At the annual tournament for the world’s best players 20 and under, the results reflect the development work and higher profile of a sport that usually plays second fiddle to football, baseball, basketball and more: The Americans have won gold medals three times since 2010, including last January when they beat Canada in a riveting final .
Three of the players chosen for the U.S. roster — Quinn Hughes Orlando, Florida), Will Lockwood (Bloomfield Hills) and Josh Norris (Oxford) — play for the University of Michigan.
Peeke, a second-round draft pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2016, is one of two players on the preliminary roster from Florida, a region not exactly known for producing elite Hockey prospects.
But the growth of the NHL — Miami and Tampa got teams in the early 1990s — and more media exposure has helped youth hockey make inroads in nontraditional markets in the South and West.
The U.S. team has Dec. 29 circled and recircled on the calendar — that’s the day the Americans play Canada in the tournament’s first outdoor game, at New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills.
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