Tuesday Recap: NJEC Cuts, Hlinka Upset, U17 Kicks Off

Tuesday was a busy day in American hockey, to say the least. Cuts were made in Lake Placid to get the camp roster narrowed down to 29 players, while the U.S. Under-18 Select Team was in action against Russia, and the U17 Five Nations got underway in Ann Arbor.

Early Tuesday morning, USA Hockey announced which 29 players would remain in Lake Placid for the rest of the games against Sweden and Finland. The fact that 29 players were kept should tell you just how hard it was to make cuts this year. A lot of players looked pretty good and the camp has appeared very competitive throughout.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for the 15 players sent home early, but because they were cut does not mean they’re hopes of making the U.S. National Junior Team are completely dashed. There’s still half a season of hockey to be played before the final decisions will be made.

Coming up after the jump, a look at the players remaining in camp, plus updates from the Ivan Hlinka and Under-17 Five Nations Tournament.

NJEC Cuts

It’s hard to say that anyone cut was surprising. That’s mainly because of how deep and how good this camp has been. The decisions could not have been easy and it’s really hard to argue with anyone that was kept.

The final roster for camp features three goalies, nine defensemen and 17 forwards.

Here are some notes on the players that were kept:

There is little doubt that this team will be made up of primarily 1992-born players. Not only are they the oldest eligible players, many of them are also the most talented. Of the 29 players remaining, 22 have 1992 birthdates. The World Juniors tends to favor those older, more experienced teams. So this is hardly a surprise that the rest of the camp is 92-heavy.

The youngest player in camp, however, also is still alive. Seth Jones continues to impress and plays beyond his years. Conventional wisdom would tell you that a kid his age playing defense should have a really tough time playing in this camp against all of these talented forwards. There’s nothing conventional about Jones. He defies logic with his game. The fact that he’s still in camp is not surprising at all. He’s continuing his march toward making this team.

Here’s a feel-good story: Brian Ferlin wasn’t even supposed to be in camp. Brandon Saad declined his invitation and that opened the door for Ferlin, who spent last season with the Indiana Ice in the USHL. He made the most of the opportunity as he made the final camp roster. He’s had three points in the games in camp and I keep hearing rave reviews. His stock has been rising since Bruins development camp.

Nine players from last year’s WJC made the second cut as well. Experience helps, but it won’t guarantee a spot with the depth of this group. That said, the returnees have loads of talent and should have an inside track on their spots. It’s just not a sure bet they’ll all be back.

The U.S. will likely use a roster of 22 in the remaining games against Sweden and Finland, so some players will have to sit. Don’t be surprised if the players that don’t dress are names you’d expect to see on the roster.

The U.S. takes on Sweden at 4 p.m. Wednesday.

U.S. U18 Select Team Upsets Russia in OT

Coming off of its tough loss to Finland, the U.S. bounced back in a big way against a very taltented Team Russia. The U.S. Under-18 Selects earned a 5-4 victory in overtime, thanks to Vincent Hinostroza, who scored with just 31 seconds remaining in extra time.

Russia boasts one of the best goaltenders and perhaps the best all-around player in the 1994 birth year in Andrei Vasilevski and Mikhail Grigorenko, respectively. That didn’t matter Tuesday.

Hinostroza had two goals and I had heard from several people he was going to be a guy to watch at this tournament. He had a tremendous Select 17 camp and was expected to be a big contributor. He’s living up to that hype.

Take a look at his OT winner thanks to Jerome Berube at Hockey Draft Video Blog:

Not only was it the game winner, it was pretty, too. Hinostroza completely undressed the Russian defenseman and goaltender for the goal.

Team USA’s other goals were scored by Jordan Masters, Dan O’Regan and Boo Nieves.

The goal Nieves scored couldn’t have been prettier, as Neate Sager opined on Buzzing the Net. Once again, Jerome alerted us to the video. This is the type of goal YouTube is made for. Incredible.

No wonder he’s an A-rated prospect. Mercy.

Masters leads the team with four points (2-2), while Nieves is second with three points (1-2). Teddy Doherty’s two points on two assists leads the U.S. defenisve corps.

Jon Gillies started both games for Team USA. He currently holds a 4.40 goals-against average and .870 save percentage.

Team USA takes on Slovakia at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday. You can watch the game live on UStream here.

UPDATE: Russia defeated Finland, 3-1, earlier Wednesday. Both Russia and Finland have six points in the standings and sit atop Group B. With a regulation loss and an overtime win, the U.S. has just two points in the standings and can finish with no more than five points. That means Team USA will be on the outside looking in for the playoff round, regardless of result against Slovakia. The U.S. will have to play in a placement game against a yet-to-be determined opponent. In these short tournaments, every point counts. Now the goal for the U.S. becomes finishing the tournament in the highest position possible. With the number of scouts in the stands, there’s still a whole bunch to play for.

U.S. U17s Dominate Czechs in Five Nations Opener

The U.S. Under-17 Five Nations tournament got underway in Ann Arbor, Mich., Tuesday evening. Team Germany opened the tournament with an impressive 4-2 win over Slovakia. Both teams showed a fair amount of skill and should be interesting to watch over the course of the tournament.

The nightcap featured Team USA taking on the Czech Republic. It wasn’t much of a game, with the U.S. earning a 5-1 victory, thanks in part to a three-goal first period.

This U.S. Under-17 Select Team is fast and physical. There are some pretty exciting players involved in this tournament that have plenty of room to grow yet. It’s been fun to watch.

The U.S. got goals from Adam Erne, Michael Downing, Gabe Guertler, Connor Clifton and Ryan Siroky, while Thatcher Demko was fantastic between the pipes.

Erne was certainly a standout. His size alone makes him stick out, but it is his solid skating and tremendous shot that left plenty in awe. If he continues to grow, he could be a really interesting player. He never shied away from the physical game and was just too strong for most of the Czech team. He’s going to be a big factor for the U.S. in this tournament.

Despite the dominating effort from Team USA, Slovakia still managed 35 shots on net. Demko was rock solid as the last line of defense for the U.S. He didn’t have to make a ton of acrobatic saves, but was more than up to stopping the ones he was supposed to. The lone Czech goal came on a two-man advantage.

Michael Downing, who played Michigan high school hockey last year with Detroit Catholic Central, is the team captain. He’s also a pretty darn good player. His offensive instincts were superb and his size is quite attractive. He recently committed to Michigan, which is not hard to believe after seeing him live.

The U.S. U17s play Germany Wednesday at 7 p.m. EDT.

I’ll be providing color commentary alongside play-by-play man Brandon Camper live on FASTHockey.com. If you want to get a good look at some future NHL talent well before most will know their names, you might want to tune in. It’s been fun so far.

About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
This entry was posted in American Prospects, Junior Hockey, NCAA, NHL, NHL Draft, U.S. National Teams, World Junior Championship. Bookmark the permalink.

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