Just when things were looking up for the Tri-City Americans, they will be without one of their top defensemen for up to nine games, starting Tuesday when the Portland Winterhawks roll into town.
Brandon Carlo was invited to the U.S. National Junior Team camp for the second consecutive year. He is one of 29 players — along with Seattle’s Scott Eansor — who were invited to the camp, which began Monday at Boston University.
“It’s always a great experience,” Carlo said. “I went there last year as well. I’m excited to go in and use that experience to my advantage. I’ll go through the camp again and see how everything goes. It’s in the backyard of where I got drafted (Boston Bruins). It will be a great opportunity to go out there and be around them as well, and show what I have against the best talent in the nation.”
Carlo, a 6-foot-5, 200-pound native of Colorado Springs, Colo., was drafted in the second round of June’s NHL draft by the Boston Bruins (37th overall).
The final 23-man roster for the World Junior Championship will be announced Dec. 24.
This year’s tournament will run Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Helsinki, Finland. Team USA will open action Dec. 26 against Canada.
During last year’s WJC, Carlo had one assists in five games for Team USA as it posted a fifth-place finish.
Carlo is among seven invitees who were members of last year’s team. The others include forwards Auston Matthews (ZSC Lions) and Sonny Milano (Lake Erie Monsters); defensemen Ryan Collins (University of Minnesota) and Zach Werenski (University of Michigan); and goaltenders Brandon Halverson (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) and Alex Nedeljkovic (Flint Firebirds).
“There are a few returning guys, and there are a good amount of guys, who probably would have been the strongest guys on the team, but they are in the NHL right now,” Carlo said. “That is cool. I got to play with them last year and now they are making strides in the NHL. It’s all just the path to that realm. That’s what I am trying to do, as well.”
There are nine defensemen battling for positions on the team, and Carlo is confident in his ability to earn a jersey despite missing several games earlier this season with an upper-body injury.
“I’m not worried about it,” said Carlo, who has two goals and 12 assists in 22 games this season. “I am doing the right things for myself right now. Kind of playing a smarter game where I don’t have to fight because of the injuries I’ve had. I’m just excited for the opportunity no matter what happens.”
He also knows the Americans will miss his service on the back end while he is gone, but he said his teammates have been supportive.
“It’s understandable that I will miss the time here, but I feel like everyone in the room knows how big of an opportunity this is for me,” Carlo said. “They are nothing but excited for me. That is really cool to see from your teammates.”
The WJC have been a stepping stone to the pros for many former Americans players, including Carey Price, Stu Barnes, Daymond Langkow, Brian Boucher and Scott Gomez.
“There have been huge guys who have gone through this organization, like Gomez and Price,” Carlo said. “I hope to be one of those people in the near future with a career in the NHL.”