Team USA intrigues with 2016 World Junior Championship camp invites
It was no surprise to see Auston Matthews listed among the 29 players invited to USA Hockey’s selection camp for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The 18-year-old phenom is tearing up the Swiss league, with 11 goals and 20 points in 19 games for Zurich, and cementing his position as the top player available in the 2016 NHL draft.
But there were plenty of names that were noteworthy for their presence on the list ... or their omission.
Including Matthews, the camp will feature eight returnees from the American side that finished fifth last year in Toronto/Montreal: goaltenders Brandon Halverson and Alex Nedeljkovic, defensemen Brandon Carlo, Zach Werenski and Ryan Collins, and forwards Sonny Milano and Nick Schmaltz.
The Americans chose not to invite forwards Jack Eichel and Dylan Larkin or defenseman Noah Hanifin. Although all three players have junior eligibility remaining, none were expected to be freed by their NHL teams to participate in the tournament.
One eligible member of the 2015 squad, Minnesota first rounder Alex Tuch, a winger, was not invited.
Also noticeably missing were a pair of Winnipeg Jets first rounders: forwards Kyle O'Connor (16 points in 13 games with Michigan) and Jack Roslovic (16 points in 16 games with Miami of Ohio). Forward Jeremy Bracco, the Toronto second rounder who ditched Boston College early this season for Kitchener of the OHL, was also passed over, as were wingers Christian Fischer, an Arizona second rounder who has 16 goals and 31 points in 27 games for OHL Windsor, and 22-goal man Dennis Yan (Tampa Bay). They were snubbed in favor of a younger group that features eight draft-eligible players, including LW Matthew Tkachuk of the London Knights, RW Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters, and blueliner Chad Krys, center Clayton Keller and forward Kieffer Bellows from USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
The 17-year-old Bellows is the youngest player invited to the camp and one of the most interesting. The son of former NHLer Brian Bellows plays a power forward’s game and paces his team with 20 goals. One scout recently described him to SI.com as someone who “makes you pay attention every time you see him. He’s not big but he plays a heavy game and is very competitive ... [with] great hands and a nice touch down low.”
Camp will be held Dec. 15-18 at Agganis Arena on the campus of Boston University. The U.S. will open tournament play Dec. 26 against Canada in Helsinki.
Here’s a look at the entire camp roster:
• Brandon Halverson, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL (drafted by Rangers, 59th, 2014)
• Luke Opilka, Kitchener, OHL (Blues], 146th, 2015)
• Alex Nedeljkovic, Plymouth, OHL (Hurricanes , 37th, 2014)
• Tyler Parsons, London, OHL (2016 draft eligible)
• Louis Belpedio, Miami University, NCHC (Wild, 80th, 2014)
• Brandon Carlo, Tri-City, WHL (Bruins, 37th, 2014)
• Will Borgen, St. Cloud State University (Sabres, 92nd, 2015)
• Ryan Collins, University of Minnesota, BIG 10 (Blue Jackets, 47th, 2014)
• Brandon Fortunato, Boston University, H-EAST (2016 draft eligible)
• Chad Krys, USNTDP, USHL (2016 draft eligible)
• Charlie McAvoy, USNTDP, USHL (2016 draft eligible)
• Zach Werenski, University of Michigan, BIG 10 (Blue Jackets, 8th, 2015)
• Casey Fitzgerald, Boston College, H-EAST (2016 draft eligible)
• Kieffer Bellows, USNTDP, USHL (2016 draft eligible)
• Paul Bittner, Portland, WHL (Blue Jackets, 38th, 2015)
• Anders Bjork, University of Notre Dame, H-EAST (Bruins, 146th, 2014)
• Brock Boeser, University of North Dakota, NCHC (Canucks, 23rd, 20150