Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Stepan's going to Sweden

John Cross photo
Zach Stepan survived Wednesday morning's cuts following the U.S. Junior National Team's 3-2 overtime exhibition victory over Minnesota State on Tuesday night.

Team USA went into the game with 29 players, sitting five locks to make the roster, as well as a third goaltender and an injured player.

On Wednesday morning, the U.S. team announced that Boston College forward Ryan Fitzgerald, Michigan forward J.T. Compher and Sarnia Sting (OHL) defenseman Anthony DeAngelo have been cut. Compher probably was a lock to make the team but injured his foot blocking a shot in practice on Monday, according to reports.

The 26 remaining players —15 forwards, 8 defensemen and 3 goalies — will fly to Sweden today after this morning's practice. The U.S. will play two exhibition games there before the World Junior Championships begin on Dec. 26. Three more players — likely two forwards and a defenseman — will be cut before the tournament begins.

On Tuesday night, U.S. coach Don Lucia called Stepan "a good utility guy." "That's one of his strengths," the coach said. "He can play three forward positions, a little power play if necessary, some penalty kill. Versatility is one of his great strengths."

I'm curious to know who else on the roster fits that bill and if that description makes Stepan expendable or an ideal 13th forward for the tournament.

Team USA will play exhibition games Friday and Saturday against Sweden and Finland.

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