Minnesota State freshman forward Zach Stepan was left off the preliminary roster of the U.S. Junior National Team, which was announced on Wednesday morning.
Stepan participated in last summer’s Junior National Evaluation Camp, but was not among the 26 players invited to this month's training camp that leads up to the Dec. 26-Jan. 5 World Junior Championship in Sweden.
The list includes 18 players currently playing college hockey, none from the WCHA.
“It’s always going to be a little disappointing,” Stepan said after practice on Wednesday. “It was a little nerve-wracking coming into today. But that’s not what’s important right now. What’s important is getting points at home this weekend. Right now is Maverick time, and I’m just going to worry about the Mavericks.”
Stepan has three goals and two assists in 10 games this season. He missed four games with an upper-body injury.
There might be some hope for Stepan. Team USA general manager Jim Johannson said Wednesday that more players could be added to the roster next week due to potential injury concerns. The final roster, which will have 23 players, will be announced on Dec. 23.
Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings, who has been a U.S. assistant at two World Junior tournaments, said he has seen late roster additions before and that Stepan’s versatility would be valuable. He can be a top-six or bottom-six forward and can play power play and penalty kill, Hastings said.
“The best thing about Zach Stepan is that he’s always the same,” Hastings said. “He’s worried about what he can control, which is today. He hasn’t changed, from the process this summer, to starting the season really well, to having an injury, to coming back and being really good since.”
As part of its training camp, which begins Dec. 15, the U.S. team will play Minnesota State in an exhibition game on Tuesday, Dec. 17, in Mankato. The team will be coached by Minnesota coach Don Lucia.