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USA Hockey eyes UND's Brent Johnson, Jackson Blake and Owen McLaughlin for World Junior spots

UND defenseman Tyler Kleven is on track to play in the August event, while a trio of Fighting Hawks are looking to compete in the under-20 event for the first time.

UND CC hky Johnson.jpg
Brent Johnson celebrates his first collegiate goal with teammates Jakob Hellsten, Judd Caulfield, Brendan Budy and Riese Gaber in a February 2022 game against Colorado College in Ralph Engelstad Arena.
Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — Some UND hockey players are headed to Plymouth, Mich., this summer to try to make an impression on USA Hockey officials.

Sophomore defenseman Brent Johnson and incoming rookie forwards Jackson Blake and Owen McLaughlin have been selected to participate in the National Junior Evaluation Camp from July 24-Aug. 3 at USA Hockey Arena.

They'll be looking to make the U.S. World Junior Team for the event that will be played in December and January in Halifax and Moncton, Canada.

Junior defenseman Tyler Kleven also will participate in the camp, but his spot is more solidified — for a different World Junior Championship. He's expected to be part of the American squad that will play in Edmonton from August 9-20. That tournament was supposed to be played last winter but was delayed after COVID-19 positive tests.

Jake Sanderson, who was captain of the U.S. squad in the winter, will not be part of the camp. He signed a pro contract with the Ottawa Senators this offseason and is not expected to be available to participate.

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USA Hockey is bringing 60 total players to Plymouth for the camp — an unusually high number — because it has to pick teams for two events.

For the August World Juniors, USA Hockey is expected to try to keep the roster as close to the same as it was last winter, although the Americans will be without some key players like Sanderson and Michigan's Matty Beniers, who signed with the Seattle Kraken after the NCAA Frozen Four.

Kleven, who was on USA's gold-winning squad in 2021, is trying to join Jonathan Toews as the only UND players with two golds in the under-20 event.

The U.S. roster is much more in flux for the winter World Juniors.

That's where Johnson, Blake and McLaughlin come into play.

Johnson took big steps as a rookie at UND. He didn't play much in the first half of last season but was thrust into a much larger role as the Fighting Hawks rolled down the stretch to the Penrose Cup.

The right-handed blue liner from Frisco, Texas, scored UND's lone goal in a 2-1 overtime loss in the NCAA regionals to Notre Dame. He finished the season with two goals and three points in 23 games.

Blake and McLaughlin both starred in the United States Hockey League last season.

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Blake, who played for the Chicago Steel, racked up 77 points in 61 games, marking the most points by a UND-bound player in the USHL in the last 20 years.

McLaughlin, meanwhile, played first-line center for the Clark Cup-champion Sioux City Musketeers. McLaughlin finished just off of Blake's pace, tallying 72 points in 62 games.

Blake and McLaughlin are expected to contend for top-six roles this season at UND.

While USA Hockey uses the summer camp to evaluate players for the World Juniors, it will continue evaluations during the first half of the college season to pick the winter squad.

UND players will begin arriving on campus next month for summer skates and workouts. Official practice will begin in September.

The Fighting Hawks open with an exhibition game against the University of Manitoba on Oct. 1. They'll open the regular season against Holy Cross on Oct. 7-8.

NCHC players at World Junior camp

North Dakota
F Jackson Blake
F Owen McLaughlin
D Tyler Kleven (on last winter's team)
D Brent Johnson
Minnesota Duluth
F Dominic James (on last winter's team)
F Blake Biondi
F Isaac Howard
D Wyatt Kaiser (on last winter's team)
Denver
F Jack Devine
F Carter Mazur (on last winter's team)
D Sean Behrens
D Shai Buium
Colorado College
F Hunter McKown
G Kaidan Mbereko (on last winter's team)
Miami
F Red Savage (on last winter's team)
St. Cloud State
D Jack Peart (on last winter's team)

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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