Abdelkader Named to US World Junior Squad! Sophomore will compete for United States in Sweden

Hondo S. Carpenter

East Lansing, Mich. - Michigan State sophomore Justin Abdelkader (Muskegon, Mich.) is one of 22 players selected for the 2007 U.S. National Junior Team, announced late Tuesday by USA Hockey. The squad will compete at the 2007 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Leksand and Mora, Sweden, Dec. 26, 2006 - Jan. 5, 2007.

"It’s a great honor to make such a prestigous team, " noted Abdelkader, notified on Tuesday of his selection. "I’m looking forward to a great experience in Sweden."

The squad will be coached by Ron Rolston, who currently serves as the head coach of the US National Team Development Program (NTDP) in Ann Arbor. His assistant coaches will be Phil Housley and Nate Leaman. Keith McKittrick, who is the Spartans’ video coordinator and Assistant to Head Coach Rick Comley, will serve as the video coordinator for the World Junior Squad.

"We are very happy to have Justin as a part of the World Junior Team," commented Rolston, who led the 2005 squad to a gold medal in this tournament. "He brings a lot to the table. Justin is an excellent two-way centerman that plays physically and competes hard every night. He brings strong character to the group - and that’s what we are trying to build with this year’s team. "

The 2007 Championship will feature athletes under the age of 20 on international teams including the United States, Belarus, Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland. The United States will play two exhibition games in Sweden prior to the World Junior Championship, including Dec. 20 against the Czech Republic and Dec. 22 against Switzerland.

Abdelkader has appeared in all 15 Spartan games this season, and is tied for second in points (12) and leads the team in assists (eight). He is a +6, tied for the team best with linemate Tim Kennedy, and has one game-winning goal. In 59 career games in Green and White, he has amassed 14 goals and 20 assists for 34 points. The sophomore will miss four Spartan games while participating in the World Junior tournament: The Great Lakes Invitational on Dec. 29-30, and MSU’s series at Miami on January 5-6.

The 6-2, 203-pound centerman is the 22nd Spartan to participate in the World Junior tournament, and is the first selected since David Booth, Corey Potter, and Dominic Vicari in 2004. That group went on to claim gold at the Tournament, defeating Canada, (4-3) in Helsinki. Three former Michigan State skaters earned multiple selections to WJC teams: Dan McFall was on both the 1982 and 1983 squads, while Adam Hall was selected in both 1999 and 2000. Kelly Miller (1981, 1982, 1983) and Mike York (1996, 1997, and 1998) were three-time selections. Other notable former Spartans to participate are current pros: Rod Brind’Amour (Carolina) in 1989, Bryan Smolinski (Chicago) in 1990, Anson Carter (Columbus) in 1994, and Jim Slater (Atlanta) in 2001.

Courtesy of the MSU SID