Camp has opened up for the US team in Camrose, Alberta in preparation for this year's World Juniors tournament. Things should move pretty quickly this week, with the US trimming their 29-man roster down to the 22 players that will represent the US by Thursday morning.
Controversy came quickly to the US team, when, on Friday, it was announced that BU forward and returning US team member Charlie Coyle would be leaving Boston University to play for the St. John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL. There were rumors that like Chris Bourque before him, Coyle had put the 'BU' in 'academically ineligible' and that Coyle was leaving because he, as well as other BU players, were upset with BU head coach Jack Parker for his handling of the dismissal of Corey Trivino, specifically, the public admittal of Trivino's problems with alcohol. Coyle, for his part, denied both rumors. It's worth noting that Saint John is absolutely loaded, both in talent, and in the pocketbook, which can be an attractive combination for a player.
It almost would have looked better for Coyle if had been academically ineligible. Aside from it being incredibly selfish to leave his Boston University teammates midway through the year, but it provides a huge, unneeded distraction to the US team heading into the tournament.
A rumor came out in a Quebec newspaper that Vermont's Connor Brickley, trying out for this year's team, as well as UVM teammate Michael Paliotta, were also considering leaving for Saint John, but USCHO confirmed today from a source at Vermont that those reports were not true.
Meanwhile, the other big distraction for the US is that Jon Merrill is suiting up for the team, despite not having played a game for Michigan this season, after an initial 12-game suspension was extended due to a second violation of Michigan team rules. TSN's Bob McKenzie has a good read on Merrill's story.
The Carolina Hurricanes announced today that Justin Faulk won't be released from their team to play in the tournament. That's obviously a huge loss for the Americans. If an NHL team says they can't afford to lose him, odds are pretty good he could have helped a junior team. That opens up a roster spot for somebody else though. It's tough to say who that might be.
There was a very scary moment Friday night when Jason Zucker, likely to be one of Team USA's top scorers, crashed very hard shoulder-first into the boards, and stayed down on the ice for quite some time. Zucker eventually returned to the game, and was able to play the next night. A shoulder injury suffered in the preliminary rounds of last year's tournament greatly reduced Zucker's effectiveness in last year's tournament, and could be something to watch for this year.