Phil Kessel, the 19-year-old Boston Bruins forward, Jack Johnson, the 20-year-old Los Angeles Kings defenceman, and Paul Stastny, the 21-year-old Colorado Avalanche forward will wear the red, white and blue in Moscow, April 27-May 13.
“I’m honoured and proud to be able to put on that jersey again,” said Johnson, who gets his first senior assignment after being on four U.S. teams at the junior level.
The three were among 18 players named Monday. Four remaining roster spots will be filled following the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Kessel helped the United States win world junior gold in 2005 and Johnson was named to the world junior all-star team in 2006. USA Hockey hopes they’ll be leaders in international play for many years to come.
Same for Stastny, who had a sensational rookie NHL season with 78 points including 28 goals.
Stastny was born in Quebec when his Hockey Hall of Fame father Peter Stastny played for the NHL’s Nordiques. He has lived in the United States since he was a young boy after his father moved there to play for NHL teams in New Jersey and St. Louis. He first wore U.S. colours in the Viking Cup junior tournament three years ago and this will be his second chance at international play.
Other under-25 NHL skaters who’ll jump over the boards for coach Mike Sullivan are: defencemen Matt Greene of the Edmonton Oilers, Andrew Alberts of the Bruins and Keith Ballard of the Phoenix Coyotes; forwards Brandon Bochenski of the Bruins, Chad LaRose of the Carolina Hurricanes, Lee Stempniak of the St. Louis Blues and Blues prospect David Backes who skated mostly in the AHL this season; and third-string goaltender Cory Schneider of Boston College.
The veterans on the squad so far are goaltenders John Grahame of the Hurricanes and Robert Esche of the Philadelphia Flyers, defenceman Brian Pothier of the Washington Capitals and forwards Chris Clark of the Capitals, Erik Cole of the Hurricanes, Tyler Arnason of the Avalanche and Toby Petersen of the Oilers.
“This is my third turn to wear the U.S. sweater and I’m excited and proud to be part of this,” said Cole, who represented his country at the 2004 world tournament and at the 2006 Olympics. “We had some disappointing outcomes the last couple of years but I think we’ll be able to go over and have a great performance.”
Since the IIHF broke the world tournament out of the Olympics in 1969, U.S. teams have made the podium only twice – bronze in 1996 and 2004.
With the Hurricanes failing to make the playoffs, Cole was eager to keep playing anywhere.
“I anticipated playing into the spring,” said Cole. “Unfortunately, in Carolina we’re not, but I have an opportunity to go and perform on an international stage.
“My game suits well for the Olympic-sized sheet so it really wasn’t much of a decision-making process. I got the call and I was like, ‘Sure, who’s going? When do we leave?’ There’s been a turnover and there are a lot of new faces but they’ve got a tremendous amount of international experience. I’m excited to be a part of it.
“I was never part of the world junior championships. I was a late bloomer. I feel this is my opportunity to make my mark in terms of USA Hockey after not having the opportunity as a younger player.”
The Americans will have four practices and an exhibition game Sunday against Sweden in Stockholm to prepare for their April 27 tournament opener against Austria. Also in their preliminary-round group are Belarus and the Czech Republic.
“When you look at our roster, we have a lot of young, up-and-coming players who are quite talented and who are enthusiastic to go over and compete in this tournament,” said Sullivan, the former bench boss of the Boston Bruins and an assistant coach of the 2006 U.S. Olympic team. “They’re a young group but they are excited to be part of this initiative.”
Defenceman Mike Komisarek of the Montreal Canadiens declined an invitation to be on the U.S. team. Habs forward Chris Higgins was medically unfit to play, and John Pohl of the Toronto Maple Leafs was banged up, too, said Jim Johannson, senior director of hockey operations for USA Hockey.
Anaheim Ducks GM Brian Burke, a member of the national team advisory group, declined to say how many players declined invitations.
“I don’t think it’s pertinent,” he said. “I don’t have that data but even if I did I wouldn’t reveal it.”
Some were hurt and others had prior family commitments, he said. Any player not wanting to go to Moscow in those brackets was “well within his rights to decline.”
With the Minnesota Wild down 3-0 to the Ducks in a first-round NHL series, Mark Parrish, Brian Ralston and Keith Carney of the Wild would be players of interest to the U.S. team.
The 16 teams are split into four, four-team groups to start. Canada is in a group with Germany, its opponent in its April 28 opener, Norway and Slovakia.