With the U.S. National Junior Team roster announcement looming, tonight’s contest is a big one for several players. Many of the decisions have undoubtedly been made for who’s going to Buffalo, but for those last few spots, the battle is on.
It’s got to be weird for some of the players. While their opponent is the Czech Republic, some guys are competing against their own teammates to have a chance at joining Team USA’s title defense. Until 9:10 a.m. EST tomorrow, you don’t really have any friends.
The roster for tonight’s contest, which I believe will be 22 players per IIHF regulation, should include a few players just needing to get some extra reps, but mainly guys battling for spots. I think you will see a few telling scratches, as in players that are already out of the mix.
After a poor performance against RPI, some players are looking to rebound. We don’t yet know the roster for tonight’s contest, but I have a few ideas of who I hope to see on the ice.
First, I wonder if Jerry D’Amigo will play tonight. The rumblings of his lack of performance at the camp and against RPI are a bit unsettling. Still, this is a guy who should have every opportunity to make the team. He had 12 points during last year’s championship run. He’s got a wealth of international experience and he’s been going against some top competition in professional hockey. Of all of the returnees, outside of Morin, I felt D’Amigo was going to have the biggest impact. He’d be an excruciating cut, but I think Keith Allain wouldn’t be afraid to do it, if he felt he had to.
Next up, I’m hoping to see Rocco Grimaldi get another go tonight. He had a bit of a disappointing effort against RPI, but did show some flashes of his dynamic ability. I thought he’d be a lock for this lineup, but he’ll have to play well tonight to give himself a chance to make the roster.
We will likely see those that didn’t dress against RPI, including returnees Chris Kreider, Jeremy Morin, Kyle Palmieri and Ryan Bourque. No question that we’ll see Jon Merrill and Charlie Coyle, the two non-returning players who did not dress. It’ll be nice to see how some of these guys look out there.
Lastly, I think all of us American fans would like to see the goaltenders bounce back a bit. I highly doubt they will be splitting time tonight, but I’ve been wrong before. I’m guessing the goaltenders will each get one full game, whether it be tonight or on Thursday against Norway. Neither goaltender can be entirely happy with their performance against RPI, but knowing the two of them, it’s already forgotten. Andy Iles and Jack Campbell are fierce competitors, and I know goaltending coach Joe Exter will have them ready to go.
Needless to say, it should be an interesting game to watch and hopefully a good one. The U.S. actually lost to the Czechs in a shootout before last year’s WJC. It’s a good opponent for what should be a spirited contest with so much on the line for some of these American players.
Some last-minute links:
Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy and The Two-Line Pass, along with Chemmy from Pension Plan Puppets, started a hilarious new blog called The Sleeping Giant. If the title banner is any indication, this entry to the WJC blogosphere may be, in a word… Epic.
Kirk Leudeke has been doing a fantastic job with 2011 Draft Prospects coverage. He is also going to be in Buffalo for this tournament. Don’t miss what he writes.
One of these days I’ll remind myself that I don’t work for USA Hockey anymore, but as a reminder, make sure to “Like” the USAH Facebook Page to see the roster unveiled tomorrow.
The World of Junior Hockey is usually a good spot to check in for roster announcements and press releases regarding the World Juniors. There’s also a wealth of information on junior hockey in general. A great reference.
I can’t say enough about the work Chris Dilks has done over at Western Colleg Hockey Blog, as well. He’s got some unapologetic points of view and a good eye for prospects. He’s been keeping that eye on the WJC as well.
That’s it for tonight.
We’ll be back tomorrow morning with full analysis of Team USA’s final roster and a look ahead to the World Junior Championship. We’ll have plenty to post about tomorrow. Until then, feel free to leave your predictions in the comments! Thanks for reading.