USA Hockey’s inclusion of young players at Olympic camp keeps eye on future

If you compare the U.S. and Canadian rosters for next month’s Olympic orientation camps, one thing you’ll notice is you could probably make a legitimate case for each member of Team Canada’s squad to be on their final list. Looking at Team USA’s roster, it’s not quite the same.

That’s by design.

Fitting in with the USA Hockey philosophy, players like John Gibson, Seth Jones, Beau Bennett, Nick Bjugstad, Jacob Trouba, Alex Galchenyuk, and Dan DeKeyser will probably be watching the Games from their respective homes (or playing in the AHL during that time). But their presence at orientation camp next month in Washington D.C. is part rewarding previous success and part keeping them in the program for when their time comes.

“For sure, our eye is on 2014, but we also have an eye on the future when we’re inviting some of these younger players,” said Team USA and Nashville Predators general manager David Poile during a Tuesday conference call.

An answer Poile gave about Gibson could also describe the the thought process behind inviting youth: “Whether it’s his time now or not, I don’t know exactly the answer to that, but we wanted him to be part of this process."

Sixteen players going to the U.S. camp were on the 2010 silver medal-winning team in Vancouver. Names like Zach Parise, Patrick Kane and Dustin Brown will all be in Sochi representing once again, but the inclusion of youngsters will put an added emphasis on competition to fill out Team USA’s depth, according to Poile.

“We do have a number of spots open,” he said. “The good news is we have a lot of quality players that are going to be vying for these few positions. I’d love to see one of these younger players emerge and capture a spot. That would be fabulous.”

One factor in Poile's and the committee’s decision-making will be what players are better suited for the larger ice surface. He said the team's strategy this time around will be different than Brian Burke's approach in 2010. To get some further insight, Poile said he plans to speak with former U.S. Olympians who played in Nagano and Torino to find out what did and didn’t work.

Since they won’t be able to get on the ice due to costly insurance, the orientation camp will be an opportunity for the players and coaches to get to know one another and discuss the philosophy of how the team will be put together and what the committee will be looking for as they do their evaluations through the first three months of the NHL season.

“You’re looking for people who have had success, that’s No. 1," said Poile. "The good thing about this is that 30 of the 48 players we’re inviting to camp have won gold medals at some level of international hockey. We’ve got guys that have played a lot internationally. You’re always looking for guys that have won; where they’ve won; who they played with; all those types of situations looking for chemistry. There’s going to be a little bit of a turnover here.”

“We’re really not trying to make any decisions right now. We have to let the players do their thing.”

Notes: A final roster announcement is expected around Jan. 1, 2014. Last time around, USA Hockey revealed the roster after the 2010 Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park ... The Nike jerseys Team USA will wear are scheduled to be revealed on Aug. 27.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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