Locals filling out United States junior team
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma always enjoys watching the world junior hockey tournament, but he'll take special notice of this year's event.
Four local players — Gibsonia's Brandon Saad, East Palestine's J.T. Miller, Whitehall's John Gibson and Wampum's Stephen Johns — and Penguins prospect Josh Archibald will play for the United States. Archibald, currently with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, was the Penguins' sixth-round pick earlier this year.
"It's great," Bylsma said Thursday. "I spent some time with that team over the summer, so I'm keenly interested in all of those guys and the coaches and their success."
Johns, who's playing at Notre Dame, was selected in the second round of the 2010 draft. Saad (Ontario Hockey League's Saginaw Spirit), Miller (OHL's Plymouth Whalers) and Gibson (OHL's Kitchener Rangers) were chosen in the first two rounds this June. Before the draft, they spent time at Consol Energy Center with Bylsma.
"We'll be communicating with them via text once the tournament starts," Bylsma said.
Saad, who played two games for the Chicago Blackhawks this season before returning to Saginaw, was a surprising omission from last year's roster. The U.S. team fell to Canada in the semifinals, and the Canadians blew a late lead to lose to Russia in the gold-medal game.
This year's tournament, which begins Monday, is in Calgary and Edmonton. The gold medal will be awarded Jan. 5 in Calgary.
"It's an honor to represent your country at this high of a level," Saad said. "With all these elite players, it's exciting. I'm looking forward to getting started."
Scott Harrington, whom the Penguins selected in the second round in June, is on the roster for Canada. Fifth-round pick Dominik Uher will play for the Czech Republic.