The U.S. National Junior Team staff cut down its camp roster to 31 players as USA Hockey announced Tuesday morning. That means 13 players previously in camp, including one injured player, are done in Lake Placid.
It’s important to remember that getting cut from the camp doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the end of World Junior hopes for the guys sent home.
“The players released today will continue to be evaluated this fall for Team USA. For the players that are staying, the games this week give us an opportunity to continue assessing them,” Team USA GM Jim Johannson said.
That’s not just lip service. This class of players isn’t deep enough to not continue looking at the guys that were cut and even guys that weren’t invited to camp. So much of this team is decided by what happens in the first half of the regular season. This camp merely serves as a first impression and a chance to compete against some top-level international teams to get that extra experience.
Coming up after the jump, a look at the players cut and which players are getting a second chance in Lake Placid.
The players sent home include goalie Collin Olson, defensemen Gage Ausmus, Dylan Blujus, Anthony DeAngelo, Nick Ebert, Keaton Thompson and Tommy Vannelli, and forwards Justin Bailey, John Hayden, Vince Hinostroza, Matt Lane and Brady Vail. Jimmy Lodge was already out of camp after suffering an injury on the first day, so it’s technically 12 cut, but 13 total are done in camp.
Collin Olson — This was probably a tough cut to make after his 15-save performance in yesterday’s exhibition, but I think Olson was going to have to have a perfect camp to knock out any of the other guys. Jon Gillies and Anthony Stolarz were the front runners for the No. 1 and No. 2 goalie spots, while Thatcher Demko, who will still be age eligible for the WJC in 2015 always made sense to make the team as at least a No. 3. It’s got to be disappointing for Olson, who had one bad day and one really good day.
Gage Ausmus — The numbers really caught up to Ausmus here. He wasn’t necessarily bad in camp. He played adequately, but as a shut-down defender, he probably needs another year of seasoning. The U.S. kept Brady Vail, Steven Santini and Brett Pesce, who each have some more mobility than Ausmus as defensive guys.
Dylan Blujus — The writing was on the wall for this one. Blujus saw his ice time dwindle to almost nothing in the last exhibition game and when he was on the ice, there wasn’t a lot there that warranted him sticking around. I think the physical tools are there, but he needs some work on his decision making. Gap control was also an issue on the bigger ice surface, as it can be for many players.
Anthony DeAngelo — This was another guys who I didn’t think played poorly, but he wasn’t at the level of other offensive defensemen in camp like Will Butcher, Matt Grzelcyk and probably even Michael Brodzinski, all who stayed in camp. DeAngelo’s defense needs a lot of work, but there are elements of his offensive game that are dynamic. I thought he was a long shot for the team this year and that didn’t change. He’s going to be one to watch closely for 2015, however.
Nick Ebert — His offensive game never really materialized and his defensive game was solid, if unspectacular, so this was another unsurprising cut. He wasn’t good, he wasn’t bad, Ebert was just somewhere in the middle and in a highly-competitive camp, the middle is not a great place to be. It was hard to see what kind of role he could play on the team in camp, but he’s a guy I think USA Hockey should continue monitoring as there are elements of his game that could prove helpful. They just didn’t really show up in LP.
Keaton Thompson — Another guy with big upside, it’s just that he’s not ready yet. Thompson has good puck-moving capabilities when he has time and space. His decision-making was not great in camp, with several turnovers off of ill-advised passes or hesitating to make a decision. That’s something that will come as his game matures, or at least you’d hope for it to. He’ll still probably be in the mix for 2015 as his game progresses.
Tommy Vannelli — Same as Thompson, all the physical tools seem to be there aside from good strength, but it was the decisions, or sometimes indecisiveness that cost Vannelli. He’s a fast skater, but the pace of camp consumed him a bit I think. I really like his upside and his potential for a spot on the 2015 team, but he’s still a ways away from being ready for the WJC.
Justin Bailey — Another toolsy guy with upside, Bailey showed some really great flashes in camp. That said, it was really hard to define what he could be for this year’s team. He has speed and skill, but needs to use his size more effectively. If he can start putting that together and add more to his power game, there will be a place or him next year. The glimpses he showed were very encouraging. Some more development is going to go a long way with this one.
John Hayden — At his size, Hayden needed to be a little more assertive to stay in camp. He’s a big, strong guy and his power game just wasn’t quite where it needed to be. He showed a few flashes of good play in the defensive zone, but his hand skills need work if he’s going to be able to produce offensively. He’s one to continue watching.
Vince Hinostroza — Hinostroza had a really good bounce-back game Monday after being pretty non-existant the first game, but I think it might’ve been too little, too late. It was tough to see where exactly he fits in. He has the energy level to play a bottom six role and showed flashes of top-six creativity, but not enough to supplant the guys they kept. I liked what I saw out of him Monday, at least. If he makes any kind of impact in the first half at Notre Dame, he’ll still have a chance to make the big club.
Matt Lane — If Lane was going to make the team, it would probably be as a bottom-six energy player and I think he played the camp like he was gunning for the top-six. He showed good speed and skill, but the defensive side didn’t really come around much in camp and there wasn’t the tenacity on the forecheck I was hoping to see. Lane did look quite good at times, but not in a way that carved him out a spot to stay.
Brady Vail — I think Vail underperformed in camp and I certainly expected more. There wasn’t much of that defensive prowess that he showed at the OHL level. With so many centers in camp, I thought if Vail could prove he could be the shutdown guy, he’d position himself well for a spot on the final roster. Other guys showed better two-way capabilities, most notably Dominic Toninato, and I that made Vail expendable.
Here are a few guys I think are getting a second chance…
Boo Nieves — There were so many little glimpses of the high skill and speed in Nieves’ game, but never consistently. It’s clear that the U.S. could use a guy with his skill set and he can play the style Team USA will need to be successful at the WJC. I think it’s smart to keep him around to see how he does as these camp games get tougher. He’ll need to show more consistency in his offense, however, to make the right kind of impression.
Hudson Fasching — I think Fasching sealed his spot in camp with some excellent penalty killing and strong two-way play overall, particularly Sunday. He showed good speed and used his frame well and I think that’s what separated him from former NTDP teammate John Hayden and Justin Bailey.
Brett Pesce — It was good to see Pesce kept only because I think the book on him on big ice is still out. He’s a guy that definitely needs more evaluation time. He hasn’t been particularly great in camp and he’s a prime candidate to play a shutdown role. Pesce needs to make better decisions with the puck and needs to figure out the positioning a bit better on the big ice. Giving him more reps will help a lot in making a more informed decision later.
Henrik Samuelsson — The big forward is another guy that showed flashes, but overall hasn’t done a lot in camp. He’s another guy that the U.S. could really use if he’s at his best. He has skill, plays physical and with his great size, he can be a presence in all areas. The foot speed might be holding him back a bit in camp, but he’s got a few more days to show what he can do on the big ice and he’ll need to take advantage. There’s a spot for him on this team if he can put his whole game together.
Stefan Matteau — With 17 NHL games under his belt, a lot more has been expected of Matteau and I don’t think he’s met those expectations. He did get injured in the last game, but is apparently well enough to continue in camp. Prior to the injury, Matteau looked better than he had in previous games. He’s a big guy with strength and speed that can do well at both ends of the ice. Matteau has to show that more in camp.
There are no games today in Lake Placid. The newly-trimmed U.S. roster (with 22 of the 31 players dressing more than likely), will meet Sweden at 4:15 p.m. ET. Also, Canada comes in to take on Finland at 1 p.m. ET. Both games will be carried live on FASTHockey.com.
This is when the camp really gets kicked up another notch and where you can start to see a little more separation between guys. It should be a lot of fun to track.