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UND's Jake Sanderson, Mitchell Miller to participate in World Junior camp

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UND commit Jake Sanderson, who plays for the U.S. Under-18 Team, skates during a game against Notre Dame earlier this season. Photo by Rena Laverty / USA Hockey's NTDP

Every year, USA Hockey officials scout college games during the first half of the season to help select the U.S. World Junior Championship roster.

This year, they won't have that luxury.

College hockey season isn't expected to begin until after Thanksgiving, leaving almost no lead time before USA Hockey has to choose the team that will represent the U.S. at the under-20 tournament.

That means USA Hockey will lean heavily on its newly scheduled camp — Oct. 8-13 in Plymouth, Mich. — to pick the roster.

Two UND players will participate in the camp: rookie defensemen Jake Sanderson and Mitchell Miller.

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A third freshman defenseman, Fargo's Tyler Kleven, was originally supposed to take part in the camp that was once scheduled for August, but he will not be part of the revised camp.

The World Junior Championship is scheduled to be held in December in the same Edmonton bubble that just finished hosting the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The event is scheduled for Dec. 25-Jan. 5, but players usually depart at least a week before the event.

The World Junior camp will be held immediately following the NHL Draft, which is scheduled for Oct. 6-7.

The first round will be held on the evening of Oct. 6. Sanderson, who could be a top-10 pick, will go on opening day.

The second round is scheduled for Oct 7. Miller is expected to be picked on Day 2.

Sanderson, a 6-foot, 183-pound defenseman from Whitefish, Mont., is one of the top blue liners available in the draft. He's an excellent skater and defender, who has the ability to jump in the rush and add offense. Sanderson played for the U.S. Under-18 Team last season.

Miller, a 5-foot-9, 189-pound blue liner from Sylvania, Ohio, is known for being an offensive-producing defenseman. Miller has played forward for much of his life, but has excelled on the back end. he played for Tri City in the United States Hockey League last season.

The camp will closed to the public, fans, scouts and media.

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“We’re excited to bring together our top players as we prepare for the upcoming World Junior Championship,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, the team's general manager and the assistant executive director of hockey operations at USA Hockey. “We’ve worked with our medical professionals to put protocols in place to help in successfully running our camp and I know our players are excited about the chance to overcome all of the obstacles and challenge for a gold medal.”

World Juniors could alter season

The World Juniors could throw a wrench into this hockey season.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the National Collegiate Hockey Conference is currently looking at playing between 8-12 games between Thanksgiving and Christmas at one hub site.

In a usual year, World Junior participants don't miss any conference games and perhaps miss just a couple of easy nonconference games. This season, they could miss important league games.

UND does have nine defensemen on the roster to help cover for the potential loss of Sanderson and Miller for a few weeks.

The other seven are senior alternate captain Matt Kiersted, junior alternate captain Jacob Bernard-Docker, senior Gabe Bast, sophomore Ethan Frisch, Kleven, senior Josh Rieger and freshman Cooper Moore.

Only one other NCHC player is a candidate for the World Junior team -- Denver's Bobby Brink.

UND has a history of sending players to the World Juniors.

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Last season, Bernard-Docker won gold for Team Canada at the World Juniors. UND forward Shane Pinto played for the Americans.

Schlossman has covered college hockey for the Grand Forks Herald since 2005. He has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors as the top beat writer for the Herald's circulation division four times and the North Dakota sportswriter of the year once. He resides in Grand Forks. Reach him at bschlossman@gfherald.com.
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