Now that Team USA’s roster has been finalized, excitement is starting to build for the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship. This is going to be an outstanding tournament with plenty of twists and turns to keep everyone locked in.
I got a few questions today via the comments and Twitter, and I’ll start with Dan’s question, which is a good one.
I was just wondering how the order shakes down from the top and how much say the guys that helped pick the Mens Olympic Roster (mainly NHL GM’s) would have in an instance like this and how much do they stay involved in USA hockey besides their obligations to their NHL teams?
As many of you are probably aware, and as Dan points out, USA Hockey had a group of NHL GMs, namely Brian Burke, David Poile, Ray Shero, Paul Holmgren, Dean Lombardi and Don Waddell, help with the selections for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team, as well as the most recent U.S. Men’s National Team. USA Hockey also recently added Dale Tallon to that group.
Those guys mainly stick to the USA Hockey teams that deal with pro players, in general. I’m sure Jim Johannson fielded a call or two from these guys over the course of the evaluation and selection of the players. Those calls, however, were more likely of an inquisitive nature as opposed to an informational/scouting nature. The group mentioned above have their first responsibility to their NHL club, and USA Hockey second.
I’m sure they were interested to see if some of their prospects were in the mix, but this team is Jim Johannson’s and Keith Allain’s. They make the final decisions on who to or not to invite. Those decisions are also based on season-long, and in some cases two-season long evaluations of players as scouted by Johannson, Tim Taylor, the junior team’s director of player personnel, and Ben Smith, who helped with the scouting efforts. That is a question that I actually heard a few times when I worked at USAH, and it’s a fair one to ask. That said, those guys are very in tune with what USA Hockey is doing in regards to national teams and player development at all times.
Friend of the blog and a great blogger himself, Kirk Luedeke, who has his own preview of Team USA’s forwards, asked on Twitter:
Are the Americans accepting a lot of risk by opting for smaller wings over [Brandon] Saad?
When Kirk originally asked that question, I thought yes, but looking at the roster some more, I don’t think so. Saad was going to be a left winger if he made this team, most likely. Chris Kreider is faster, and similar in body type in that position. He was never going to beat out D’Amigo, Bourque or Zucker on the left side, either. If you put Saad on his off wing, there’s more competition. Chris Brown really emerged as a guy that can play two ways, and be that versatile-type player that Allain and Johannson spoke about on their teleconference. Brown is also 6-2, 194, so he brings similar size as Saad, while outproducing the Saginaw Spirit winger in camp. Emerson Etem isn’t quite as big, but he’s strong and again, faster. Then there’s Kyle Palmieri and Jeremy Morin who Saad was never going to beat out. Lastly, you’ve got Mitchell Callahan, who gives away size, but brings an element that Team USA desperately needed in his hard-nosed, in your face game.
Saad was a numbers cut. In other years (particularly next year), it’d be unthinkable to leave him home. The players that made the team either had better camps or brought something different to the table. It’s a great problem to have such depth, for the management, as Johannson repeatedly said earlier today. He thought it was one of the tougher years in making selections. Few were harder than cutting Saad, I’m sure.
Here are some links to get you through this cold December night.
First off, there are at least three players from the U.S. National Junior Team on Twitter, so go ahead and follow them: Jerry D’Amigo (@JerryD91), Emerson Etem (@emersonetem) and Chris Kreider (@ChrisKreider). I’m not sure how much they’ll be using the medium during the tournament, but either way, they’re worth following.
Craig Custance of The Sporting News has been getting first-person accounts from Brandon Saad on his experiences throughout the year leading up to the draft. However, today’s post gets Saad’s reaction to being cut. I feel for the kid, but he is a classy and mature young man. He’ll bounce back from this and I expect him to be a top-five pick this year and a leader for next year’s junior squad. Saad also offers some scouting reports on Canada and Sweden.
Looking back, I should have linked this video in my post regarding the importance of Tim Taylor’s role with the team last week, but forgot. Taylor and Johannson talk about the year-long process in selecting the U.S. National Junior Team. It’s a very insightful piece put together by USAHockey.com’s managing editor, Cameron Eickmeyer.
Here’s NHL.com’s look at the U.S. National Junior Team from Mike Morreale, including some great quotes from Keith Allain from the teleconference earlier.
Lastly, if you haven’t visited USA Hockey’s roster page for the National Junior Team, you should. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the players. There are individual stats, as well as great notes on each player.
Want to get a good idea of how things are going with that team from north of the border? Buzzing the Net is the place to check that out. Great insight and plenty of great links. It’s a daily stop for me, even when the World Juniors aren’t going on.
Tomorrow, we’ll preview what to watch for in Team USA’s final exhibition and take a look at Group A (USA, Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia, Germany) for the World Junior Championship. See you tomorrow.