This year’s United States team will see a variety of new faces as just 11 of the 46 players to accept invites to the Lake Placid, N.Y.-based camp were at the previous year’s camp. The camp will have a player at each position with World Juniors experience at last year’s tournament. Defenseman Jacob Trouba, goaltender John Gibson, and forward J.T. Miller all represented the US as 18-year-olds in Alberta last winter.
While these 46 players have been selected as favorites to likely compete for spots come December’s final camp, much could still happen between now and the final camp. Last year, Jacob Trouba was not invited to the Evaluation Camp, but went on to make the team and play key minutes on the USA blue line during the tournament. Other players such as Kyle Rau and John Gaudreau had big starts to their freshman year and were named to the preliminary roster after not partaking in August’s camp.
Below are my thoughts on the Evaluation Camp roster.
When I had pieced together who I thought would receive invites to this year’s camp, my roster was top heavy with 14 ’94 and 3 ’95 birth years. I felt like the younger talent was the best route to go despite the World Junior Championship being a tournament primarily filled with 19-year-old rosters. Sure enough, Johannson and his staff announced an older camp roster with 14 94-birth years and no ‘95s.
I had also expected a greater influx of CHL players with 20 CHL players making my 46 player list. Rather just 10 CHL players were invited to camp. Granted some of this goes hand-in-hand with my choice for a younger camp, but I did not expect such a small quantity.
In my opinion, the most glaring omissions from the camp roster are Saskatoon Blades forward Shane McColgan who was at last summer’s Evaluation Camp and was almost a point per game player in the WHL this year and Plymouth Whalers (OHL) goaltender Matt Mahalak. Draft eligible players Brady Vail from Windsor (OHL) and Dylan Blujus from Brampton (OHL) also came as head scratchers. I think all four of these players could be in the mix come December if they improve on this past year’s success.
While a lot can happen between now and the tournament, it is safe to say that this year’s forwards will be headlined by a lot of speed and a mixture of size. There are the small forwards who are locks to make this team in Rocco Grimaldi (5’6”) and Gaudreau (5’7”) and medium sized forwards locks Stefan Noesen (6’1), Alex Galchenyuk (6’0”), and J.T. Miller (6’1”). The bigger forwards such as Tyler Biggs (6’2”), Henrik Samuelsson (6’2”) and Mario Lucia (6’2”) all have legit chances of making this year’s team but need a strong August camp. The model at this summer’s camp is similar to the model that Johannson has constructed prior World Junior teams that have seen success.I really like the lesser known selections of Sean Kuraly, Alex Broadhurst, and Travis Boyd—all of which were selected at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in the later rounds. Kurlay was arguably the best forward at the 2011 Junior A Challenge for the United States while Broadhurst finished third in the USHL in points in the regular season and lead the Clark Cup playoffs in points. Boyd who struggled on the University of Minnesota’s bottom line for much of the season really came on at the end of the season and I think will very good sophomore year for the Gophers. All three are longshots at this point to make the team, but are rightly deserving of a good look by Housley and his coaching staff.
Overall, I think this is a strong crop of 26 forwards, but a handful of players who could easily be named to the preliminary roster in December that were not named to this summer’s camp.
It is quickly apparent that defense will be the strong point of this year’s team with Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba, and Connor Murphy all being named to the Evaluation Camp. All three, barring injury, will be locks to make this year’s team. The competition between front runners to make the team with Brady Skjei, Pat Sieloff, Andy Welinski, Robbie Russo, and Mike Paliotta all named to the camp.
Mike Reilly and Shayne Gostisbehere are two players I had on my roster as lesser known defensemen who could make some noise at camp and were named to the crop 17 defensemen. Reilly, a fourth round pick by Columbus, had a great year in Penticton (BCHL) with 92 points in 66 games. Gostibehere came out of nowhere last season and was instrumental in leading Union College to their first ever tournament birth and eventual Frozen Four bid. Look for Gotisbehere to hear his name called on Saturday in his second year of eligibility.
There will be some major battles at camp for the seven defensemen spots on this year’s team and should be the major attraction for those attending the Lake Placid camp.
Last year’s backup John Gibson will be at the August camp and it will be his starting job to lose leading up to December. I expected the six-foot-five draft eligible goalies Jon Gillies and Anthony Stolarz to be invited to the camp after having great seasons in the American junior ranks. Both I believe will battle with non-invite goaltender Matt Mahalak for the backup role.
I was very surprised to see Guelph’s Garret Sparks named to the team, but a great goalie camp last week must have propelled him into the top four. Sparks is another guy to keep close tabs on during the week long camp.
After last year’s disappointing seventh place finish in Alberta, the pressure will be placed on these 46 players to get back to the medal podium in Russia once they arrive to camp. Competition for positions should get the best out of players as very few players at this year’s camp are locks to make the team come tournament time. Camp runs from Aug. 4-Aug. 11.
Camp roster and schedule: http://www.usahockey.com/Template_Usahockey.aspx?NAV=TU_04_01_06&id=317495