Rob Schremp's best Christmas present arrives 18 days early.
The Free Press has learned the London Knights centre will be named today to the U.S. team for the world junior hockey championship.
Schremp's name will be among the final 10 players added to round out the U.S. squad. The first 12 were announced a month ago.
The tournament runs Dec. 25 through Jan. 4 in Grand Forks, N.D. Schremp reports next week and will miss at least five Knights games.
He wasn't chosen last year, when the U.S. beat Canada in the gold-medal game.
"This is very exciting news. It's a pretty big honour for me to be playing for my country," Schremp said last night from his home in Fulton, N.Y., north of Syracuse, where he spent the past two days with his family after the Knights played Saturday in Erie, Pa.
He rejoins them today for practice in preparation for tomorrow night, when the Knights take their 28-game unbeaten streak into Kitchener.
The Knights, 27-0-1, are looking to equal the Canadian Hockey League record of 29 games set by the 1978-79 Brandon Wheat Kings, 24-0-5 before their first loss.
Schremp, who turns 19 on Jan. 7, is second in the OHL with 24 goals, one behind Erie's Geoff Platt, and third in league points with 46.
While Hockey Canada holds a final selection camp to choose its team -- Knights forwards Corey Perry and David Bolland and defenceman Danny Syvret are among the 32 players who report to Winnipeg on Sunday -- USA Hockey just picks its 22-man roster, comprised mostly of college players.
Schremp, a first-round pick of the Edmonton Oilers in the 2004 NHL draft, joined the Knights on Oct. 8, 2003 in a trade from Mississauga.
In a recent interview, USA Hockey expressed concerned over his defensive play and also with him being an offensive liability, saying he had a tendency to make some wrong choices with the puck.
But under the tutelage of Knights head coach Dale Hunter, Schremp has turned his game around and now is one of the most effective players with the puck and no longer a defensive liability, which has been recognized by USA Hockey.
"I've moved on," Schremp said of his disappointment over not playing last year. "Last year they had a really good team. They knew what they wanted, they got it and they won gold medal. Now I'm just happy to be on the team this year."
Canada and the U.S. aren't in the same pool and wouldn't meet until the playoffs but Syvret, the Knights captain, was excited for his teammate.
"For real? That's beautiful. It's good for him. He's worked his butt off," Syvret said. "He's cracked down and is playing a more defensive game, and if the news is true, I hope the U.S. has seen that. His game is no longer just about going out and scoring 30 goals.
"He's making good choices with the puck. He knows he's with some talented players. It took him a while to get out of the Mississauga mindset. They didn't have the calibre of players we have and he had to do it all there. Now, he distributes the puck around more.
"But you also know when you give him the puck he's going to score. I've never seen anybody on his pace. Anything he shoots goes in. His shot is just so accurate."
The OHL knows it. Now the world is about to find out.