Goaltending and the top-six forwards are the biggest strengths for Team USA. Then there’s terrific depth at the forward position as well. Plenty of players have been brought in to fill roles, which is exactly what you want for a team in a tournament like this. You need elite offensive guys at the top and guys that will out-work other teams at the bottom. What USA Hockey has put together for Dean Blais has all of that.
So let’s waste no more time and get an in-depth look at each of the forwards coming into camp for the U.S. National Junior Team.
Agostino was a revelation at the National Junior Evaluation Camp, leading all Americans in points. He provided an unexpected amount of offense and showed that he was more than capable competing with America’s best and against Sweden and Finland in the camp’s international contests.
He’s averaging a point-per-game for Yale and looks to be a left wing for Team USA if he is to make the team.
What Agostino has done this year reminds me a lot of what Brock Nelson accomplished last year. Nelson had a tremendous summer camp and that was more than enough to help him capture a spot on Team USA. I think it could be a similar situation with Agostino. His performance at the NJEC is impossible to ignore. If he brings that same compete level to camp, he should be in.
Seeing the name Josh Archibald on the final roster caught me and a whole bunch of other people by surprise. Though he plays for Dean Blais at UNO, there wasn’t a lot of chatter about him being in the mix.
I’m embarrassed to say that I had to look him up, as I was unfamiliar with him, and still am.
Here’s what I can tell you. He has seven goals in his first 11 NCAA games, which is actually a pretty impressive number. He was a standout at Brainerd High School last year in Minnesota, and was able to get himself drafted as a late 1992 birth year. Archibald has also played on the right side, where there’s some stiff competition.
Lastly, if Dean Blais thinks highly enough to get his guy into camp, that says a lot. Blais had one of his own guys on the 2010 club, too. Mike Lee was Blais’ goaltender with the Fargo Force the year before the two reunited at the World Juniors in 2010. There’s something to be said for a coach who can look down the bench at a familiar face and know exactly what he’ll get out of that player. Archibald, Jason Zucker and Jack Campbell are the only players with that luxury.
Bill Arnold has had a great start to his sophomore season, having almost already reached his freshman point total with half a season to go. The spike in production is also indicative in advanced development.
He’s a very strong centerman that plays with energy and has the ability to score. Arnold has a great work ethic on the ice and competes every shift, often out-muscling his opponents.
With Charlie Coyle and Nick Bjugstad undoubted locks to make the final club, Arnold is competing for one of two open center positions. His versatility is what will give him a very strong chance at being part of the final roster. As long as Arnold brings his well-rounded and better developed game to camp, I think he’s going to be part of the final team.
There might not be a bigger lock among the forwards as Nick Bjugstad continues to dominate in his sophomore season at Minnesota. He’s also a returning forward and will be expected to play a featured role on Team USA.
I’ll have some of Team USA GM Jim Johannson’s comments about Bjugstad in a later post, but by all indications, the Minnesota forward is going to be an important piece to the puzzle.
He’s advanced leaps and bounds in his development and has put on more strength to his 6-foot-4 frame. He’s scoring in bunches, too. He’s not going to be an easy guy to stop for opposing teams at all. Expect big things out of this young man in Alberta.
Want versatility? Brickley’s got it. This year, his offense has picked up with eight goals in 14 games, but that’s likely not the role he’ll be playing for Team USA. If he is to make the team, and I think he will, Brickley has to be the gritty, hard-nosed, grindy guy for the U.S.
In those tight, physical contests, Brickley is a guy you want on your side. He’s not huge, but he’s strong and he loves to hit. When he hits…. well…. it makes a very loud noise.
In addition to the physical game the 6-1, 195-pounder brings to the team, he can skate. Brickley provides energy on every shift and will be a guy Team USA can count on to keep the same effort level the whole way.
I don’t know if there’s a single forward in camp that brings what Brickley can, and therefore, I like his chances.
As one of the younger guys on the U.S. roster in 2011, Charlie Coyle ended up being Team USA’s best forward in the tournament. The effort and energy he brought to every shift and his sound decision-making was huge for Team USA.
With that experience and that success, Coyle is going to be relied on heavily. His versatility should allow him to answer whatever challenge he is met with. Coyle has a sound two-way game, good physical strength and can get to the net.
If he picks up right where he left off in Buffalo, he’ll be fine.
Talk about earning your way onto the team. Despite USA Hockey’s familiarity with Austin Czarnik from his days at the National Team Development Program, he was not invited to the National Junior Evaluation Camp. He went undrafted after a 20-goal season with the Green Bay Gamblers last year.
It seemed that Czarnik’s World Junior goose was cooked, but then he just started producing at Miami. With 15 points in 17 games, he’s on fire right now for the resurgent RedHawks.
Czarnik is small at 5-8, 152, but he is a tenacious little forward that will go to the hard areas of the ice and use his speed and skill to get to pucks and get to the net. He was highly productive in his two years at the NTDP, leading the U17 team in scoring his first year and putting up 54 points as a U18. He also had a great deal of success at the World Under-18 Championship in 2010.
While Czarnik is a surprise addition, he’s earned it. The battle should be intense, as the U.S. has brought a multitude of small forwards and is unlikely to keep all of them.
Another returnee for Team USA, Etem will look to improve on his tepid performance at the 2011 World Junior Championship. The right winger is on a tear right now in the WHL averaging 1.87 points-per-game. Etem has simply been dominant.
Because of that dominance so far this year, Etem is going to come into this team with high expectations. He’s speedy, he’s highly skilled and he can snipe. This is a guy who can flourish in Dean Blais’ system.
Etem seems to be a stone-cold lock. All he has to do is live up to expectations.
Ferlin is another guy who made a great case for himself to be in the mix at the National Junior Evaluation Camp. The funny thing about that is, he wasn’t even supposed to be there. Ferlin took Bandon Saad’s spot when Saad declined his invitation.
Ferlin made the most of the opportunity and remained in camp the whole way, getting past any cuts. Since then, he’s been cruising in his freshman season at Cornell. He’s been a key part of the Big Red’s production and continues to prove that his offensive abilities shown in the USHL weren’t a fluke, but the norm.
Ferlin has grown a lot in the last few years and he’s looking more and more like a big time prospect. He may end up being a steal for the Bruins who picked him up in the fourth round after Ferlin went undrafted in 2010.
He’s got a great frame and can skate. That size is a big advantage for him and it could lead to Ferlin getting a spot on the final roster. He’s got to beat out a few other guys, but there’s a good chance he’s in Alberta.
Why is John Gaudreau on this roster? Well, quite simply, he’s got some really nasty skill. Guys with his skill level are going to have a shot at being successful. He’s tiny, but his size has not hurt him at the USHL level last year, nor has it during his freshman season at Boston College.
Gaudreau would have to find a way to get into a top-six role for this team to make it. They aren’t bringing him because of his defense. He’s there to make plays and score a few goals, which he is certainly capable of at the World Junior level.
He’s never really failed, and that’s an attractive commodity. He was part of a championship team in the USHL and was the league’s rookie of the year in 2010-11.
Gaudreau still has to find a way to beat out some older guys, as he’s one of just two 1993-born players brought in at the forward position. If he can prove that his high-end skill is going to be productive for Team USA, he’s got a great shot at sticking around.
Miller can do a lot of things for Team USA and that versatility and prior track record leads me to believe he’ll be on the final roster.
He can play center or wing, and contribute offensively. Meanwhile, Miller is strong and physical, never one to shy away from contact. His 6-2, 195-pound frame is perfect for Team USA, which has a multitude of smaller guys in camp. He knows how to use his body and skates with power.
Miller could easily fill a top-six role on this team and the way he’s been producing in Plymouth is helping shed concerns of inconsistency in his game. He’s another guy that can really flourish under Dean Blais.
As you can see by the stat-line, Prince can be a very productive winger. Last season, he posted 88 points for the 67’s. His play-making ability and scoring touch make him a very attractive top-six option.
Only problem for Prince is that there are a lot of guys that can be top-six forwards. He’ll have to prove that he can be productive at the World Junior level and be counted on in key offensive situations.
Prince had a great NJEC, and is obviously off to a great start in his fourth year in the OHL. That vast Junior experience gives him a leg up, but he’ll have to be extra competitive in camp to get a spot.
Another forward that wasn’t invited to the National Junior Evaluation Camp, Rau’s tenacious and productive play at Minnesota are reasons he’s on this preliminary roster. Despite a small frame, Rau is a hard worker on the ice. He’s not afraid to mix it up and get to the net front and cause trouble.
The biggest factor in Rau’s favor is that all-important versatility. He could transition seamlessly into a top-six or bottom-six role. Rau doesn’t have abundant skill and isn’t a blow-you-away skater like many on this roster, but he brings his best every night.
He’s come through in the clutch several times in his career and USA Hockey can probably count on him to deliver once again. He’s another guy that’s going to have to prove size isn’t an issue and that he’ll outwork anybody for a chance to go to the World Juniors.
Despite the controversy of turning down an invite to the National Junior Evaluation Camp, Saad was given an opportunity to make this club. I’ll share what Jim Johannson said about Saad and his inclusion in camp tomorrow morning, but the gist is that Saad proved that he wanted to be part of the program.
In addition, Saad competed in his injury shortened return to Saginaw. When being sent down by Chicago, he went on a tear in the OHL. That’s the type of dominance Saad has shown in the past, but what he didn’t prove last season.
If Saad has returned to form and has a high compete level, there’s no way USA can leave him home for a second year in a row. He’s simply too good when he’s at his best and will be a big factor up front.
He’s strong on his skates, skilled with the puck and goes to the net hard. There’s a lot to like about what he can bring. As long as he’s in shape and motivated, he’s going to be an important player for this team.
If there’s one thing we can learn from T.J. Tynan it’s that if you doubt him, he’ll just prove you wrong. Despite his small stature, Tynan has come such a long way in his two seasons at Notre Dame.
He came to ND a year earlier than expected when Kyle Palmieri signed a pro contract, then proceeded to lead the nation’s freshmen in scoring. Now a sophomore, Tynan is one of the national scoring leaders.
He’s another small, but tenacious forward that’s going to have to compete in camp to earn a spot, though he might have an inside track on the other little guys. Tynan is building strength and has improved his skating so much over the last two years. He’s speedy, he’s feisty, and he produces.
Normally a center, he may get shuffled to wing for this team, but you have to believe he’ll bring a lot of spark to the line up if he makes it.
Though he averages a point-per-game in the OHL, it is likely Austin Watson is being brought in to be a bottom-six centerman who can play defensively and be physical. That is the exact role that Watson played marvelously at the World Under-18 Championship in 2010.
That said, he’s versatile enough to contribute offensively, which makes him especially attractive. Watson is a big kid who can play the body and give hell to opposing forwards. Additionally, he’s a gifted shot blocker and penalty killer.
Watson has to show that he can do the little things right. If he can, he’ll surely be part of this final roster. It might be as a fourth-line center, but that’s a role that’s always important in a tournament like this. If he can accept a role, he’ll have success.
There aren’t a lot of guys who can say they’ve played in three World Junior Championships, but it appears Zucker will be one of those special few, along with teammate Jack Campbell. You may recall Zucker as the young man who nearly murdered John Carlson after the current Washington Capital scored the game-winning goal for Team USA in 2010.
Zucker showed off his tremendous wheels in that celebration, leaping into and pinning Carlson to the boards.
I’ve always enjoyed that celebration because it is indicative of Zucker’s joy for the game and passion for winning. I’m still not entirely certain Carlson wasn’t concussed on that exuberant show of celebration from Zucker.
That passion for winning has helped Zucker and his teams find success. He is a two-time gold medalist at the Under-18 level, and a member of the last two medal-winning National Junior Teams.
Zucker has also been uber-productive for the University of Denver over the last two seasons and has proven to be one of college hockey’s best players.
Blais trusts Zucker and knows he can slot the forward in any position or on any line and get the same effort out of him regardless. Expect Zucker to be a key component to this U.S. team. He’s got tremendous wheels and a keen goal-scoring ability, but he’s also great at getting under an opponent’s skin. Zucker is the guy you love to have on your side and he’ll be used a whole bunch in Alberta.
USA Hockey is lucky to have such a deep group to pull from this year. The 1992 birth-year is undoubtedly one of the better classes of the last several years and will have a chance to do something special.
There’s plenty of competition to be had in camp. The decisions will be incredibly difficult and that is a really fantastic problem to have. Expect big things out of the 13 (or so) players that end up making the final roster at the forward position.