U.S. National Junior Team Roster Trimmed to 24, Not Yet Final

USA Hockey today named most of the final roster for the U.S. National Junior Team. According to Team USA’s GM Jim Johannson, a medical situation has not allowed the staff to finalize its defense, so the team will carry one extra blueliner until that situation is resolved.

Logo_USA_hockeyThe team is due to fly to Ufa today, so it will either have to make a decision before the flight leaves or take an extra defenseman to Ufa and make a final decision when the medical situation clears.

With that, the U.S. officially cut two players today, both of which were first-round draft picks at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Defenseman Brady Skjei and forward Stefan Matteau were released from the camp.

“We are very close to finalizing our group of defensemen, pending the resolution of a medical situation,” said Jim Johannson, general manager of the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team and also the assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. “We are set with our 13 forwards and three goaltenders. The decisions we made today were very difficult and are a testament to the talent available to us in the United States.”

More after the jump.

The pending medical situation has not been confirmed by any U.S. staff, but it would appear Connor Murphy is the player in question. He only saw 7:30 of ice time in the game against Finland and did not play in the third period. He was caught high with a puck in the game against Sweden and left the ice clearly in discomfort. After a few early shifts Saturday against Finland, Murphy barely saw the ice the rest of the game.

Murphy has had horrible luck with injury problems over the last four years, so if it is indeed Murphy this is another setback for the Coyotes 2011 first-rounder.

Seeing Matteau and Skjei sent home comes as little surprise after today. It appeared Skjei was on the outs after the Sweden game and Matteau may have played himself out of consideration over the two exhibition games. The good news for both is that they are eligible for next year’s tournament. Still, getting cut is a bitter pill to swallow this close to the tournament.

The U.S. is now set at forward and goaltender and are just one player away from setting the defense.

Jimmy Vesey is likely the beneficiary at forward. After getting scratched against Finland Saturday, it appeared he’d be the odd man out. Matteau took a check to the head penalty (which really looked like a poor call) and got a 10-minute misconduct. He plays on the edge, so perhaps that penalty, while appearing soft, was enough of an indicator of a risk the U.S. wasn’t willing to take.

Now the waiting game continues as the U.S. has to see if the injured player will have enough time to heal to be available for the tournament or if they’ll have to send him home. Either way, the U.S. is now another step closer to the World Junior Championship.

United States of Hockey will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as they become available. Stay tuned later today for full notes on the 24 players remaining with the U.S.

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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