The first stage to finalizing the U.S. roster for the 2012 World Junior Championship was made by USA Hockey on Thursday with the release of the 40 skaters invited to the National Junior Evaluation Camp this August in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Among the players set to attend the camp, which will be held at Lake Placid's Olympic Center from Aug. 6-13, are seven returnees from last year's team that won the bronze medal in Buffalo. Defensemen Justin Faulk, Derek Forbort and Jonathan Merrill received invitations, as well as forwards Nick Bjugstad, Charlie Coyle, Emerson Etem and Jason Zucker. Zucker was also a member of the 2010 WJC team that won gold in Saskatoon.
Also invited were 17 players eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft. Among them are six players ranked in NHL Central Scouting's top 30 North American skaters for next month's draft -- Northeastern University defenseman Jamieson Oleksiak (No. 13), Saginaw Spirit forward Brandon Saad (19), U.S. National Team Development Program forward Tyler Biggs (22), USNTDP center Jonathan Miller (23) and USNTDP defenseman Connor Murphy (25), and Ottawa 67s center Shane Prince (26).
Fourteen NHL teams will have at least one prospect at the camp, topped by three from the Chicago Blackhawks -- defensemen Justin Holl and Stephen Johns, and forward Kevin Hayes. The Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings will have two players there each.
Only two of the 40 players invited either haven't been drafted or aren't draft-eligible this year -- Fargo Force defenseman Brian Cooper is part of the 2012 Draft class, while USNTDP blueliner defensemen Seth Jones won't be draft-eligible until 2013.
A separate announcement of the goaltenders invited to the camp will be announced later this month.
Dean Blais, who guided the 2010 team to WJC gold, will coach the 2012 U.S. entry, with Scott Sandelin, Tom Ward and Joe Exter serving as assistant coaches. Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and New York Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan also will be part of the camp coaching staff.
U.S. National Team Evaluation Camp roster
Defensemen: Adam Clendening, Boston University (2011 draft eligible); Brian Cooper, Fargo, USHL (2012 draft eligible); Justin Faulk, Minnesota-Duluth (Hurricanes); Derek Forbort, North Dakota (Kings); Kevin Gravel, St. Cloud State (Kings); Justin Holl, Minnesota (Blackhawks); Stephen Johns, Notre Dame (Blackhawks); Seth Jones, USNTDP, USHL (2013 draft eligible); Austin Levi, Plymouth, OHL (Hurricanes); Jonathon Merrill, Michigan, (Devils); Connor Murphy, USNTDP, USHL (2011 draft eligible); Jamieson Oleksiak, Northeastern, (2011 draft eligible); Robbie Russo, USNTDP, USHL (2011 draft eligible); Jared Tinordi, London, OHL (Canadiens).
Forwards: Kenny Agostino, Yale, (Penguins); Bill Arnold, Des Moines USHL (Flames); Chase Balisy, Western Michigan, (2011 draft eligible); Tyler Biggs, USNTDP, USHL (2011 draft eligible); Nick Bjugstad, Minnesota (Panthers); Reid Boucher, USNTDP, USHL (2011 draft eligible); Connor Brickley, Vermont, (Panthers); Charlie Coyle, Boston University (Sharks); Emerson Etem, Medicine Hat, WHL (Ducks); Rocco Grimaldi, USNTDP, USHL (2011 draft eligible); Kevin Hayes, Boston College (Blackhawks); Jared Knight, London, OHL (Bruins); Phil Lane, Brampton, OHL (Coyotes); Shane McColgan, Kelowna, WHL (2011 draft eligible); Michael Mersch, Wisconsin (2011 draft eligible); Jonathan Miller, USNTDP, USHL (2011 draft eligible); Matt Nieto, Boston University (2011 draft eligible); Stefan Noesen, Plymouth, OHL (2011 draft eligible); Shane Prince, Ottawa, OHL (2011 draft eligible); Bryan Rust, Notre Dame (Penguins); Brandon Saad, Saginaw, OHL (2011 draft eligible); Nicholas Shore, Denver (2011 draft eligible); Vincent Trocheck, Saginaw, OHL (2011 draft eligible); T.J. Tynan, Peterborough, OHL (Predators); Jason Zucker, Denver (Wild).