Today was good because USA Hockey released the preliminary roster for the 2012 World Juniors. I don't know nearly as much about this year's crop of players as I did last year's, in part because I won't be attending the tournament like I did last year, but a quick scan is enough to see one major thing: This will be an old and fast team.
Twenty-four players on the roster were born in 1992, leaving only three 1993s (my birth year...wow), and two 1994s. Eight players are returnees from last year's tournament, including goalie Jack Campbell and forward Jason Zucker, who will each be making their third appearance in the U20 Championship (assuming Zucker makes the team, which is a safe bet).
As far as scoring goes, three players Dean Blias will likely be looking to for production are Brandon Saad (assuming he makes the team and is healthy), Emerson Etem, and J.T. Miller. Saad declined an invitation to the summer camp USA Hockey held, so I think he will have to head into camp playing like he will be fighting for a spot on the team. Etem and Miller are both playing very well for their respective CHL teams, as Etem has 58 points in 38 games for Medicine Hat while Miller has 36 points in 29 games for the Plymouth Whalers.
- Biggest surprise? Probably either Josh Archibald or Austin Czarnik.
- Biggest omissions? Tyler Biggs and Stefan Noesen. Both were first-round draft picks in 2011. They'll be big pieces of the 2013 team, though.
- Nine players from the CHL are on the roster.
- Justin Faulk will have to be released by the Carolina Hurricanes in order to play for Team USA. While that's uncertain, it's good that USA Hockey is keeping a spot for him open just in case.
- Believe it or not, Jon Merrill will have to battle for a spot this year. A suspension from Michigan and unproven play this year has resulted in a not-so-guaranteed spot for the Brighton, MI native.
- Two University of Michigan commitment backouts, Jack Campbell and John Gibson, are the goalies on the roster. Looks like Gibson has supplanted Andy Iles as the goalie second to Campbell.
- Six players from Michigan are on the roster, tops of any state.
While I'm not sold that this team is a gold medal caliber team, or even better than last year's, I'm looking forward to seeing what they can do once the final roster is put together.