Boston is the epicenter of this year's United States World Junior hockey team, in more ways than one. The team began its pre-tournament training camp today at Boston University, and much of the focus is, rightly, on BU's Jack Eichel. The US's gold medal hopes are largely pinned on Eichel, who starred for the team last year as a 16-year-old; this year, he'll be expected to help carry the load and continue the strong form he's shown as a freshman at BU. The most publicized game of the US's pre-World Juniors camp will come on Friday night, when the Americans face BU at historic Walter Brown Arena.
But the school with the most ties to the US pre-tournament roster is probably Boston College, not BU. Five current Eagles are among the hopefuls to make the team: forward Alex Tuch; defensemen Steve Santini, Ian McCoshen and Noah Hanifin; and goaltender Thatcher Demko.
Demko is likely to be the starting goalie, and Tuch seems very likely to make the team as well. Hanifin and McCoshen are part of a very deep US defensive pool, though I suspect both have an excellent chance to make the final cut. With Santini, the question is simply whether he'll be healthy and ready to go. The pins come out of his wrist this week. If he's ready to play, he is a strong candidate not only to make the final roster, but to be the team captain. (For BC's sake, Jerry York & co. might end up thankful if at least one of those players gets left at home, as BC is looking at the prospect of being heavily shorthanded on January 2 & 3 when they travel to Dartmouth to face Brown and Dartmouth in the Ledyard Bank tournament.)
Beyond the current Eagles on the roster, there are other players with BC ties. Commits Jeremy Bracco and Miles Wood are on the camp roster and will be making their case for inclusion this week. Bracco is a red hot prospect, shattering records at the US national development program. Miles Wood is more of a dark horse candidate, the only prospect currently playing prep school hockey to get the invite to camp. Both figure to be a big part of the equation for Boston College next year, and WJC camp is a chance for Eagles fans to watch these prospects in action.
Also appearing on the US roster: Sonny Milano. Another name BC fans are familiar with. Boston College assistant Mike Ayers is one of the assistant coaches for the US team as well, adding another layer to the BC connections.
One other name to keep an eye on for BC fans is Auston Matthews, a 17-year-old who some are hyping up as the next Jack Eichel. He's a highly touted prospect for the 2016 NHL Draft, with some saying he could be a top 3 pick overall in that class. Additionally, he's uncommitted at the moment as to where he'll be playing hockey next season. His decision is down to either playing juniors in Canada, or picking one of 5 NCAA programs: BC, BU, Denver, North Dakota or Michigan. At last check, he said he was "50/50" between the NCAA route and the CHL route, and would carefully make a decision that he would commit to rather than committing early and changing his mind later. Undoubtedly, he's everyone's top target, and the BC coaching staff would love to bring him in next year.
USA World Junior pre-tournament & game schedule, per USAHockey.com:
2015 Camp Schedule (Boston • Walter Brown Arena)
|Tues., Dec. 16||Practice||Walter Brown Arena||11 a.m. - 1 p.m.|
|Wed., Dec. 17||Practice||Walter Brown Arena||11 a.m. - 1 p.m.|
|Thurs., Dec. 18||Practice||Walter Brown Arena||11 a.m. - 1 p.m.|
|Fri., Dec. 19||Practice||Walter Brown Arena||10 a.m. - 11 a.m.|
|Game vs. Boston University||Walter Brown Arena||7:30 p.m.
2015 Pre-Tournament Schedule (Kingston, Ont.)
|Dec. 21||Germany||Rogers K-Rock Centre||7:00 p.m.|
|Dec. 23||Sweden||Rogers K-Rock Centre||7:00 p.m.|
2015 U.S. Game Schedule
|Fri., Dec. 26||Finland||Bell Centre, Montreal||3:00 p.m.
|Sun., Dec. 28||Germany||Bell Centre, Montreal||8:00 p.m.
|Mon., Dec. 29||Slovakia||Bell Centre, Montreal||4:00 p.m.
|Wed., Dec. 31||Canada||Bell Centre, Montreal||4:00 p.m.
|Fri., Jan. 2||Quarterfinals (TBD)||Montreal or Toronto||TBD|
|Sun., Jan. 4||Semifinals (TBD)||Air Canada Centre, Toronto||TBD|
|Mon., Jan. 5||Finals (TBD)||Air Canada Centre, Toronto||TBD|