On Monday, USA Hockey revealed the list of 29 names on its preliminary roster for the 2021 World Junior Championship in Edmonton.
To no one’s surprise, that list included the Philadelphia Flyers’ top two picks from the 2019 draft — 14th overall selection Cam York on defense and 34th pick Bobby Brink up front.
Both York and Brink were members of the 2020 U.S. squad that finished in sixth place in the Czech Republic after a 1-0 quarterfinal loss to Finland. That ended a streak of four straight years in the medals for the Americans, including the gold-medal win against Canada in Montreal in 2017, with Carter Hart in net for the Canadians.
As 18-year-olds, Brink finished the tournament with a goal and an assist in five games. York was held off the scoresheet.
Now, as two of 10 returning players from that 2020 squad, it’s expected that both York and Brink will play significant roles as the Americans try to make their way back into the medal mix.
Cam York looking to play a big role
After being drafted out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, York is now in his sophomore season at the University of Michigan. So far, he has a goal and three assists in six games. The Wolverines started hot this season. Mel Pearson’s squad won its first four games before dropping a pair of one-goal contests on home ice to Notre Dame last weekend.
— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) November 15, 2020
Michigan is slated to play two games this week, on the road against Penn State this Wednesday and Thursday. Then, York and four of his teammates will report to World Juniors training camp at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan on Dec. 6. Fellow Wolverines John Beecher, Matthew Beniers, Thomas Bordeleau and Brendan Brisson were also named to the preliminary roster.
Brink will need to shake off rust
As for Brink, the native of Minnetonka, Minnesota is in his sophomore year at the University of Denver. He’s looking to build off a rookie season where he put up 11 goals and 24 points in 28 games and was named a finalist for the NCHC rookie of the year. But he hasn’t played in a game situation since last March.
— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) February 15, 2020
The Pioneers will kick off their 2020-21 season with three games this week in the NCHC bubble in Omaha, Nebraska — against Minnesota-Duluth on Wednesday, North Dakota on Friday and St. Cloud State on Saturday.
Brink will be the only player heading to Plymouth from Denver, which sits fourth in this week’s USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine Men’s College Hockey Poll despite having not played a game yet this season. Michigan currently ranks seventh.
For the Team USA hopefuls, training camp in Plymouth will last one week. USA Hockey will announce its final 25-player roster just before that group travels to the Edmonton bubble on Dec. 13.
Keep an eye on Andrae
One other Flyers prospect to keep an eye on is 2020 second-rounder Emil Andrae. The 18-year-old defenseman has spent most of this season with the top-level HV71 squad in the Swedish Hockey League, where he has two assists in 18 games.
The Swedes are expected to name their preliminary roster on Thursday.
Canadian Complications for Foerster and Millman
Meanwhile, in Red Deer, Covid-19 put an unexpected halt to the proceedings at Team Canada’s extended training camp. That got underway on Nov. 16 and included Flyers prospects Tyson Foerster (23rd, 2020) and Mason Millman (103rd, 2019).
After starting with several days of practices, Canada’s large group of hopefuls was set to square off for three scrimmages in four days, then a first round of cuts.
Shortly before the first game on Nov. 21, Hockey Canada announced that a ‘non-core’ staff member had tested positive for Covid-19. Later, we learned that assistant coach Michael Dyck and goaltending coach Jason LaBarbera were quarantining for 14 days after being deemed ‘close contacts’ of the infected staffer.
On the morning of Nov. 24, Hockey Canada announced that it had cancelled its third scrimmage after two players tested positive. The next day, word came down that the entire group had gone into quarantine.
Flyers prospects Foerster and Millman suited up on opposite sides for the first scrimmage on Nov. 21. Unfortunately, Foerster was injured during that contest. He didn’t complete the game, or suit up for the second scrimmage the following day.
Partly as a result of that injury, Corey Pronman of The Athletic lists Foerster as one of his ‘long shots’ to make the final roster. Millman is also listed as a long shot on defense, on a Canadian squad that’s rich with talent and experience.
What’s next for Canada?
While they’re off the ice in quarantine, the Canadians are doing what one does during a pandemic — trying to stay fit on stationary bikes, and keeping mentally engaged and entertained through Zoom calls. According to Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet, the plan is to get back on the ice in Red Deer on Dec. 7, then move into the bubble in Edmonton on Dec. 13.
There are two other key details which could affect final roster construction:
- Any player who has tested positive after Nov. 29 will automatically be excluded from the roster.
- Anyone who plans to go into the bubble must be with the group by Dec. 6, and deliver three consecutive negative tests before entering the bubble.
According to Costentino, no Canadian players or staff members were symptomatic as of Nov. 25.
Safety protocols are in place to get the entourages from all 10 countries into the Edmonton bubble. The 2021 World Junior Championship is set to kick off on Christmas Day.