The U.S. National Junior Team closed out its final exhibition game in preparation for the World Junior Championship with a 3-2 win over Finland. Jon Gillies made 38 saves in the contest and was named Team USA’s player of the game.
Unfortunately, I was unable to watch much of this game due to prior obligations, but a look at the lineup and how the third period (which I did see) played out, there’s plenty to be learned. Team USA had planned to announce its final roster tomorrow, but there have been some complications in camp that could delay that decision.
Forwards Adam Erne and Tyler Motte did not play in either exhibition game in Sweden due to “not feeling well.” Erne is likely to be part of Team USA’s top six, while Motte very well could have played his way into a more defensive role on the team (and perhaps still could make the team). That said, until they’re healthy, it’s tough to make that final decision.
Team USA’s defense also had a brief scare in the exhibition today when Ian McCoshen went down along the boards favoring his shoulder. The good news is, he returned to the game.
After the jump, a quick look at the lineup, stats from the game and some extra thoughts as decision time looms.
Here’s the quick scoring summary from today’s 3-2 win over Finland.
1. Danny O’Regan (Riley Barber, Nic Kerdiles), PP – first period
2. Ryan Hartman (Jack Eichel, Zach Stepan) – third period
3. Brady Skjei (Tommy DiPauli, Vince Hinostroza) – third period
Jon Gillies — 40 shots, 38 saves.
Team USA’s lineup to start today:
Nic Kerdiles – Danny O’Regan – Riley Barber
Henrik Samuelsson – Jack Eichel – Ryan Hartman
Stefan Matteau – Andrew Copp – Hudson Fasching
Vince Hinostroza – Quentin Shore – Tommy Di Pauli
Brady Skjei – Connor Carrick
Will Butcher – Steven Santini
Ian McCoshen – Matt Grzelcyk
Scratched: Adam Erne, Tyler Motte, Brett Pesce, Anthony Stolarz
– I don’t think Brett Pesce being scratched for the final exhibition game is a good sign for his chances. The U.S. has one D to cut and while Pesce has played fairly well, the U.S. has a few more versatile defensemen to plug in. Pesce is a really smart player, but I think the mobility of some of the other candidates might leave him out when the final roster is decided.
– Henrik Samuelsson started in a top-six role today, likely because Erne was out and because the U.S. staff has been trying to find a place where he can fit. He was eventually replaced by Zach Stepan on the line. Samuelsson has had a hard time establishing a defined role on this team. He’s got some tools the team can use, but he hasn’t excelled in any one area in the opportunities he’s been given. I think he’s at risk of being cut assuming Motte and Erne are healthy soon.
– Danny O’Regan scored again and that line is starting to really click. Team USA will likely lean on O’Regan, Kerdiles and Barber in a lot of situations. They seem to be getting better as the tournament approaches and that’s really good news.
– Jon Gillies saw a ton of work today and showed why he’s the favorite to start. He was named Team USA’s player of the game and showed great quickness in the little bit of the game I did see. His calm demeanor in net and technical play give the U.S. another solid netminder in tournament play. I think he’ll play most, if not all games for Team USA at the WJC. Also, Gillies has a fantastic goalie mask for the tournament.
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– The forward cuts look tough at this point. Zach Stepan seemed to be a bubble guy coming in, but has performed well and could be a really solid option as the 13th forward. The centers have all been OK, with O’Regan and Eichel looking safe. Quentin Shore and Andrew Copp have shown good flashes as well for more bottom-of-the-lineup roles, potentially. Vince Hinostroza saw time on the wing and he might be a better fit there, especially if Motte is out. That last cut is going to be the toughest one.
– Brady Skjei’s one-timer goal in the third period was a much needed boost. It was a perfectly placed shot. His camp performance overall has probably been lukewarm, but getting on the board should be a nice little confidence booster.
– Ryan Hartman had goals in both European exhibitions. I think he will have to have a big tournament for the U.S. overall. He’s especially important in the tougher contests like the one Team USA will play New Year’s Eve against Canada.
– Jack Eichel is going to come into this tournament with a lot of hype, but I think things are going to get a bit tougher for him as the tournament progresses. He’ll need to maintain his confidence and simplify his game just a little bit to have some success. He has the size and skill to make things happen, he just needs the patience to let the game come to him a bit more. Eichel has shown some really great flashes in camp and will need to be a big-time player for Team USA.
– The cuts are expected Monday, but that very well could change with the illness situation. I will provide updates as they become available. Otherwise, you can expect full final roster coverage tomorrow and beyond.