Four Buffalo Sabres prospects will face off against each other this weekend when play begins at the 2013 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, NY. The event, which runs between Aug. 3-10, serves as the first step for 44 American-born skaters hoping to skate for Team USA at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Malmo, SWE Dec. 26, 2013-Jan. 5, 2014. USA split squads will go through practices and a pair of international exhibitions versus Finland and Sweden before cutting down for another round of games against Team Canada and their European visitors.
Team USA participants include two of Buffalo’s 2013 second round picks, J.T. Compher and Justin Bailey. The pair will be on opposing sides with Compher skating for USA White while Bailey will suit up for USA Blue.
The University of Michigan-bound Compher has played in several international events as a member of the U.S. National Team Development Program, most recently scoring three goals and seven points to lead USA to a silver medal at the 2013 IIHF U18 World Championship. Bailey previously represented Team USA at the 2012 U18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, posting two goals in the tourney's four contests.
Two other members of the Sabres’ class of 2013 will be in attendance with Rasmus Ristolainen traveling with Team Finland, and Gustav Possler getting a look for Team Sweden.
Ristolainen, 18, is already a veteran of two U20 World Junior Championships. Recently signed to his first NHL contract, the big defender is expected to play in North American in 2013-14, and much like Zemgus Girgensons last year, could miss the tourney due to his professional commitment.
Possler, who previously was one of Sweden’s top scorers at the 2012 U18 World Championship (4+4), could get a lengthy summer look with high-end forwards Elias Lindholm and Filip Forsberg staying behind due to the likelihood of the pair being full-time NHL players in 2013-14. Possler is a strong candidate to join goaltender Linus Ullmark on MODO’s top club roster in 2013-14.
Practices will take place on Aug. 3 with game action beginning the following day. USA White will kick things off versus Sweden, followed up with USA Blue’s battle with Finland. The USA clubs will flip-flop opponents on Monday before Team Canada makes its way to Lake Placid for their tilt with Finland on Weds., Aug. 7.
SabresProspects.com will provide full camp coverage both here and on Twitter.