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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Team USA announces WJC preliminary roster

Team USA announced the preliminary roster for the 2011 U.S National Junior Team (Under-20) today via live press conference at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, N.Y.

The defending gold medal champs are on home soil this year for what's shaping up to be a battle royale after the Yanks managed to stun the host Canadians in Saskatoon a year ago with John Carlson's overtime strike to clinch the championship for the first time since '04.

Although Carlson is gone (and enjoying an outstanding rookie season with the Washington Capitals), Team USA looks like a contender once again. And, they'll need all the help they can get, because Team Canada is going to come at them hard, with top draft candidate Sean Couturier expected to be a part of the mix. Sweden

Team USA GM Jim Johannson revealed the roster, while coach Keith Allain participated via conference call.

"It's an exciting day for many of the players to be announced as candidates for the team," Johannson said. "We're going to be announcing 29 players today; they come from 13 different states (including four from California)."

The team will gather in Troy, NY on Dec. 16 and play its first exhibition against RPI on the 19th.

The 29 player preliminary roster will be whittled down to 22 players, announced sometime on Dec. 22nd.

"It will be tough to let seven players go, it was tough to get down to 29," Johannson said.

Adam Clendening was live on the call as well. Here is what he said:

"First off, I'd like to thank all the evaluators and coach Allain for giving me the chance to possibly make this team," he said.

"It's going to be exciting playing in what I would like to call my hometown," the Niagara Falls native said. "Having it in Buffalo is really special for me."

So without further ado, here are the names:

G- Jack Campbell, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
G- Andy Iles, Cornell University (ECAC) 2011 draft-eligible ('92- overager)

D- Brian Dumoulin, Boston College (Hockey East)
D- Justin Faulk, Minnesota-Duluth (WCHA)
D- Derek Forbort, University of North Dakota (WCHA)- recovered from mono
D- Nick Leddy, Rockford IceHogs (AHL)
D- Jon Merrill, University of Michigan (CCHA)
D- Jamie Oleksiak, Northeastern University (Hockey East) 2011 draft-eligible
D- John Ramage, University of Wisconsin (WCHA)
D- Philip Samuelsson, Boston College (Hockey East)
D- Patrick Wey, Boston College (Hockey East)
D- Adam Clendening, Boston University (Hockey East)- 2011 draft-eligible

F- Nick Bjugstad, University of Minnesota (WCHA)
F- Ryan Bourque, Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
F- Connor Brickley, University of Vermont (Hockey East)
F- Chris Brown, University of Michigan (CCHA)
F- Mitchell Callahan, Kelowna Rockets (WHL) Red Wings prospect- not at summer camp-- "came in off radar-- well-rounded player, plays a physical game, not afraid to mix it up."
F- Charlie Coyle, Boston University (Hockey East)
F- Jerry D'Amigo, Toronto Marlies (AHL)
F- Emerson Etem, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
F- Rocco Grimaldi, U.S. NTDP U-18 (USHL)- 2011 draft-eligible youngest player on the roster
F- Chris Kreider, Boston College (Hockey East)- "dynamic speed that is unparalleled from what I've seen from this tournament in several years."
F- Jeremy Morin, Rockford Ice Hogs (AHL)- "Jet" should move up from third line role he played last year
F- Brock Nelson, University of North Dakota (WCHA)
F- Matt Nieto, Boston University (Hockey East) 2011 draft-eligible
F- Kyle Palmieri, Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
F- Brandon Saad, Saginaw Spirit (OHL) 2011 draft eligible
F- Drew Shore, University of Denver (WCHA)
F- Jason Zucker, University of Denver (WCHA)

2011 draft eligibles quick analysis-

Iles is not considered much of a pro prospect because of his diminutive size, but he is a gamer, having led Salisbury School to the 2009 prep title. His presence on the NTDP and the fact that he played pretty well for Team USA as Campbell's backup made his selection pretty much a no-brainer. A '92 birthdate, Iles was passed over in 2010, but a strong season at Cornell could get him a look. However, as was the case with another small, talented goalie in John Muse, Iles may have to go the free agent route to pursue his pro dream.

"He'll never give up on a puck, he'll never give up on a play," Johannson said of Iles, who has very quick feet and athleticism to compensate for his lack of size.

Oleksiak is huge and raw, but the dual-citizen playing for Northeastern is gaining traction in draft circles as a shutdown guy. A veteran of the USHL, he doesn't have much offensive upside, but moves pretty well for such a big kid and could be one of these off-the-board selections who will be rated lower by Central and independent scouting services, but will get picked higher because of his sheer physical potential.

Clendening is a first-round candidate who is hitting his stride at BU and is a two-time gold medal winner at the Under-18s in '09 and '10. He should make this roster because of his sheer puck-moving ability and international experience.

"He's a guy that shows to me such tremendous poise with the puck," Allain said. "He has no panic point. He can be a power play point guy, can see players away from the puck. We want to be a puck possession team and he's a puck possession defenseman."

Grimaldi may be the most purely skilled of any of the forwards. A blazing skater with tremendous hands, he's most often compared to Brian Gionta at the same age in terms of style and substance because he's been so productive despite the lack of size. It will be interesting to see if he makes the final cut, but when you watch the New England Patriots and see a small guy like Danny Woodhead tearing it up, you have to think that there is a place for a small, uber-skilled player like Grimaldi at the WJC. Everybody loves an underdog.

Nieto, like Grimaldi and Clendening, is an NTDP veteran and gold medalist who brings explosive offense to the mix. A close pal of Etem's growing up in SoCal, Nieto's had a bit of an adjustment to the Hockey East this season, but is still a strong contender for second round consideration and maybe as high as late first depending on how much the teams picking 25-30 like him.

Finally, Saad was touted by Johannson as a top-five pick for the draft. He's a pure power package of size and ability. Unless he lays an egg in the camp and exhibition games, I can't imagine that he'll be left off. He can bring that important physical and skill element to offset the smaller forwards this USA team has.

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