Happy Monday Insiders!
Some news pertaining to the upcoming 2022 World Junior Championships. Team USA announced their preliminary roster for the upcoming tournament and Kings prospect Kenny Connors was named to that roster. Connors currently leads the Minutemen in scoring with 16 points. He has a team-high seven goals and nine assists as well as a +7 rating, in addition to two power-play goals, a shorthanded goal and two game-winning goals. Per UMass Athletics, Connors is a two-time Hockey East Rookie of the Week and October Rookie of the Month and is currently second in Hockey East in freshman scoring. Connors spoke with LAKI Prospects Writer Jack Jablonski and that feature story can be found HERE.
Chris Peters of FloHockey had this to say on Connors, who he considered to be “likely” for Team USA – “Kenny Connors is a two-way center that can drive play and I think he fits the style USA wants to play.” The Sporting News also has Connors projected to make Team USA, calling him “a highly talented two-way player. Athletic’s Scott Wheeler did not have Connors on his original projection, but indicated that he could see him on the final roster, as a player who could bring experience over an underaged player.
Team USA will gather for a training camp at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth, Michigan from Dec. 12-17 in advance of the tournament, which begins on December 26 in Halifax and Moncton. We’ll get a sense from there if Connors will make the final cut.
Regarding others who are eligible for the tournament, Kings prospects Francesco Pinelli (Canada) and Jack Hughes (United States) were not among those who were selected to their respective preliminary rosters in announcements made today. Both players participated in summer selection camps but will unfortunately miss out on the tournament later this month. No word yet on Finnish defenseman Otto Salin, who Wheeler selected as making his nation’s roster. Salin is a puck-moving defenseman who the Kings selected in the fifth round of the 2022 NHL Draft. He skated with Finland’s “challenger” squad at their summer selection camp, which was the group targeted for contention for the 2023 tournament.
Finally, regarding Brandt Clarke, it’s important to note that today’s announcement does not impact his availability for the tournament in any way. Clarke, as noted yesterday by Todd McLellan, traveled with the Kings to Ottawa earlier to date and is presently a part of the NHL roster. In order to join Team Canada, the Kings would need to loan Clarke there before the tournament. As of tonight, that has yet to happen, but their pre-tournament camp does not open until December 9 and the tournament does not begin until December 26. Kings General Manager Rob Blake has indicated that Kings management, Clarke and Hockey Canada have already grouped up on his potential participation. Context is key and the first reaction to a piece of news does not necessarily make it the right reaction, or the informed reaction and today’s announcement does not impact Clarke, the same way it does not impact Seattle’s Shane Wright, who was also not named.
The latest quotes from Kings General Manager Rob Blake, Head Coach Todd McLellan and Scott Salmond of Hockey Canada as they pertain to Clarke –
Rob Blake on Brandt Clarke, last week
With the World Juniors coming up, we have a decision to make here within the next few days. We’ve had calls, multiple calls, with Hockey Canada discussing that and Brandt included. We travel on Monday, back to Ottawa and Toronto in that area, when Hockey Canada’s camp would start up, so we’ll have a look at those things there for next week.
Todd McLellan on Brandt Clarke, yesterday
He’s been back now since last Sunday, he didn’t play on the homestand and he’ll head out to Ontario, he’ll make the trip, and some decisions will need to be made when we’re out there. What has he gotten? He had a really good training camp, he had experience early in the season and he got to go to the minors and he didn’t miss that step this year and now he’s back and he’s getting to practice with the group. It gets hard for an individual when that happens, because you’re doing the work but you’re not getting the carrot, it can be hard for a young player to understand, but that’s a part of the situation he was made aware of. Moving forward, we’ll see where it all goes.
Scott Salmond, Hockey Canada Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations
While we continue to have discussions with NHL teams regarding additional players that may be available to attend camp, we are thrilled for the 29 players that have been named to our camp roster.
Unlike past seasons, the Kings will likely have a smaller group participating in the tournament, with no guaranteed selections and just Connors, Salin and Clarke still in contention for roster spots. Things will shake out how they shake out over the next week and we’ll cover that as it happens here on LAKI.