New York Rangers prospect Brett Berard was named to the United States’ preliminary roster for the World Junior Championship, the team announced Monday.
Berard, 18, was drafted by the Rangers in the fifth round of the 2020 draft. The undersized forward led the US National Team Development program in goals-per-game last season and is set to begin his freshman season with Providence College, with the first games of the season abruptly postponed in November due to COVID.
The roster, which currently sits at 29 players, will be cut down to 25 before the team heads to Edmonton for the 2021 World Junior Championship, which is scheduled to begin on December 26th.
Berard is likely on the outside looking in to make the final cut. USA Hockey likes to add 18-year-old’s to the fringes of their preliminary roster in order to give them the experience for the following season. Berard is expected to be an important player for the US at the 2022 World Juniors.
A full scouting report is coming on Berard later this week as part of our organizational prospect rankings.
That same reasoning could be why the US does ultimately decide to bring him to Edmonton for the full experience of a tournament. Berard is also very competitive and plays with something to prove, so he may very well force his way onto the final roster through sheer will.
Defenseman Hunter Skinner, drafted by the Rangers in the 2019 fourth round, is a notable omission from the roster. He was invited to the team’s September training camp after a breakout season with the London Knights put him on the radar. While maybe not a major snub, Skinner perhaps deserved to at least be part of this group. It’s an exceptionally weak year for USA defensemen and he outplayed a few of the defensemen who did make it last season.
Part of his omission could be due to the OHL’s virus-mandated hiatus, with USA Hockey afraid he would not be ready to immediately jump into such an intense level of competition having not even practiced in a team setting in a long time, let alone played in a competitive game. There could also be a political component to his absence. Skinner was originally committed to play for Western Michigan before pulling his commitment and opting to play for the London Knights. There is a perception that USA Hockey does not look favorably upon layers who make that kind of decision. Indeed, all nine defensemen to make the cut are currently playing in the NCAA.