The 27 players invited to Team USA's pre-tournament training camp for the 2013 World Junior Championships will be together for at least the next week.
That was the only major news revealed by Team USA general manager Jim Johansson and head coach Phil Housley in a media session held before the first practice of camp. The United States will play Sweden on Dec. 20 and Finland on Dec. 22 in two pre-tournament games, and then bring their roster down to 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goalies. This means that two forwards and two defensemen will be dropped from the roster prior to Team USA's first game against Germany on Dec. 27 in Ufa, Russia.
The team held a briskly paced, 75-minute practice on Sunday evening, the first of four sessions in Tarrytown, N.Y. (at the practice facility of the National Hockey League's New York Rangers) before they head to Europe. The first half of practice was devoted to passing drills, while the second half featured a mini-tournament played entirely in the neutral zone, with the goals set up at each blue line.
A couple of notes from practice:
- Players representing 13 states make up the Team USA roster: Michigan and Ohio lead the way with four each, followed by Minnesota and Illinois with three. Pennsylvania, Texas, Massachusetts and Wisconsin have a pair of players, while Maine, Florida, New Jersey, New York and California have a single player each.
- While Michigan and Minnesota are considered two of the big American hockey hotbeds, it may surprise some to see that four players from Ohio are on the roster, including three from the same town of Dublin. I asked one of them, Miami University forward (and San Jose Sharks property) Sean Kuraly why the sudden emergence of talent from Ohio: "I don't know if it's a coincidence or not. Hockey's obviously getting bigger in Ohio, I don't wanna' compare it to Minnesota or Michigan, but it's definitely coming up."
- All but three members of Team USA's roster are currently draft picks of NHL teams: free agent and Cornell standout Cole Bardreau, and 2013 Draft Eligibles Seth Jones and Ryan Hartman. The Calgary Flames have the most draft picks on the roster with three, while New Jersey, Florida, Toronto and the Rangers each have two.