For most 18- or 19-year-old kids, the end of August is typically a time for the mass migration to college campuses, a sort of introductory phase to life outside of mom and dad’s house.
For Alex Galchenyuk, John Gibson, Seth Jones and Jacob Trouba, the end of August brings an introduction of a different kind: an introduction to the U.S. Olympic Team.
The four teenagers are part of the American’s 46-man preliminary roster for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, announced by USA Hockey on Monday.
While the August orientation camp will be the youngsters’ first taste of Olympic experience, it will not be their first tango in international competition with Team USA. Galchenyuk, Gibson and Trouba won a bronze medal at the IIHF World Championship in May, while all four of them won gold with the U.S. National Junior Team at the 2013 World Junior Championship earlier this year.
“They continue to have success at whatever level we can test them,” said Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of Hockey Operations.
“Part of this is getting them to that next level. Obviously this camp is not on ice, but just this past year, Galchenyuk, Gibson and Trouba, because they had the opportunity, played well at the World Championship and were good players.
“So is just another setting, albeit off ice, getting them around the players that are going to be the makeup and core of our teams in the future, whether it happens sooner or later, they’re part of USA’s future without a doubt.”
USA general manager David Poile said the inclusion of some these players is both a reward for their great seasons both at home and in international competition and a look ahead to the future.
"Obviously we have our eye on 2014, but I think we're looking toward the future," he said. "We're trying to reward success. They're certainly a part of the future [of USA Hockey] and we wanted that component."
Leading up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games, then-general manager Brian Burke wanted to shape Team USA in the mold of a well-rounded hockey team, not simply a cast of all stars.
That approach worked well. The Americans made it to the gold-medal game, where they fell in overtime to Canada. This time around, the U.S. National Team Advisory Group, headed by Poile, will take a similar approach and hope a return to the gold-medal game is in order.
“We look for a lot of versatility in our lineup,” Johannson said. “It could be as simple as this guy can absolutely kill penalties and really help us, so no matter what he can do that and whatever else he can bring to the team, great. I think a part of that is to specialize the team a bit. But you have to look at how you’re going to play guys and who’s going to play with who.”
There will be no on-ice participation at August’s orientation camp. Rather, the camp is about getting the players brought up to speed on everything that’s going to surround Sochi. They will get into the United States Olympic Committee’s game registration and doping programs.
Everything is done as if they’ve all already made the team, Johannson said.
Since there is no evaluation process that goes on at the camp, the players are evaluated throughout the hockey season with their respective teams.
The advisory committee, headed by Poile, Burke, Johannson and Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero, will meet in-person several times leading up to the Olympics, but will be in constant communication throughout the year.
“The group as a whole will be watching the players, especially through October, November and December,” Johannson said. “I estimate our roster announcement somewhere around Jan. 1 again this year.”