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Special teams, experience, and roster plans highlight Day 2 talk at U.S. WJC Camp

The U.S. National Junior Team continued its training for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship with the second of four pre-tournament camp sessions at Boston University's Agganis Arena on Wednesday.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

BOSTON -- The U.S. National Junior Team continued its training for the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship with the second of four pre-tournament camp sessions at Boston University's Agganis Arena on Wednesday.

The practice consisted of drills and two scrimmages primarily focusing on power play and penalty kill work.

The bottom three forward lines used in Tuesday's opening session were tinkered a bit, allowing some different combinations to be used during extended time working on special teams.

"It was great," Boston College freshman forward Colin White said of the practice. "All different new guys together, so I think just creating that chemistry right away is big. Moving pucks, moving your feet. I think it went well."

The top two lines remained completely intact with Auston Matthews and Christian Dvorak in the center, respectively.

Harvard's Ryan Donato and Notre Dame's Anders Bjork, both Bruins prospects, remained paired together while Clayton Keller moved between them. Ryan MacInnis and Kieffer Bellows also joined with different combinations.

"We moved some guys around and I liked what I saw on the power play today," head coach Ron Wilson said. "We'll do something tomorrow that will be a little bit different, where we won't face as aggressive penalty killing. We'll give some confidence to our power play, but today I wanted to test the power play and see how they responded."


If there's one word that comes to mind about this year's U.S. World Junior coaching staff, it would probably be experience.

Wilson is embarking on his eighth international head coaching gig with USA Hockey, but his first at the junior level. He guided the 2010 Olympic team to a silver medal and is the eighth winningest coach in National Hockey League history.

The Providence College alum isn't pursuing future coaching jobs following the tournament, but sees the World Junior Championship as an exciting opportunity and a way to give back to the sport.

"I'm excited about it," Wilson said. "It's my first opportunity to coach this age group. (USA Hockey) has started to become more successful in this age group, so it's nothing I fear at all. I've got to coach the same way and that's what I'm trying to do.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's just a gig that I'm pursuing," added Wilson. "It's an opportunity to give something back to USA Hockey."

There's no doubt the players are learning something from a such a coaching veteran, and they are out to impress.

"The pace (to Wilson's practices) is definitely faster," White said. "His practices are just great, so everyone's just competing for him. He's just a big name, so everyone's trying to impress."

Chris Chelios is a member of the World Junior coaching staff for the first time, working with the solid group of defensemen. For a youngster like Boston University commit Chad Krys, who joins the team from the U.S. National Team Development Program, learning from one of the best defensemen of all-time is certainly welcome.

"Every time he talks, you're listening," said Krys. "He's kind of a commanding guy, and it's really a cool experience for everybody to be coached by somebody with so much experience and had that much success."


With the start of tournament play now just ten days away, general manager Jim Johannson addressed some roster plans in his post-practice media availability. The team will travel to Finland following two more morning practices and Friday night's exhibition game at UMass.

Johannson said the team would "ideally" bring 14 forwards and eight defensemen on the plane for the second leg of pre-tournament camp, meaning one cut at each position would need to be made by week's end.

Goaltending plans remain a bit up in the air with Luke Opilka's status still up in the air. He was ill to begin camp and would need to be medically cleared before he can take the ice.

"Ideally, 14 (forwards) and eight (defensemen) because of continuing the evaluation process, but secondly you always have that little injury factor you never know," Johannson said. "It does not make sense to let a guy go and then bring a guy back."