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US World Junior Roster Announced Tonight

USA Hockey will release their roster for the World U20 Championships that will be held in Sweden at the end of this month. The announcement will be made during the intermission of tonight's game between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks on Versus, meaning no one will be watching. I'll probably be out tonight, so I won't have the roster posted right away, but the roster, and my comments should be up first thing in the morning.

In the meanwhile, here's some interesting tidbits about the US team.

It's finally official that Phil Kessel won't be released. It's just as well since Alaska-Anchorage won't be sending a team to the tournament.(Yes, a year later, Kessel-bashing is still funny)

This is kind of an odd one, but at the bottom of this Hockey News article, it mentions that even though Marc-Eduoard Vlasic wasn't released to play for Team Canada, he could still technically play for the US, since his father is a US-citizen. There's chance that happens, but it would be nice if it did. First off, much less ice time for defenseman 3-6, in whom I have little to no faith. And second, arguably the two biggest international victories ever for the US(outside of the Olympics), came due to players taking advantage of their dual-citizenship(Brett Hull and the World Cup, Brady Murray and the World Junior Gold Medal).

There's a potentially huge controversy brewing with this team. The Godfather of hockey journalism, Bob McKenzie has heard rumblings that Bobby Ryan might not make the team. Ryan, of course, was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft, behind Sidney Crosby, but hasn't been reached his potential yet. It's extremely rare that a returning player doesn't make the squad again, but there are a number of things going against Ryan. He played poorly in last year's tournament. He didn't have a great camp in July. I actually followed the Ducks training camp pretty closely this year, and Ryan's performance at the camp set off a panic among Ducks fans due to his lack of skating ability, which is bad because this year's tournament will be played on Olympic-sized ice. And then he got off to a rough start in the OHL this season. Plus, there's always the X-factor of USA Hockey never giving the benefit of the doubt to a player that spurned the NTDP and went the OHL route.

That said, Ryan has started playing very well of late, and I don't think there's another player out there that they could replace him with and not have too significant of a drop-off. Still, it should be interesting to see if his name is there when the roster is announced.

Don Lucia raised some eyebrows last week when he made comments to the effect of "USA Hockey may not get all the players they want from my team." He clarified that later in the week, saying "I've talked to them [Team USA officials] about our numbers. I've said, don't take one of our guys to be the 13th forward or the seventh defenseman." Presumably that would mean Jay Barriball, who would probably be on the bubble as the 13th forward, or David Fischer, who could be on the bubble to be the 7th defenseman. I still think it's disappointing for Lucia to say that. Suck it up and play some walk-ons instead of denying these kids a chance to represent their country. Even if they don't play, it's a great experience to go overseas and be a part of Team USA.

This tournament is the most closely watched tournament in the world by NHL teams, and should have a huge impact on what happens this summer. For the players that have been drafted like Erik Johnson, Kyle Okposo, and Mark Mitera, it could be the difference between getting a big contract offer and returning to college for another season.

And for the players that haven't been drafted yet, much of their draft stock will be based on this tournament. Erik Johnson earned the first overall pick at this tournament last season, and Brian Lee moved up to 10th overall in large part because of his performance at the World Juniors.

New Hampshire recruit James van Riemsdyk has been ranked as high as second overall by ISS. He'll have the opportunity to prove he should be drafted that high at this tournament. Pat Kane moved up to 11th in the rankings, and has the chance to prove that his eye-popping numbers in the OHL aren't a fluke and that he should be a top ten pick. Colorado College's Bill Sweatt is another kid who should make the team, and is playing to earn a spot in the first round of the draft.