There will be only one New Jersey Devil prospect playing in this year's World Junior Championships. Believe it or not, it will not be defenseman and member of last year's USA squad Steve Santini. Miles Wood surprisingly got a shot at the roster - and he made it.
It's a surprise in that Wood remains an unknown in the larger world of hockey prospects. Instead of moving up to college hockey, he remains at the prep school level with Noble & Greenough for this season. So he's not only playing at a more local level, it's not as good as college or USHL hockey. The surprise grows given that Wood was never a member of the United States National Team Developmental Program. It's an honor to be considered given that he's not in a situation where he could be featured. I can't tell you when the last time a player made an American WJC roster out of prep school; it says a lot that it hasn't been that common. Nevertheless, Wood earned his opportunity to play on a massive stage and that's a feat in of itself. Let's see if he can contribute more in the tournament.
As for Santini, it speaks to what he can bring to the table that USA Hockey waited until the last possible second to remove him from the roster, as noted by Jeff Cox at SBN College Hockey. Santini suffered a wrist injury in October that required surgery, as written by Brian Favat at BC Interruption. He was ruled out for the rest of the first half of Boston College's season. He was able to get his cast off but could not be cleared for action in time. Santini was solid as a rock on America's blueline last year, so a healthy Santini with another year of hockey under his belt makes him a valuable asset. However, this may be beneficial for both sides. Santini can recover fully and prepare to play out the rest of the 2014-15 season for BC. USA Hockey will take seven defensemen who have been in form with the team and have prepared through practices and exhibition games. Having players available and prepared is crucial for a short tournament.
It will be Wood as the lone Devils representative in the 2015 WJCs. At least there's one Devil in the tournament.
For the uninitiated, the World Junior Championships is an international tournament featuring the best players under the age of 20 that lasts through the holiday season. Most will have been drafted already, so it's a good time to see how they compare against their peers. There are a few who are eligible for the 2015 draft (and at least one who's a 2016 draft); that they're selected well before the age limit means they're someone to keep an eye on. This year's tournament features two of the biggest names: Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel. But there are others and they're highlighted throughout the previews at NHL.com for Group A and Group B. The biggest reason to follow the tournament is that it's just really good hockey to watch. The action easily gets intense, quick, and emotional. Given that New Jersey has been such a chore to watch, the WJCs may be a welcome diversion.
This year's tournament is in Montreal and Toronto, which makes for convenient times for broadcasting and likely some great atmosphere. The NHL Network will be airing plenty of the games, including all of the USA games. In fact, all USA games will be live streamed on NHL.com. Here's the full schedule, with times. Wood and Team USA will open up the tournament tomorrow at 3 PM against Finland.