Not a lot of surprises coming out of Team USA’s afternoon teleconference featuring Head Coach Keith Allain, GM Jim Johannson and Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey.
Still it was nice to hear what Allain had to say about some of his charges. The other thing that struck me about the call, having only met Allain once, was that he just sounds like a leader. It seems obvious that he should be, but he sounds like the type of guy you’d want to play for. There was a bit of fire in his belly and he was all business throughout the call. This is a guy who is ready to lead his team into battle.
Allain and Johannson both spoke of the trademarks of the team, and what we can expect from the U.S. squad.
“We’ve got a team that I really, really like,” Allain said. “Some of the trademarks of our team: we’ve got great speed, good size, and a tremendous amount of versatility. We’ve got some experience and good, solid goaltending. I definitely think we have the building blocks for a very successful tournament.”
Allain also mentioned that the next few days will be spent putting lines together and trying to build team unity and develop an identity for this squad. He also preached improvement.
“We’re going to need to improve. We have to be a better team in two weeks than we are right now,” he said.
Other general items that Allain touched on was the fact that being considered a favorite for the tournament hasn’t affected the way they are preparing the team at all.
“Our focus, first of all, is to come together as a team and get better each game we play,” Allain said. “‘Favorites’ and all that stuff is outside noise as far as I’m concerned. We’ve got a job to do as a team.”
Lastly, Allain will preach some of the same things to this U.S. team as he does to his Yale Bulldogs like playing up-tempo, giving good back pressure and trying to get offense from all five players on the ice.
Allain and Johannson also addressed a number of questions regarding personnel and gave a good indication of how some players will be used:
Kyle Palmieri – Johannson said that Palmieri will be looked to be an all-around player who can be counted on for offense. He said Palmieri will be put in situations when he can generate offense, but because of his maturity as a player, they think they can rely on him in many different situations. Johannson was impressed with Palmieri’s growth and maturity over the last year.
Emerson Etem – Another player Johannson felt had grown a lot, particularly since the summer evaluation camp. Johannson said that Etem had an “extremely strong camp” and had a “complete” two games in exhibition play. Etem was another guy that Johannson felt can be versatile thanks to his size and strength.
Jack Campbell – Allain said that Campbell will be a key component of this team because he is a proven winner. He’s got experience and confidence which will be important for this squad.
Brian Dumoulin – Allain raved about Dumoulin’s ability to play in all situations. He’s a good all-around defenseman and Allain called him “exactly what we’re looking for.”
Derek Forbort – Forbort will be looked to as a steady, two-way defender according to Allain. His size and mobility make him an asset.
Justin Faulk – Allain believes Faulk will be a key to Team USA’s power play as he is at UMD. Allain also talked about Faulk’s strength on the puck and his solid 200-pound frame.
Charlie Coyle – The big surprise here is that Allain admitted that, coming into the summer camp, they didn’t know if Coyle was going to be a center. However, Coyle impressed so much in Lake Placid, they knew he’d have a strong chance at making this team. Allain also said that Coyle is big, strong and very smart. He’s reliable in the D zone and will be relied on heavily in a variety of situations. Allain is very high on this guy, as he should be.
Patrick Wey – I thought Wey would be more of that physical, stay at home guy, but Allain sees it differently. And who am I to argue? Allain said that Wey’s experience as a “key guy on a winning team (Boston College)” is very important. He’s a steady puck-mover, that’s not strictly defensive. He’s another one of those versatile D-men that should be relied on by this team in any situation. Allain also liked the fact that BC uses Wey late in games when protecting a lead.
Those are the main points that were made during the teleconference. After listening to some of the insight from Allain, I feel like there’s a lot to learn yet about this U.S. team, but its a team that is loaded with talent. They’ll play Norway tomorrow night in what amounts to the dress rehearsal for the World Junior Championship. Expect a fired-up U.S. team for that tilt. Knowing which guys you’re going into the tournament with should help get some of those kinks worked out from the previous exhibitions.
We’ll have one more post a little later today to answer some of your questions and share some links.