Defense features high draft picks

12/7/2006 - NHL

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- There will be plenty of top-notch defensemen on the U.S. men's junior hockey team this year.

Erik Johnson, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NHL draft, and Jack Johnson, the No. 2 pick in 2005, were among those named to the team.

The blue line also includes Brian Lee, who will compete in his third straight world junior championship, and Sean Zimmerman, who plays for the Western Hockey League's Spokane Chiefs.

The Americans finished fourth at last year's tournament.

Peter Mueller, Wisconsin's Jack Skille and Boston College's Nate Gerbe are the returning forwards.

Boston Bruins forward Phil Kessel is eligible to play for the U.S., but the NHL club did not want to release him.

The Americans open the tournament Dec. 26 against Germany and will also be in a pool with Sweden, Slovakia and defending champion Canada.