but the big, skilled Michigander is proving his worth this season with the University of Michigan (last seen potting two goals in the Big Chill win over hated rival Michigan State). New Jersey prospect should make that Devils team sooner rather than later because of the dire straits they're in with a lumbering backline that can't move the puck. This will be a huge audition for him on the world stage, and believe me-- Lou Lamoriello's lieutenant and longtime scouting confidant David Conte will be watching.
Nick Leddy, D-- 2009 Minnesota Mr. Hockey was drafted by his home team the Wild, but traded to Chicago less than a year later. He's already gotten some NHL experience (1 goal in six games) at the tender age of 19, and brings legitimate speed and world class offense from the blue line despite the diminutive package. He may not have as much international play under his belt as others, but make no mistake-- this guy can play.
Derek Forbort, D-- 2010 1st-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings (in Boston's 15th overall draft slot after Dean Lombardi made a deal with Florida to move up) was said to have potentially the biggest upside of any defender in the draft with his size (6-5, 200) and ability. He has nine assists in 15 games with the University of North Dakota Sioux and was a stalwart for the U.S. Under-18 team last year. This is going to be an excellent challenge for him.
Justin Faulk, D-- Carolina got themselves a great value with this player in the second round, and he was a serious draft candidate for the Bruins, having been brought in to Boston for a look. Although he comes in a small package, he plays much bigger than his 5-11 (listed) frame and is having a tremendous freshman year for Minnesota-Duluth, with 15 points in 18 games. He has a big, powerful shot and is going to run one of USA's power plays. Think of him as an American version of Ryan Ellis-- maybe not as skilled/productive offensively, but better defensively. Character guy, too. He's going to see a lot of action.
Brian Dumoulin, D-- Another Hurricanes prospect on D, this Boston College standout has very good size and skating ability. He's a two-way horse like Forbort, though he doesn't have as much international experience. Dumoulin really exploded onto the scene in 2009 as a member of the N.H. Jr. Monarchs (EJHL) after leading his Biddeford, Maine H.S. team to a state championship at a much lower level of competition. Because of his 6-3 frame and wheels, you just knew he was going to be a pretty high pick, even if he hadn't faced elite competition at the time of the draft. Since then, he's proven himself at the NCAA D. 1 level with a national title last spring and is a nice selection for USA.
Patrick Wey, D-- Dumoulin's BC teammate is a fourth-rounder of Washington's in '09 and from Pittsburgh. He projects as the 7th defender-- just a no-frills package of heady, stay-at-home defense. Solid skater, who does his job effectively without fanfare. Don't know how many games he'll get into or how many minutes he'll log, but should anyone go down or struggle, coach Keith Allain has a solid option with Wey.
Will be back with writeups on the forwards later.
Chris Peters has his thoughts and notes up on the roster over at his blog and it's worth reading. I'll try not to lift any of his material when I do my forwards breakdown. Lol.