There were two familiar names and one surprise when looking at the recently released USA Hockey World Junior preliminary roster from a Badger prospective. The two names that you expect to show up on the 29 man roster, Derek Stepan and Jake Gardiner. The one you didn't expect to see, freshman defenseman John Ramage.
Ramage, a 6'0, 195 pounder out of St. Louis, MO has been a pleasant surprise for the Badger coaching staff this season. A late commitment, Ramage was expected to compete with Craig Johnson, Ryan Little, and Eric Springer for the last spot open in a loaded Badger defensive corps. So far all Ramage has done is suit up for all fourteen Badger games and chip in 5 points along with playing solid in his own end. I don't expect Ramage to make the final roster when they narrow the D-corps down from 11 to 7, but he's made great strides and has definitely exceeded my expectations so far this season.
Derek Stepan and Jake Gardiner appear to be virtual locks for the USA roster. Stepan is averaging a point per game so far this season and is starting to come into his own. He's a dynamic forward and there is no doubt he'll be in Saskatchewan when the tournament kicks off.
Gardiner has not put up the numbers this season that most expected, but he's taken a more proactive role in his own end. Being paired with Ryan McDonagh means that you're going to spend the majority of your time on the ice playing against top lines from opposing teams. Gardiner has taken to the challenge and should see some ice time when the US squad crosses the Canadian border.