The U.S. Men’s Under-18 Team will begin its quest for a fourth consecutive gold medal at the 2012 IIHF World Under-18 Championship Thursday. If Team USA hopes to accomplish that feat, the 13 forwards on the squad are going to have to combine for a spirited offensive effort.
There is some concern about this team’s ability to score consistently after a less-than-stellar offensive output at the Under-18 Five Nations Tournament in February. Compounding offensive concerns is Stefan Matteau being ruled ineligible to play for Team USA at the tournament by the IIHF. More on that later in this post.
The loss of Matteau, who was replaced by 1995-born Anthony Louis on the roster, will hurt, but it also gives players like Nic Kerdiles, Ryan Hartman and Riley Barber a more featured scoring role. It will also require other players to step up to fill the void. Needless to say, it’s going to require all four lines firing throughout the tournament to put together another gold-medal run.
Coming up after the jump, a look at all 13 forwards responsible for Team USA’s road to a fourth consecutive gold medal.
Riley Barber — Livonia, Mich. — Barber led the U.S. National Under-18 Team with 20 goals this year in his first year at the National Team Development Program. Barber is a strong skater with a good shot, solid puck skills and a goal-scorer’s confidence. He has the ability to create for himself and gets to the good scoring areas. Though not overly big, Barber has built strength this season and it has positively impacted his game. If Team USA is to have success, Barber will likely be a big part of it. NHL CSS Final Rank: 86
J.T. Compher — Northbrook, Ill. — One of two 1995-born forwards to make the team, Compher sure doesn’t look like an under-ager on the ice. He’s strong on his skates and nasty in the corners. Not only that, but Compher has good finish around the net. Since getting called up to the U18 squad from the NTDP’s U17 team, Compher posted six goals and two assists in 11 games. He gives energy along with offensive spark. Draft eligible in 2013.
Andrew Copp — Ann Arbor, Mich. — One of the great stories on this roster, Copp was never meant to make this team. He contributed to the NTDP as a “swing” player, filling in when needed in USHL action at with both NTDP squads. Then he went to the Vlad Dzurilla U18 tournament as part of the U.S. National U17 Team and ended up being one of the team’s best players. Copp is an ultra athlete (he was a star quarterback for Skyline High’s football team), with a great frame. He provides energy and will contribute the odd goal. A character player through and through, Copp made this team as a result of his hard work. NHL CSS Final Rank: Unranked
Cameron Darcy — South Boston, Mass. — Darcy’s offensive production was way down this year, but he has the ability to play in both zones, be physical and show off a little skill. Darcy plays with toughness, but also plays it smart. He’ll give the U.S. jump every time on the ice. NHL CSS Final Rank: 134
Thomas Di Pauli — Woodridge, Ill. — Di Pauli is one of the more skilled players on this team. His vision is among his better tools, finding teammates and creating time and space for himself. He’s probably better than his 20-point output this year. The big ice sheets in the Czech Republic should play to his strengths and Di Pauli should be able to produce at a higher clip. NHL CSS Final Rank: 81
Ryan Hartman — West Dundee, Ill. — After a breakout season as a U17, Hartman’s production slowed as a U18. Despite that fact, Hartman has shown in the past he can score when needed. He finished tied for second on the team with 33 points including 20 assists before the team left for the Czech Republic. Hartman has pretty good wheels and a strong skill set. He will be one of the players that will need to step up in a big way for the U.S. to have some success. Draft eligible in 2013
Nicolas Kerdiles — Irvine, Calif. — With good size and good hockey sense, Kerdiles will likely be the top forward for this U.S. team, especially with Matteau gone. He can play center or wing and can do well at both ends of the ice. At 6-1, 198, Kerdiles is actually Team USA’s biggest forward. He uses his frame well to protect the puck, or separate his opponent from it. With 38 points on the year, Kerdiles was Team USA’s top producer. He also posted a team-best 21 assists. He also has U18 experience, as part of last year’s gold-medal squad. NHL CSS Final Rank: 29
Matthew Lane — Rochester, N.Y. — Lane might be one of the fastest forwards on this team. With his strong skating ability and aggressive forechecking, Lane could be a very important asset to this squad. The energy level he brings to the ice every shift is going to go a long way to giving the rest of the team some jump and keep opponents on their toes. NHL CSS Final Rank: 150
Anthony Louis — Winfield, Ill. — Up until a few days before Team USA was to leave for Europe, Louis got tapped on the shoulder. As Stefan Matteau’s replacement, expectations should be tempered. Louis, at 5-6, 132, will not be able to play the same role as the 6-2, 217 Matteau. That said, Louis is a dynamic little player. He led the U17 squad with 27 goals this season and was among the most consistent scorers in the entire NTDP. Louis has shifty puck skills and speed. He should find a way to contribute and could turn out to be a pleasant surprise for Team USA. Draft Eligible in 2013
Daniel O’Regan — Needham, Mass. — O’Regan is the lone addition to this squad from outside the National Team Development Program. The St. Sebastian’s centerman jumped in with the U18s a few weeks back and has shown the ability to produce. With three goals and two assists in seven games, O’Regan will have to be continue to be a productive guy for this team. He should see plenty of ice time and with good vision and strong puck skills, he should be able to fit his role well. He’s an outside addition that really adds a lot to the lineup. NHL CSS Final Rank: 76
Kyle Osterberg — Lakeville, Minn. — Though size will always be in the first line of every Osterberg scouting report, heart should be right up there, too. A scrappy forward, Osterberg doesn’t let his size get in the way of playing the body and getting after his opponents. He has good speed, plays physically and he can be a real pest for opponents. Osterberg can create offense as well. With 19 assists on the team, he was one of the top producers in that category. NHL CSS Final Rank: Unranked
Quentin Shore — Denver, Colo. — As one of the few forwards at 6-feet or taller, Shore offers Team USA some size. He’s also shown some scoring touch, and the ability to bury big goals. Of Shore’s 14 tallies this year, eight were of the game-winning variety, by far the most on the team. His penchant for clutch scoring makes Shore an important asset in this tough tournament. NHL CSS Final Rank: 80
Frankie Vatrano — East Longmeadow, Mass. — Vatrano quietly put up 31 points this year for the U.S. U18s, including 14 goals. With good puck skills and a big shot, Vatrano could be poised for a break-out tournament. Though the numbers weren’t eye-popping, Vatrano finished fifth on the team in points produced. His offensive abilities, combined with his size and strength will be very important for the U.S., especially in the absence of Matteau. NHL CSS Final Rank: 88
Stefan Matteau being ruled ineligible has been confusing for most, and especially disappointing for Matteau himself and his team.
Days before leaving, the team was informed, after an appeal process, that Matteau would not qualify for competition with the U.S.
This ruling by the IIHF is potentially precedent setting, as it has affected neither Canada nor the U.S. previously. It is rather common for dual citizens to compete for the U.S. or Canada and this rule could potentially impact future international tournaments at the Under-18 and Under-20 levels.
The bylaw being enforced reads as follows:
1.7 When a player has multiple citizenships where the relevant citizenships are for countries of member national associations and he has never represented any country in any IIHF championship or an Olympic competition or in qualifications to these competitions, then in order to play for the country of his choice he must
a) prove that he has participated for at least two consecutive years in the national competitions of and resident in the country that he wishes to represent during which period he has neither transferred to another country nor played ice hockey within any other country and
b) if the country of his choice is one to which the player has transferred then he must have had an IIHF international transfer card approved and dated by the IIHF at least two years prior to his proposed participation. When a player wishes to establish his eligibility under subsections c) or e) or f) or g) the member national association for which he wishes to play must submit an application to the IIHF together with all relating evidence at the latest four weeks before the competition or game in which the player wishes to play. The General Secretary is responsible for investigating the application and confirming the player’s eligibility to play for the country concerned. Notwithstanding the above, the decision of the General Secretary is not conclusive proof of the eligibility of the player to play for the country concerned.
The part that directly relates to Matteau is part A. The wording is a bit confusing and also a little vague.
Matteau, born in the United States, played for the NTDP for the last two seasons, representing the country both domestically and in international tournaments like Four Nations Cups. Though he was based in Ann Arbor for two seasons, he did not live in Ann Arbor for two consecutive years, as in 24 months. However, he did play in the national competitions of his country during which games were being played in that two years period.
Matteau was born in the United States and lived in the country until age 9. After his father Stephane retired from the NHL, the family moved back to Quebec. Matteau played within the Canadian youth hockey system after the move and later went off to Notre Dame in Saskatchewan for his age 15 season.
Further complicating the issue is that several players in very similar situations to Matteau’s have been allowed to play in this tournament. Colin Wilson, Brandon Maxwell and Jason Bailey come to mind as players who were dual citizens that lived in Canada immediately prior to joining the NTDP.
Why Matteau has been singled out is uncertain. The rule is open to interpretation, but why would it be interpreted differently now with multiple instances setting a different precedent? This is the question the IIHF may have to address at some point.
What makes the decision disappointing is that Matteau, an American citizen by the laws of the United States, is being denied the opportunity to represent the country of his birth. As an American citizen, he should have the option to represent his country.
Coming up later today, a look at Team USA’s defensemen and goaltenders.