Team USA won’t release their preliminary roster for the upcoming World Junior Championships, which are being held in the Czech Republic this year, until next Monday on the NHL Network. But other countries have begun to release their own preliminary rosters for the event, and a number of players with ties to NCAA hockey have been selected.
We’ll start with the Division 1A tournament, which is being held in Minsk and begins on Monday. This is the tournament where teams are fighting to earn promotion to next year’s big tournament.
Most notable is that Denver’s Emilio Petterssen will not be playing for Norway. Petterssen was one of Norway’s leading scorers in last year’s tournament, and probably their best prospect, but will instead be staying with the Pioneers, who face Arizona State this weekend.
Sioux City(USHL) winger Viktor Masilevich is playing for Team Belarus. Sondre Vaaler(St. Cloud) and Lars Rodne(Bismarck) of the NAHL will both be playing for Norway.
As for the big tournament...
Here is the Canadian preliminary roster of 31 players. Four players with NCAA ties were selected by Canada: Wisconsin’s Dylan Holloway, Boston College’s Alex Newhook, Quinnipiac’s Peter Diliberatore, and North Dakota’s Jacob Bernard-Docker.
As always, this is a loaded Canadian team. Even with Newhook being a first round NHL draft pick, and Holloway very likely to be selected in the first round this summer, it may be an uphill battle for both to make such a deep roster. Both have played very well to start their NCAA careers, however. Newhook has a very respectable 11 points through 13 games. Holloway hasn’t shown the same scoring touch, but his ability to use his speed to be disruptive and win pucks potentially makes him an attractive target for a lower line energy role for Canada.
On the blue line, Bernard-Docker feels like a safe bet to be on the final roster. He’s fairly quietly been one of the best defensemen in college hockey, and played a huge role in North Dakota’s turnaround this season.
Diliberatore has been a fast riser in his year-and-a-half at Quinnipiac. As a sixth round draft, he’s one of only three players in the Canadian camp drafted(or soon to be drafted) from outside of the top two rounds. It’s probably still an uphill climb for him to make the final roster, but clearly he has drawn notice from Hockey Canada.
The only player with NCAA ties to make the Finnish preliminary roster is Minnesota sophomore forward Sampo Ranta. Ranta played for Finland last year, so it’s practically a guarantee he’ll be on the final roster this year. He has taken a big step forward in his development this season with Minnesota by becoming a more active and effective player in all three zones and could potentially make a bigger impact for Finland in the tournament this year.
USHL goalie Erik Portillo, who signed his Letter of Intent with Michigan this fall, is the only player with NCAA ties on Sweden’s preliminary roster. Portillo is one of three goalies, so he’ll be on the final roster. He got some net time with Sweden over the summer during the exhibitions held at USA Hockey Arena, and is having a nice year in Dubuque, so this should be a good chance for Michigan fans to see their potential future goalie.
Minnesota State commit Ondrej Pavel made the Czech Republic’s preliminary World Juniors roster. Though with 21 forwards named, that means there are still eight cuts to be made before the tournament begins. Current uncommitted USHL defenseman Jan Stibingr was also named, as well as former USHL forwards Matej Blumel, who backed out on a commitment to UConn to play pro hockey this past fall, and Matej Pekar, who had college commitments to Omaha and Miami before ultimately ending up in the OHL.