The preliminary roster for the US will be announced later this afternoon. Until then, I though I'd take a crack at who I think will get invites.There's probably a couple names I missed, certainly in the Others Considered categories, so feel free to mention those players in the comments.
Others considered: Andy Iles, Michael Houser, Mac Carruth, Collin Olson
Campbell is the obvious choice to be the starter and carry a lot of the minutes. His back-up could be controversial. Andy Iles was a member of the team last year, and as a general rule, a returning player always gets a roster spot, no matter how Tyler Johnson they are. But I think they have to take Gibson here. He's had a very nice start to the year in the OHL, and there would probably be more confidence in him relieving Campbell if need be. But more importantly, Gibson is likely the starting goalie for the US next year, and this would be a great chance to give him some experience for next year. Houser and Carruth are good goalies, but with Campbell locked in as the starter, and neither eligible to come back next year, there's not much point to taking them. Olson is the front-runner to be Gibson's back-up next year.
This ended up being a lot harder to pick than I thought it would be a year ago. Justin Faulk will only be available if the Carolina Hurricanes release him to play in the tournament, and that seems unlikely. Merrill is going to be a controversial pick because he hasn't played a game yet this season, but I think the US really needs him. Their first practice is December 17th, and the quarterfinal round of the tournament isn't until January 2nd, with nine practices, three exhibitions, and three real games in between. That's plenty of time for Merrill to round himself into shape.
Derek Forbort has been underwhelming this year, and was very disappointing in last year's tournament, but he's a returning player. Clendening just missed the cut last year. Both of the talented '94 defensemen making it might be a stretch, but I wouldn't be surprised if one ended up on the final roster. Jordan Schmaltz and Brian Cooper both might have made it if they had been a little more impressive at the World Jr. A Challenge. Ben Marshall is a wild card. He's terrifying defensively, but his skating and quickness could be a spark plug for this team.
My pick: Nick Bjugstad, Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Emerson Etem, Brandon Saad, John Gaudreau, Tyler Biggs, Kyle Rau, Connor Brickley, Austin Watson, Matt Nieto, Chase Balisy, Michael Mersch, Brian Ferlin, JT Miller
The top four returning forwards look like they could carry this team. Saad and Nieto are two players that just missed the team last year because they were a little too one dimensional, but I don't think the US can keep them off this year. John Gaudreau, Austin Czarnik, and TJ Tynan are all pretty similar players. I think the US can afford to take one small player like that, but probably not all three. Balisy and Mersch aren't super exciting players, but both NTDP vets that have one and a half years of pretty solid college hockey.