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(Most of) USA's best juniors take the stage at WJC

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Here's our profile of the 24 players who made the cut.

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

The World Junior Championship is due to start on Saturday, December 26 in Helsinki, Finland, with the US immediately facing off against powerhouse Team Canada, and despite the drama, the US roster has some sound players.

Drama, you ask?

This year's WJC camp roster caused confusion across several countries when a few players with sturdy resumes were not invited to the camp. Perhaps understandably, Team USA did not invite Jack Eichel, Dylan Larkin, or Noah Hanifin -- all three are deep into their NHL careers, and the days of the WJC are far behind them.

A little less understandable was the decision to pass over Kyle Connor, Alex Tuch, Jack Roslovic, and Jeremy Bracco. Much has been written about why they might have been left off the roster, but the final decision might have hinged on where each style of player fit in the overall roster. Chris Dilks of SBN College Hockey pondered that the team might be attempting to add grit to the bottom six, since the top six are heavy on skill.

All speculation is now moot.

Some of Team USA, like Auston Matthews, are well-known and well-scouted, but what about the rest? Final lines are up in the air, but SCOC has projected lines based upon the most recent match against University of Massachussets - Amherst (where the team did well, shutting out Amherst 4-0), including the top line that sat out because they were "a lock" for the competition. A profile of each player on the team follows.

Scott Wheeler, a writer for McKeen's Hockey, gave a thumbs-up to the team as a whole, mentioning several prospects in particular that stuck out to him.

"Brock Boeser is an underrated Canucks prospect," Wheeler said, "[Team USA] did really well to get him. He's a two-way player who can score. Christian Dvorak is a beast in the OHL with Mitch Marner and Matthew Tkachuk, one of the best lines in the league. He could be outstanding in this tournament.

"Tkachuk is a top 5 pick this year -- incredible passer. Scott Eansor is a surprise pick considering the omissions. Sonny Milano is unbelievable with the puck. Ryan MacInnis has a heavy shot, and is Jeremy Bracco's trigger man. Brandon Carlo is a towering defensive defenseman. Charlie McAvoy is one of the best draft eligible defensemen this year -- already playing NCAA and thriving. Nick Schmaltz is an energy guy -- the perfect energy guy. Colin White too, actually. Two-way player who has come up huge for the U.S. internationally before."

So, get the gold, Team USA!

Projected lines

Forwards:

Matthew Tkachuk - Auston Matthews - Alexander DeBrincat
Sonny Milano - Christian Dvorak - Colin White
Clayton Keller - Ryan MacInnis - Ryan Hitchcock
Nick Schmaltz - Scott Eansor - Brock Boeser
Ryan Donato - - Anders Bjork

Defense:

Zach Werenski - Brandon Carlo
Louie Belpedio - Will Borgen
Brandon Fortunato - Charlie McAvoy
Chad Krys - Ryan Collins

Goaltenders:

Alex Nedeljkovic
Brandon Halverson

Notes on the lineup:

Kyle of Winging it in Motown speculated that Nedeljkovic will be the starter goaltender, and that Boeser might draw higher. The final lines are not yet set for the competition, although the top line and top D-pair seem firmly in place.

Zach Werenski was recently selected as captain, with alternate captains Colin White, Louie Belpedio, and Auston Matthews.

Coaches for team USA are Head Coach Ron Wilson, assistant coach Chris Chelios, assistant coach Danton Cole, and guest coach (currently assistant coach for Michigan State) Kelly Miller. Goaltending coach is Kevin Reiter, and Jim Johansson is the GM. More news about the coaching staff is at the WJC website.

Forwards

Boston Bruins' Anders Bjork

Team: University of Notre Dame
Drafted: Boston Bruins, 146th overall in 2014
Home: Mequon, Wisconsin
Notes: In 17 games played this season, he's registered 5 goals and 11 assists for 16 points, and ranked second on the team. He had a strong rookie season, playing 44 games and recording 22 points to rank 9th among all freshman in the league. (More)

Brock Boeser

Team: University of North Dakota
Drafted: Vancouver Canucks, 23rd overall in 2015
Home: Burnsville, MN
Notes: Making the leap from USHL to NCAA, Boeser is leading all first-year players in the league with 13 goals in his first 20 games. He is known for a wrist shot that is quick, heavy, and accurate, as well excellent skating ability. North Dakota assistant coach Dane Jackson praises his hockey sense, and says there are very few holes in his game. (More)

Alex DeBrincat

Team: OHL Erie Otters
Drafted: Draft Eligible in 2016
Home: Farmington Hills, MI
Notes: At 5-foot-7 and 161 lbs, DeBrincat is currently top scorer in the OHL with 33 goals in 30 games, and is fourth overall in points. His goals are not always gorgeous slappers from the left circle -- he's known for going to the net and getting the dirty ones. Heading into the WJC, his task is clear: "Probably scoring goals," DeBrincat said. "I mean, I know that’s my role in Erie and hopefully I’ll do whatever they need me to do, but as of right now, I think that’s probably my role." (More)

Boston Bruins' Ryan Donato

Team: Harvard University
Drafted: Boston Bruins, 56th overall in 2014
Home: Scituate, Massachusetts
Notes: Son of Harvard head coach Ted Donato, Ryan sees second-line minutes and leads first-year players on his team with 4G, 5A. He is also a playmaker on the power play. (More)

Christian Dvorak

Team: OHL London Knights
Drafted: Arizona Coyotes, 58th overall in 2014
Home: Palos, IL
Notes: Current captain of the London Knights, Dvorak has 65 points in 27 games played (28G, 37 A). He's seen playoff action in both the OHL and the AHL in 2014-2015, and his pace has not slowed since last season. He's known for strong skating, speed, a tough forecheck, and of course, offensive skill, especially when paired with his London Knights teammate Matthew Tkachuk. (More)

Scott Eansor

Team: Seattle, WHL
Drafted: Draft Eligible in 2016
Home: Englewood, CO
Notes: In Eansor's third season with the WHL Seattle Thunderbirds, he has posted 16 points (4G, 12A) in 20 games played. Last season, he took his team to the playoffs, notching five goals in six playoff games. Look for him to play an agitator role, harassing the puck carriers, creating turnovers, and causing chaos to the opposing team. (More)

Ryan Hitchcock

Team: Yale University
Drafted: Draft Eligible in 2016
Home: Manhasset, NY
Notes: Last season, Hitchcock garnered 15 points in 33 games as a rookie for Yale, and is known for his "gritty" play. At 5' 10 and 170 lbs, he is used as an aggressive part of special teams, netting two powerplay goals, and showing energy on the penalty kill. (More)

Clayton Keller

Team: USA Hockey National Development Program
Drafted: Draft Eligible in 2016
Home: Swansea, IL
Notes: Keller has earned 20 points in Team USA's first 11 games this season. At 5'10 and 168 lbs, Keller tries to play a swift, creative scoring game and put his hockey sense to work. (More)

Auston Matthews

Team: Zurich, SUI
Drafted: Draft Eligible in 2016
Home: Scottsdate, AZ
Notes: Surely there is no need to write about Auston Matthews. He'll be used as Team USA's 1C at the WJC. More about his role on the team (Here), and a long Toronto Sun profile (Here).

Ryan MacInnis

Team: OHL Kitchener Rangers
Drafted: Arizona Coyotes, 43rd overall in 2014
Home: St. Louis, MO
Notes: Originally from St. Louis and son of Hockey Hall of Fame member Al MacInnis, Ryan has been steeped in the playing culture of the St. Louis Blues since Midget hockey. At 6'4, 185 lbs he leads the Rangers with 38 points in 26 games. (More)

Sonny Milano

Team: Lake Erie Monsters, AHL
Drafted: Columbus Blue Jackets, 16th overall in 2014
Home: Massapequa, NY
Notes: Milano is well into first season of professional hockey, and seems to have slid right into the game with no learning curve. He has registered 4G, 7A and is +2 in 22 games played. His skating is his strength, with a quick release and good edge work to change directions on defenders. At 6'1, 205 lbs, he adds size and experience to the WJC lineup. (More)

Nick Schmaltz

Team: University of North Dakota
Drafted: Chicago Blackhawks, 20th overall in 2014
Home: Madison, WI
Notes: In 20 games played for UND, one remarkable statistic about Schmaltz is his +/- of 29. He also leads the league with 21 assists, and is known for his ability to form plays without the pluck. (More)

Matthew Tkachuk

Team: OHL London Knights
Drafted: Draft Eligible in 2016
Home: St. Louis, MO
Notes: Son of NHL forward Keith Tkachuk, Matthew says that the biggest lesson his father taught him is to "Be well liked and just work as hard as you can every day." This advice must have worked, because Matthew is second in the league in points, at 59 in 29 games played. He is known for making plays around the net, he says about his own play that he is "An offensive-minded power forward who can beat you any way possible, I guess. A skill forward or a power forward — just a guy that likes to dominate every shift." (More) and (More)

He is also writing blog posts for NHL.com about his WJC experience (Here).

Colin White

Team: Boston College
Drafted: Ottawa Senators, 21st overall in 2015
Home: Hanover, MA
Notes: White is making his first appearance at the WJC after garnering 23 points (8G, 15A) in 16 games played. His two-way play and skating ability were what drew the Senators to draft him in the first round, and he is currently tied for 7th in scoring in the NCAA. (More)

Defense

Louie Belpedio

Team: Miami University
Drafted: Minnesota Wild, 80th overall in 2014
Home: Skokie, IL
Notes: A former captain of the US U18 team, Belpedio was drafted in the third round by the Minesotta Wild in 2014. He's known for his intelligence, skill, leadership, and ability to play a tough game despite (at 5'10) being a smaller defender. (More)

Will Borgen

Team: St. Cloud State University
Drafted: Buffalo Sabres, 92nd in 2015
Home: Moorhead, MN
Notes: In 18 games played at St. Cloud, Borgen shows his ability to control the flow of play, registering a +8 and 9 points, all assists. This is his first year at the WJC. (More)

Boston Bruins' Brandon Carlo

Team: WHL Tri-City Americans
Drafted: Boston Bruins, 27th overall in 2014
Home: Colorado Springs, CO
Notes: Carlo is returning as a member of the top D-pair for the WJC, alongside captain Zach Werenski. He's played 22 games in the WHL, registering 14 points (2G, 12A). He has three years of playoff experience with the WHL, drawing tough D-zone assignments. (More)

Brandon Fortunato

Team: Boston University
Drafted: Draft Eligible in 2016
Home: Albertson, NY
Notes: At 5'10 and 150 lbs, it would be difficult to imagine Fortunato elbowing his way into a defensive lineup. Elbow he has, showing great offensive acumen along with his defensive skill. In 17 games with BU, he has registered 15 points (4G 11A), closing in on his points total for his rookie season. He is second among all NCAA defensemen in scoring. (More)

Chad Krys

Team: USA Hockey National Development Program
Drafted: Draft Eligible in 2016
Home: Ridgefield, CT
Notes: Next fall, Krys has committed to playing for Boston University. This year, he is playing his second season with the US National Team Development Program, and is draft eligible in 2016, projected to draft in the first two rounds. (More)

Charlie McAvoy

Team: Boston University
Drafted: Draft Eligible in 2016
Home: Long Beach, NY
Notes: So far this season, McAvoy has registered 8 points in 17 games played with Boston University. Last season he was a member of the US U17+U18 team, helping the US team achieve the 2015 IIHF gold medal. He was the top-scoring defenseman for the NTDP in 2014-2015 at 40 points (7G, 33A) in 54 games. (More)

Zach Werenski

Team: University of Michigan
Drafted: Columbus Blue Jackets, 8th overall in 2015
Home: Grosse Pointe, MI
Notes: Named captain of this year's WJC team, Werenski has proven his worth this season with his excellent hockey sense in 15 games played for University of Michigan. Last season, he let all Big Ten defensemen in goals, and earned First Team and All-Rookie Team honors. (More) and (More)

Goaltenders

Brandon Halverson

Team: OHL Sault Ste. Marie
Drafted: New York Rangers, 59th overall in 2014
Home: Traverse City, MI
Notes: Described by WJC coach Kevin Reiter as "More of a butterfly guy" and someone with a "bigger net presence and uses that size really well and he'll look over guys through screens," Halverson is the only goaltender who has previous experience playing in the WJC, appearing in one game in 2015 (a 6-0 shutout against Germany). (More)

Alex Nedeljkovic

Team: OHL Plymouth
Drafted: Carolina Hurricanes, 37th overall in 2014
Home: Parma, OH
Stats: 6'0, 190 lbs
Notes: Reiter describes Nedljkovic as "More of a hybrid [goaltender]. A little smaller and relies on athleticism and lateral movement" but with "great goalie IQ...he can be patient on his feet and reads the play and release really well." Joining the WJC last season as third goalie, he did not play in a game. Nedeljkovic and Halverson shared duty for the shutout of Amherst in the exhibition game prior to heading to Finland. (More)