On Wednesday morning, USA Hockey announced its 26 man preliminary roster for the 2014 World Junior Championship. Among the players selected were Bruins prospects Ryan Fitzgerald and Matt Grzelcyk.
Grzelcyk, the 85th overall pick in 2012 is currently a sophomore defenseman at Boston University. Last year, he was the final cut from the USA team that went on to win gold. You better believe he's got something to prove this time around.
The American blue line isn't as strong as it was last year when it sported names like Jones and Trouba, so Grzelcyk can expect a steady workload. His previous international experience at the under 17 and 18 tournaments will serve him well.
Through 14 games this season Grzelcyk has put up a 1-6-7 score line. It would seem he's taken a step back given the fact that he put up 2-10-12 through as many games last season, but he's been just as active with a team leading 40 shots.
Grzelcyk's solid defensive work will compliment his superior offensive abilities. Not only is he a lock for the final roster, but I think he could be this year's Shayne Gostisbehere.
While Grzelcyk was a slam dunk, the other Bruins prospect named to the team was a bit of a surprise. Despite not receiving an invitation to the evaluation camp, Ryan Fitzgerald is certainly deserving, though.
The 120th overall pick in this year's draft has played considerably well thus far in his freshman campaign at Boston College. On one of - if not the - premier college teams, Fitzgerald has put up a 7-7-14 line through 14.
If there were any question marks about his ability to play at a high level, his seamless assertion into a top six role role probably quelled them. Placing fourth in scoring on the nation's best offense will do that. Winning an award like this isn't bad either.
Don't pencil him in just yet, though. Even with the impressive recent form, Fitzgerald remains a bubble candidate. Chris Peters of The United States of Hockey has him pegged as a "50/50" guy who could play his way into a spot with a good camp.
Fortunately for Fitzgerald, BC assistant coach Greg Brown is on USA's staff. If anyone is in a position to vouch for his value, it's someone who sees him every weekend.
The USA training camp consists of practice December 15-18 at Mariucci Arena, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers, in Minneapolis. USA will also play a tune up game against Minnesota State-Mankato on the 17th. From there, they'll head to Sweden where they'll play exhibitions against Sweden and Finland.
The WJC tournament kicks off for the Americans on December 26 against the Czech Republic. Get hyped.