First off, let me say it’s great to be at a computer again after a few weeks away. My vacation ended up getting lengthened by a spot of pneumonia last week, which was unexpected and not so much fun. Since I’m almost back to full strength, it’s time to get back to work.
A lot of stuff has happened over the last two weeks, and I’m going to try and touch on a bunch of it right here in this post so we can get back to business as usual on USofH. So let’s get to it after the jump.
NCHC Official, NMU Goes Back to WCHA, CCHA Looting Atlantic Hockey?
This is old news, but it’s still big news no matter what. The National Collegiate Hockey Conference became official on July 13, thus creating college hockey’s newest conference with some really good ice hockey teams.
In response, Northern Michigan said, “screw sitting around, we’re going to the WCHA.” That was made official last week.
The CCHA will be left with five teams in 2013-14 (assuming Notre Dame and Western Michigan stay, which they won’t), as of right now, but the conference will reportedly meet with four Atlantic Hockey teams about about joining the CCHA.
Those four teams? Robert Morris, Canisius, Niagara and Mercyhurst. Adam Wodon of College Hockey News, who broke the story, is also reporting these four are a package deal. You get all of ’em or none of ’em. Oddly enough, these schools which are mid-major in every sense of the word, and with all due respect to each program, a huge drop off from the CCHA’s previous inhabitants, wield a ton of leverage.
Now the college hockey world waits with baited breath to see what Notre Dame is going to do, which probably dictates what Western Michigan is going to do. Whatever the Fighting Irish do will have a huge impact on the future of college hockey.
So… as the college hockey world turns, I guess.
I think I’m going to enjoy these last few years of college hockey as we know it. It’s never been a perfect product and maybe a change will be good, but I’m going to miss a lot of the traditional conference rivalries we’ll lose. Hopefully in the long run, this all works out for the best and we are able to enjoy new traditions. That’s the best-case scenario and I fear we’re a long way away from realizing that hope.
U.S. Under-18 Select Team Named
The U.S. Under-18 Select Team, which will compete in the 2011 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Under-18 Tournament in August was announced by USA Hockey on July 14.
The big news was that Alex Galchenyuk, a Belorussian-Russian-American (born in Milwaukee, which is awesome), made the team. Because of his dual citizenship, and the fact that he has yet to play in an IIHF-sanctioned world championship, his international playing rights are up in the air. Now, because he chose the U.S. for the Ivan Hlinka doesn’t necessarily mean anything, though Galchenyuk has previously stated his desire to play internationally for the U.S. He won’t be officially an American international until he plays in one of those IIHF-sanctioned events.
The U.S. of course would love to have a player of his skill level in its bag of tricks for years to come in international competition. Galchenyuk’s 83 points with Sarnia last year was second among all rookies and he’s looking like he could be a potential top-10 pick at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. His inclusion on the Hlinka team is the first step in keeping Galchenyuk in the stars and stripes.
The roster for this team is selected out of USA Hockey’s Select 17 Player Development Camp, which took place in Rochester, N.Y., July 7-13. Here’s a look at the top scorers from that camp.
The camp’s leading goal scorer was Jordan Masters, who played in the USHL with Muskegon last year. His 11 points, including nine goals in camp was more than enough to earn him a spot on the U.S. Hlinka team. Masters wasn’t on the CSS 2012 Watch List, but his eye-popping performance at the Select Camp and a good showing at the Hlinka could change that quickly.
Another notable on the U.S. roster is Boo Nieves, who was listed by NHL Central Scouting as an “A” prospect for the 2012 Watch List. He’s one of the top prep-school players in the country and has a lot to prove this year. He’ll have a golden opportunity to prove he’s a difference maker at the Hlinka. It would be a great first impression on scouts for the 2011-12 season, should he perform up to his ability.
Perhaps one of the bigger surprises regarding the roster was the fact that there was only one native of Minnesota listed and that player wasn’t highly-regarded 1994-birth year, A.J. Michaelson. An injury cut Michaelson’s camp short, which basically cost him a roster spot. He is expected to join the Waterloo Black Hawks in the USHL next season, but missing out on this team has to be disappointing.
Louie Nanne, of Edina High School and the grandson of former hockey administrator Lou Nanne, was the lone Minnesotan added to the team.
This is a really solid group of players for the U.S. to take to the Hlinka. The forwards will be the strength of this team, while there are some concerns on the blue line and the goaltending will have to step up, but the roster will certainly compete. The team will be led by RPI head coach Seth Appert, with Matt Herr (Kent School) and Matt Greason (NTDP) serving as assistants.
Oleksiak, Saad Decline Invites to National Junior Evaluation Camp
It was no surprise that Jamie Oleksiak decided he would not attend the NJEC in Lake Placid, N.Y., to try out for the U.S. National Junior Team. It was well known that Oleksiak was going to tryout for Team Canada instead. It was however shocking, and I don’t say that lightly, that Brandon Saad declined his invitation.
When I asked around about why Saad declined his spot in camp, no one had an answer. Either they know and aren’t saying, or they are just as confused as I am. The reason it’s so confusing is that Saad looked like he would be a virtual lock for this Junior squad after narrowly missing the cut last year.
Saad is a former player at the National Team Development Program and helped the U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team earn gold at the 2010 World Under-18 Championship in Belarus. His international experience, coupled with his playing style would have made him seem like a natural choice. It is unclear if his declining this invitation will mean he’s automatically ineligible for the team, but it certainly isn’t going to help his chances.
I won’t speculate as to why Saad made this decision, but it is very curious.
That said, two spots in camp opened up and Scott Mayfield was invited to replace Jamie Oleksiak, showing just how deep this defensive corps in the 1992 and 1993 birth years is. Brian Ferlin will replace Saad.
Mayfield was a slightly surprising omission from camp initially, but now has a chance to make a statement. Mayfield actually might bring a little more to the table than Oleksiak in the long run, with his outstanding skating ability and solid offensive instincts. Mayfield still has great size (though not Oleksiak’s unmatched frame), and will have a lot to prove to be part of this surely solid defensive group.
Ferlin will have a lot of work to do in order to make this team, but should he have a solid showing in camp, he can put himself in the mix and get a few more looks during the season. Going from Saad to Ferlin is a slight drop off in skill set, but the Boston Bruins draft pick showed well in Boston’s development camp and gets an additional chance to prove himself this summer.
In semi-related news, the Saginaw Spirit announced today that it had signed Oleksiak, meaning the big defenseman will forego his sophomore year at Northeastern to play in the OHL. Many speculated that’s where the big man was leaning anyway, so it wasn’t much of a surprise, but it’s been a terrible few months for Northeastern University hockey fans. They’ve lost their head coach to the NHL, several recruits and now the big defenseman Oleksiak. Not fun.
Brandon Shea’s Interesting Summer
Brandon Shea is a top 1995-born American forward. He’s got good size, a solid skill set and performed well at Nobles & Greenough last year. So it was no surprise when the National Team Development Program announced Shea as one of its seven early signees.
Shea signed the NTDP player agreement in March and it looked like that’s where he would be playing come September. However, last week, reports that Shea was to sign a contract with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL began to surface.
There has been no official word from Moncton or the NTDP on this matter, though I spoke with a source with direct knowledge of the situation who confirmed to me that Shea was heading to Moncton.
Shea signed a binding agreement to play for the NTDP. If a settlement has been reached for Shea to be released from that agreement, I would expect an announcement soon. This situation is eerily similar to the 2008-09 off-season in which Jared Knight signed with the NTDP before backing out on that agreement and signing with the London Knights.
Now the NTDP is left short one forward for its roster which was expected to be released soon. This changes things, I’d imagine.
Shea’s signing with Moncton is also bad news for Boston College, which Shea had committed to for 2013-14. It’s particularly curious because Shea’s father, Neil, played at BC.
I have much respect for the QMJHL, but the track record of elite Americans coming out of that league is not exactly great, at least not lately. Shea kind of had a more traditional path set, that would have appeared to put him in a solid position for his future. It’d be hard for anyone to convince me spending two years in Ann Arbor at the NTDP and another few at BC would have slowed Shea’s development curve. It’s just a strange move in my mind, particularly at this juncture of his young career.
It is extremely rare for a situation like this to arise, even more rare when that involves an American playing in the QMJHL. The Q is clearly trying to attract more American talent and are doing well so far this summer.
NHL RDO Camp to Feature Top 2012 Prospects
NHL Central Scouting announced the attendees for the NHL’s Research, Development and Orientation Camp last week.
Several top American prospects were invited to participate in the camp, which will feature experimental new playing rules, but also gives the players attending a chance to show off their skills in a competitive setting.
The Americans listed were Cam Darcy, Nicolas Kerdiles, Jacob Trouba and Collin Olson from the NTDP, Alex Galchenyuk from the Sarnia Sting, Nick Ebert from the Windsor Spitfires and Jordan Schmaltz from the Sioux City Musketeers. The seven Americans invited are widely considered the top U.S.-born players available for 2012 and their selection to the camp is further affirmation.
I’m not certain how much a scout or GM is going to learn about these guys in the RDO camp setting, but it gives these players a unique opportunity to show off their talent to a lot of important people. A good showing in camp could mean additional looks from impressed GMs and scouts over the early parts of the season. So while the camp itself may not tell the evaluators a whole lot, it at least puts these players out there for them to see early.
Those are the big things that happened while I was away. It should be back to business as usual here at USofH. You can expect more frequent content updates and the usual news and analysis you come to expect. Thanks for your patience.