The 22 players that will represent the United States at the 2012 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship have been selected. These are the players Dean Blais will have at his disposal in USA Hockey’s quest for third-consecutive medal, and if Blais has is way, second gold in three years.
It’s a long process to get to this point, beginning at the conclusion of last year’s World Juniors and now here we are. The 22 players chosen are the guys USA Hockey gives them the best opportunity to win. There will always be head scratchers or curious decisions, but there always seems to be a method to the madness.
So without further ado, check out my rapid reaction to this roster after the jump…
Goalies: Jack Campbell, John Gibson
Defense: Derek Forbort, Kevin Gravel, Stephen Johns, Jon Merrill, Jarred Tinordi, Jacob Trouba
Forwards: Josh Archibald, Bill Arnold, Nick Bjugstad, Connor Brickley, Charlie Coyle, Austin Czarnik, Emerson Etem, J.T. Miller, Kyle Rau, Brandon Saad, T.J. Tynan, Austin Watson, Jason Zucker.
The U.S. National Junior Team is going to be a Dean Blais-style team. High speed, quick in transition, physical and energized. Team USA’s opponents will first have to prove they can skate with the Americans before they figure out how to stop them.
Goaltending was always going to be a point of strength for Team USA with a pair of proven winners in Jack Campbell and John Gibson. Campbell will be the guy, but if there’s every any doubt, Gibson is more than capable of stepping in.
The defense is enormous, with just one player under 6-foot-2 (Adam Clendening) and four players that are 6-foot-4 or taller. The big trees are also mobile. They can really skate. They’ll be physical. Very solid group, indeed.
Merrill is the cream of the crop, as his all-around game is going to do a lot on both ends for the U.S. Team USA also has three snarly guys on the back end with Tinordi, Johns and Trouba. Clendening is the puck-moving ace, while Forbort and Gravel are the steady guys on the back end. Despite not getting Justin Faulk and losing Seth Jones to injury, the defense as it’s constructed is pretty solid.
The top forwards for Team USA are as good as any in this tournament. The top-six should be able to put a few pucks in the net, but there’s also good scoring depth in the “third line” and a fair amount of grit at the bottom of the lineup.
Team USA has seven returnees from last year’s squad: Campbell, Forbort, Merrill, Bjugstad, Coyle, Etem, Zucker. With this group, Team USA has a lot of skill, speed and size returning. Expect them to be the ones making a lot of the noise in this tournament. These guys know what it’s like to be a win away from the gold-medal game and that’s probably left a sour taste in their mouth.
The lineup is very 1992-heavy. J.T. Miller (1993), John Gibson (1993) and Jacob Trouba (1994) are the only non-1992 birth years on the team. Older players tend to have a lot of success in this tournament, as do older teams. With so many 19-year-olds on the roster, it looks like Team USA took that to heart.
There aren’t many surprises on this roster, save for a few. This year, the field was so close it was almost impossible to imagine how cuts would be made.
Conventional wisdom would say Austin Czarnik was a surprise, as he is an undrafted 5-foot-8, 152-pound forward. With all those big bodies on this club, it would appear he’d have an uphill battle. However, his tenacity and work ethic got him the nod. Not only that, but Czarnik has some sneaky skill. He made his case in camp.
After Seth Jones went down with injury, there was only one defensive cut to be made. That left the door open for a few players and fill the void. No one did it better than Jacob Trouba, who based on reports, was all over the ice last night making plays. His physical game and immense skating ability are going to be a big help. He could play his way into a significant role on this club.
Josh Archibald was an unknown for many coming into this camp. An off-the-radar selection you might say. However, Dean Blais must be awfully comfortable with the youngster, who plies his trade for Blais at the University of Nebraska Omaha. I’ve heard a lot of great things about his skating ability and toughness. That’s why he’s there.
Kevin Gravel got cut in summer camp, but he worked his way back and gave himself a chance to be on the roster. He’s a big body and he can skate. If Jones is there, Gravel might not be, but that’s the break. He’s a capable defender.
The cuts always tend to get analyzed a lot and with good reason. You always have to try and figure out why guys didn’t make it. Some might say (wrongly) politics. At the end of the day, the entire body of work of these players is considered, and then they have to show it in camp. Perhaps in the past there was bias, but I can say with great confidence that is not true any longer. The U.S. picks a team to win, not to make a statement.
It’s unfortunate that people have to go home this close to the tournament, but it’s the nature of the process.
Team USA’s cuts were Austin Levi, Brian Ferlin, John Gaudreau, Shane Prince, and Kenny Agostino.
Gaudreau will be eligible for next year’s World Junior Championship and will undoubtedly be in the mix. He’s a really skilled player with loads of potential.
Ferlin and Agostino both seemed to have momentum coming into camp, but based on reports, did not meet those standards in Alberta. These two guys had a great camp in Lake Placid and a good first half in college. These cuts may be more a result of other guys stepping up, instead of them faltering. The same may be true for Shane Prince.
Levi was the lone cut on D after Seth Jones’ injury took him out of the running. It’s tough, but mobility may have been the final reason. The guys brought ahead of him are a little better on their feet. Levi had a pretty decent camp, he just became a victim of numbers.
Coming Soon on USofH:
Today’s wall-to-wall roster coverage will continue later, with player-by-player scouting reports. Additionally, I am scheduled to speak with Tim Taylor, Team USA’s director of player personnel about the evaluation process and the roster overall. I’ll share that conversation here. Later today, I’ll be on the media teleconference with Dean Blais and Jim Johannson and will share their thoughts.
Plenty to get to, so stay close to United States of Hockey all through the World Junior Championship.