Ron Wilson will have a few familiar faces when he takes the bench behind the U.S. Men's National Team later this month.
Toronto Maple Leafs' Jason Blake and Lee Stempniak, Ottawa Senators Nick Foligno and Ryan Shannon and Edmonton Oilers Patrick O'Sullivan were among the first 19 players named to the U.S. Men's National Team that will compete at the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's World Championship in Berne and Zurich-Kloten, Switzerland.
The Americans initial list boasts nine players who have previously played in the IIHF Men's World Championship, including Blake, Stempniak, and O'Sullivan, as well as defensemen Keith Ballard (Florida Panthers), Jack Johnson (Los Angeles Kings), and Ryan Suter (Nashville Predators), forwards Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings), Drew Stafford (Buffalo Sabres), and goaltender Robert Esche, who is currently playing for the KHL's SKA St. Petersburg.
Under the direction of Leafs' general manger Brian Burke, the U.S.'s advisory group charged with leading the selection of players has handpicked 12 players who are 25 years old or younger including Foligno, Johnson, Suter, Brown, O'Sullivan, Stafford, Zach Bogosian (Atlanta Thrashers), Matt Niskanen (Dallas Stars), Peter Harrold (Los Angeles Kings), Kyle Okposo (New York Islanders), and Colin Wilson (Boston University); and goaltender Al Montoya (Phoenix Coyotes). Rounding out the first group of players named to the U.S. roster are defenseman Ron Hainsey (Atlanta Thrashers) and forward Colin Stuart (Atlanta Thrashers).
“This is a skilled group of players who will represent the United States well,” said Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. “It is a nice mix of veterans and newcomers to international competition that our National Team Advisory Group is looking forward to watching.”
Joining Wilson on the coaching staff are assistant coaches Scott Gordon and Joe Sacco. Gordon is currently the head coach of the New York Islanders, and Sacco is serving as the head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters of the AHL.
Team USA will face Switzerland on April 21, in a pre-tournament game before beginning play in the 2009 IIHF Men's World Championship on Saturday, April 25, against Latvia.