The Wisconsin men's hockey team, and USA Hockey have a long standing relationship in regards to the World Junior Championship. If you're not familiar with the tournament, it's the Olympics for the top under 20 hockey players in the world.
The Badgers have repeatedly been represented on Team USA for as long as I've covered the sport. Names like John Ramage, Jake Gardiner, Derek Stepan, Ryan McDonagh, and Jamie McBain are just a few recent players from UW to represent the red, white, and blue. In fact, last season was the first since 2002 that there were no players from Wisconsin on Team USA. (Note: USA went 1-3 in the 2012 tournament)
This season, two players with Badger ties have a great chance at cracking the roster. Jake McCabe (Eau Claire, WI) and Nic Kerdiles (Irvine, CA) have both been invited by USA Hockey to participate in the National Junior Evaluation Camp. Both players are currently packing up their suitcases and heading out to Lake Placid, New York as I pen this article.
Additonally, both players are products of the United States National Development Program out of Ann Arbor. Also, recently both players were honored by being selected in the NHL Draft. Kerdiles was drafted 36th overall by his hometown Anaheim Ducks, and McCabe was drafted just eight picks later, 44th overall by the Buffalo Sabres.
The camp is used as one of the primary evaluation tools to select the roster that USA Hockey will send to Russia for the World Juniors. Players will also be evaluated throughout the first half of the season before the club leaves the tournament in late December.
McCabe and Kerdiles are two of 46 players from the United States who have been invited Lake Placid to participate in the camp that is hosted by USA Hockey. In addition to practices, there will also be intra-squad scrimages between all USA players in camp, as well as international games against Sweden and Finland.
McCabe, a defenseman from Eau Claire had a big freshman season for the Badgers. The mobile blue-liner registered 12 points in 26 games and was a member of the teams number one power play unit while also playing top four minutes for the Badgers.
Kerdiles comes to Madison after a huge season with the USA National U18 team. The big left winger out of California led the U18 team in scoring last season. Kerdiles saved his best for last, recording five points in the gold medal game of the U18 World Championships vs Sweden.
The 2013 USA World Junior team will be coached by the legendary Phil Housley. He is set to be assisted by former Badger player and coach Mark Osiecki, as well as Minnesota assistant Grant Potulny.
Former Badger Jim Johannson who is the assistant executive director for hockey operations at USA Hockey will serve as the General Manager for the 2013 U.S. National Junior Team.
Chris Peters, who runs the United States of Hockey blog, and someone who I consider to be one of the elite hockey minds when it comes to all things USA Hockey recently ran these scouting reports on Kerdiles and McCabe in regards to the upcoming National Junior Evaluation Camp.
Nicolas Kerdiles — Univ. of Wisconsin — ANA, 2nd, 36, 2012
Kerdiles was Team USA’s leading scorer with nine points at the World U18 Championship in April, which included a five-point effort against Sweden in the gold medal game. He has good size and strength to go along with good skating ability and some offensive touch. He’s not a dangler, but plays a pretty strong north-south game and will deliver the odd check. Kerdiles can play center or wing, which is going to give the U.S. some options with him. As long as Kerdiles continues what he showed at the U18s, there could be a spot for him among the top nine forwards on the final roster.
Jake McCabe — Univ. of Wisconsin — BUF, 2nd, 44, 2012
Coming off a really strong season at Wisconsin which earned him a second-round selection at the NHL Draft, McCabe is riding a wave of momentum. He also has international experience, winning U18 gold in 2011. McCabe’s versatility and physical strength makes him an awfully attractive package, as his offensive tools continue to grow. He has the defensive awareness to be part of a shutdown pair, which is likely what Team USA would need out of him if he were to make the final roster. McCabe will have to prove he can take the body while also keeping top offensive players (particularly in the games vs. SWE and FIN) in check. If he proves he can keep up, he could be in Ufa.
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