It’s been a bit of tumultuous few weeks since the U.S. National Under-17 Team roster was due to be unveiled, but it is finally out.
After numerous speed bumps along the way, including the high-profile loss of Brandan Shea to the QMJHL, the NTDP has its newest group of players.
This will be the first team for new head coach Don Granato, just named to the post earlier this week.
The U.S. National Under-17 Team will play 34 USHL games and three international competitions. The U17s will open their season on the road with a pair of games against the Kalamazoo Jr. K-Wings of the NAHL. Additionally, Team USA will take on an opponent from the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, the Soo Eagles. The full schedule can be found here.
It should be an exciting year for the NTDP with a rock solid class of 1994s for its U.S. National Under-18 Team and a promising group of young 1995s for the Under-17s. Meet the 2011-12 U.S. National Under-17 Team after the jump:
The goaltenders for the U.S. National Under-17 Team will be the first in four years to not have the guidance of Joe Exter, formerly USA Hockey’s national goaltending coach. Replacing Exter, who left for an assistant job at Ohio State, is Mike Ayers.
Ayers was an All-American goaltender for the University of New Hampshire and is an experienced goalie coach. The NTDP brought him in to serve as a goalie coach for Team USA at the last two World Under-17 Challenges, so he’s familiar with both the program’s process and the standard that has been set by Exter. Ayers was the goaltending coach at St. Cloud State University and also served in that same capacity in the AHL at one point.
Ayers should be a great addition for the NTDP, even though it’s losing Exter, who has had a huge impact on the way goaltenders are trained in the U.S.
Curtis Frye — Northwood, N.H. — Phillips Andover Academy
Frye comes in at 6-4, 195, which essentially makes him a monster. Size seems to matter more and more for goaltenders, so being this big at 16 is a huge advantage for Frye. According to his coach, Frye has improved greatly over the last two years and has been a great teammate at Andover. He’ll be peppered early against the bigger, stronger USHL competition, as each of the last two classes of goalies found out.
Miska is an incredibly interesting prospect in that he’s not a lifelong goalie. He’s still learning the position, but the tools he possessed are what piqued the interest of the NTDP.
His numbers aren’t going to jump out at you, as he posted a 7-19-0 record, 4.59 GAA and .895 save percentage for North Branch. Consider, though, that North Branch isn’t exactly known for being a hockey power. Also, Miska saw a barrage of shots, never facing less than 25 in a game all season.
The NTDP tends to take a kid with raw skills almost every year. Miska might be that guy this year. When you consider the two most recent “raw” goaltenders the NTDP brought in were Ducks second-rounder John Gibson and 2012 top prospect Collin Olson, the track record’s pretty good.
At 6-1, 185, Gage Ausmus has a good frame to work with. He only played 17 games last season with EGF, but made an impact with 12 points (4g-8a). Not only did he make an impact in the points department in a short time frame, he’s better known for his defensive abilities. The U.S. U17 blueline has average size this year, so it will be important for each defenseman to bring some amount of physicality and toughness against the strong competition in the USHL.
He’s already committed to the University of Denver, which has done a pretty good job with identifying top defensive prospects over the years.
Will Butcher — Sun Prairie, Wis. — Madison Capitols Midget Major
Butcher, who comes in at 5-11, 175, was one of the first commitments for this NTDP squad. Because of that, there will be a decent amount of hype.
His offensive abilities are what seems to make him stand out. His 30 points in 34 Midwest Elite Hockey League games at the Midget Major level serve as some amount of proof.
He’ll be one of the most hotly recruited players on this squad as he’ll have to choose between the college route and the OHL. The Windsor Spitfires are hot on Butcher’s trail, as are most colleges.
Trevor Hamilton — Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich. — Honeybaked Midget Minor
Having already committed to Miami University, Hamilton is becoming more of a well-known prospect. He put up solid numbers in Midwest Elite Hockey League play, posting 27 points in 34 games (like Butcher, these numbers are just from MWEHL play and are not reflective of the entire season).
In addition to having a flair for the offensive, Hamilton told Miami hockey blog, Redskin Warriors that he likes to play with an edge. With a smaller defensive group than the NTDP has had in the past, he’ll need to bring that edge to Ann Arbor.
Clint Lewis — Burnsville, Minn. — Shattuck-St. Mary’s U16
Any player that spends an amount of time at the vaunted Shattuck program is going to be looked at carefully. With the prestigious alumni coming out of the Faribault Hockey Factory, there’s a standard to live up to.
Lewis will likely be no different. With a solid 6-2, 180 frame, he’s going to be one of the bigger guys on the back end for Team USA. He had 37 points in 53 games for SSM, so he has produced as well. There’s been a fair amount of buzz surrounding him as a prospect, so he should be fun to watch.
Steven Santini — Mahopac, N.Y. — New York Apple Core (EJHL)
Santini was another early commit to the NTDP and there are a lot of people excited about what this 6-2, 205-pounder can do. After spending his 15-year-old season in the Eastern Junior Hockey League, Santini has had a taste of what Junior hockey is all about.
He’s got the size already and it is widely thought he’s more than ready physically for this challenge. He posted 26 points in the EJHL as one of the youngest players in the league, so that’s a pretty impressive feat.
Santini has already verbaled to Boston College, a school that will only spend early commitments on the elites, so that’s a pretty good indication of where he stands as a prospect.
Scott Savage — San Clemente, Calif. — LA Selects Midget Minor
Like Santini, there’s been a buzz about Savage for some time. One person that described his game to me called him an “elite skater.” He posted 24 points in 31 MWEHL games with the Selects.
Also an early commitment to Boston College, he’s been impressive to everyone I’ve talked to that’s seen him. He’s 6-0, but just 160 pounds, so the NTDP should do wonders for his strength. Adding some muscle to that elite skating ability should help round out his game.
Thompson first turned heads when he joined Fargo as a 15-year-old upon the conclusion of his high school season. The young guys in that league have a really tough time adjusting, but that’s a pretty good appetizer for Thompson who will get a heavy dose of the USHL at the NTDP.
He has decent size at 6-1, 165, and that Junior experience certainly will come in handy. My buddy, Ryan S. Clark of the Fargo Forum covered Thompson comprehensively on his blog, Slightly Chilled, so check out his Thompson-related posts there.
Evan Allen — Sterling Heights, Mich. — Honeybaked Midget Minor
Allen is a highly-regarded forward out of the vaunted Honeybaked program that seems to feed the NTDP every few years with a bunch of kids. He led Honeybaked with 38 points in MWEHL play and produced a whole bunch of points in other competitions.
He’s already committed to the University of Michigan, but the Windsor Spitfires own his OHL rights, so expect there to be a bit of a war over the next two years over his rights.
Allen’s Honeybaked coach, Mike Hamilton, shared his thoughts on Allen with Michigan Hockey Net, including a pretty detailed scouting report.
Connor Chatham — Belleville, Ill. — St. Louis Blues Midget Minor
Chatham is one of the many big bodies the U17s went after to fill out the forward lineup. The size up front allows Team USA to get away with a smaller blue line. Chatham was an early commit, but was hurt most of this season.
He’s already committed to the University of Denver, and won’t be draft eligible until 2014. He’s going to bring some grit to the lineup. Let’s Go DU Hockey blog has a pretty good Chatham scouting report.
J.T. Compher — Northbrook, Ill. — Team Illinois Midget Minor
Compher was another early commit and there’s a lot to like about his game. He was part of one of the best lines in midget hockey with now fellow NTDPer Anthony Louis and future Fargo Force forward Gabe Guertler.
The strength of J.T. Compher is his strength. He obviously has some finish, but on a line with Guertler and Louis, he took a backseat to those super producers. He’ll be needed to help create space for teammates and pop in a few points along the way.
The Yost Built Blog has more on Compher.
Dawson Cook — Cadillac, Mich. — Cadillac High School
Cook is another big forward for Team USA and just recently committed to the University of Ntore Dame. It is not often you see a Michigan High School player added to the roster that isn’t just there to help out when there are injuries.
That’s not the case with Cook. The big forward spoke with the Cadillac News about the opportunity and his high school coach shared some thoughts on Cook’s game.
Hudson Fasching — Burnsville, Minn. — Apple Valley High School
Fasching has been covered at length on this blog. He is widely considered one of the very best 1995-born forwards in the U.S. The fact that the NTDP was able to secure a commitment from Fasching was a victory in itself, due to his well-documented family situation.
Fasching is widely reported to have great character to go along with his great talent. He may end up being the most closely watched player on the U17 team in 2011-12.
John Hayden — Greenwich, Conn. — Brunswick Prep
Another big forward for Team USA, he’s played a power-style game for Brunswick prep. He’s already verbally committed to fast-rising Yale for his college hockey. We’ve so often seen big ole defensemen at the NTDP, but this forward class is something else.
Hayden is one of five forwards at or above 6-2. If he can find a way for his power game from prep school to translate into junior hockey, there’s going to be some serious headaches for this U17 Team’s opponents.
While most of his counterparts are huge forwards, Tyler Kelleher is one of two diminutive scorers the U.S. has picked. At just 5-6, 147, Kelleher needs to be dynamic to be a factor, and by most accounts he is.
USHR had glowing reviews for the small forward.
Additionally, size wasn’t an issue for the University of New Hampshire, which earned a commitment from Kelleher.
The NTDP has had luck in the past with small scorers before with Rocco Grimaldi and Nathan Gerbe being the most notable.
Kevin Labanc — Staten Island, N.Y. — New Jersey Rockets
Labanc, who recently committed to the University of Notre Dame, posted 46 points in 36 games with the New Jersey Rockets in the Atlantic Junior Hockey League. That type of production against older competition should be a big confidence booster for the forward.
In this Rockets press release, Labanc talks about his decision to commit to Notre Dame and some of the things he feels he needs to work on.
Anthony Louis — Winfield, Ill. — Team Illinois Midget Minor
Louis played with J.T. Compher on that terrific line for Team Illinois with Gabe Guertler. In 2010-11 he led Team Illinois with a cartoonish 60 points in 35 games. That doesn’t even include the damage he did in tournaments and other events.
Along with Tyler Kelleher, Louis is one of Team USA’s smallest players at 5-6, 130. Regardless of size, the kid produces. He’s already given a verbal commitment to Miami University.
While he may not be able to score at will at the NTDP, he should still be able to contribute a great deal offensively.
Michael McCarron — Macomb, Mich. — Honeybaked Midget Major
Well, Team USA has a bunch of big forwards, but the biggest by far is McCarron at 6-5, 220. Um… wow. That’s a big ole 16-year-old hockey player. He’s already committed to Michigan State University and could be one of the most attractive recruits in their pipeline.
Regardless of skill level or anything else, McCarron’s pure size makes him a player worth taking. If he can fully learn how to use his big frame and add elements to his game over the course of his two years at the NTDP, he’s going to be a hot commodity when he comes out.
McCarron is hardly just a big body. He put up 18 points with a very good Honeybaked Midget Major team and collected 88 PIMs. The more he rounds out his game, the more valuable he becomes. Watch out for this one.
Tyler Motte — St. Clair, Mich. — Honeybaked Midget Minor
Motte is yet another solid player coming to the NTDP from Honeybaked. He led his squad in MWEHL play with 23 goals and posted 37 points. He’s verbally committed to the University of Michigan and Wolverines fans are already getting excited about him.
Michigan Hockey Net got another thorough report from Honeybaked coach Mike Hamilton regarding his leading goal scorer.
Voltin was another big score for the NTDP out of the state of Minnesota, a notoriously difficult place for the program to recruit.
His 31 points as a sophomore for the notoriously strong Hill-Murray is a great accomplishment. Additionally, he’s verbally committed to the University of North Dakota, which, if you haven’t heard, has had a lot of success developing prospects.
Grabbing two of the top 1995-born forwards out of Minnesota is important for the NTDP. The recent rosters have been lacking players from one of the best player-producing states in the country. However, this group boasts five total Minnesotans. It’s always a tough decision for these kids to leave their local schools and all of the excitement that goes along with it, but the opportunity to play on big international stages at such a young age has to be an attractive option.
There you have it. The 2011-12 U.S. National Under-17 Team. I’ll hope to catch these guys on their few passes through Iowa in the coming USHL season and will provide more detailed scouting reports along the way. Should be a very fun group to track.