The first steps toward forming the 2013 U.S. National Junior Team were taken Monday as USA Hockey announced both that Phil Housley would be the head coach and the 46-player roster for the National Junior Evaluation Camp. The camp will be held in Lake Placid, N.Y., August 4-11.
The roster includes four goaltenders, 17 defensemen and 25 forwards. Eighteen different states are represented, with Illinois leading the way with seven players on the roster.
Only three members from last year’s U.S. National Junior Team will be eligible for this year’s squad: John Gibson, Jacob Trouba and J.T. Miller. Unlike last year, this team should be a much more even mix between the 1993 and 1994 birth years whereas last year’s squad was heavily 1992s. That will make for a fairly young team, but that’s likely the route to go for best results, despite the fact that the WJC is typically a 19-year-old’s tournament.
There’s a wide range of prospects invited from a variety of teams and leagues. Coming up after the jump some initial thoughts on the U.S. eval camp roster.
USA Hockey held a goalie camp last week to choose which netminders would make it to the National Junior Evaluation Camp.
There probably isn’t much competition, however. As long as John Gibson is healthy, he’s going to be the starting goaltender for this team, you’d have to believe. Despite his one shaky start in the 2012 World Juniors, he is an excellent netminder and has WJC and U18 experience. Hard to see anyone else but him in there.
Anthony Stolarz and Jon Gillies were both invited. Both are draft eligible this year and both are going to be interesting to watch in this camp, particularly Stolarz who is more of an unknown.
Garrett Sparks was a bit of a surprise add for me, but he’s coming off his first year as a full-time starter in Junior hockey, so this could be an interesting addition. Again, they already had a goalie camp, so they’ve got a good book on these four.
The only real surprise is that Collin Olson, the directorate award winner from the World Under-18 Championship last year was not among those invited to Lake Placid. This is the first time the goaltender from the U.S. National Under-18 Team hasn’t been in Lake Placid since I can remember. Those that question an NTDP bias might want to rethink their stance if USA Hockey was willing to leave home a gold-medal winning starter.
This should be the position of strength for Team USA. There is a good combination in camp, with defenders of all types and abilities. There’s a good mix of size and strength, with plenty of good puck movers and stoppers. There’s a lot of tough decisions to make with this group.
With promising youngsters like Seth Jones, a 2013 Draft eligible, and likely early first-rounder Jacob Trouba, there is going to be a good chance to go with a young, but dependable D corps.
Connor Murphy got hurt at last year’s National Junior Eval camp, otherwise you’d have to believe he would have been on the team. The Phoenix first-rounder has had bad injury luck, but when healthy, he’s a terrific defenseman and should have a strong shot at making this club.
Joakim Ryan from Cornell was a bit of a surprise add due to the fact that he had attempted to play for Sweden, but was barred by the IIHF due to questionable eligibility. He’s a good puck mover that was passed over in the draft, but developed into a top-pairing defenseman as a freshman for the Big Red.
Shayne Gostisbehere, one of my favorite Draft sleepers, made the camp as well. His mature puck-moving ability could give him a good shot at getting on this roster.
Additionally, all six of the 1994-born defensemen from the U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team that won gold in the Czech Republic at the U18 Worlds made this camp. That D corps only allowed four goals all tournament and you have to believe at least four of those six are going to get a very long look for this team.
There’s a lot to like here.
With only one forward potentially returning from last year’s squad (J.T. Miller), there’s a chance that this could be a team that struggles to score a lot of goals early, but there are several players invited to camp could bring an amount of skill we haven’t seen at the World Juniors before.
Alex Galchenyuk, who has given up his Russian passport, was invited and accepted the invite to camp. The projected top-five pick for this year’s NHL Entry Draft would easily be a key cog for this team and see a lot of time up front. As long as his eligibility holds up, that is (it should).
Johnny Gaudreau was thisclose to making the team last year, but after getting cut went on an absolute tear for national champion Boston College. His size won’t be much of an issue. There are few American-born players with hands like his.
Rocco Grimaldi, the diminutive centerman that lost his entire freshman year to a knee injury should be back to health in time for camp. He’s going to be an exciting talent, assuming he comes back healthy and ready to go.
Stefan Matteau, after being ruled ineligible for the U18s and reinstated by the IIHF was invited as well. Expect him to get some pressure to play for Canada like Jamie Oleksiak did last year still.
There are quite a few exciting names on the list, which we’ll get to more in depth closer to the camp, but this is a great start. There are some guys that can bring snarl combined with skill to the bottom six, but there’s also some guys with goal-scoring talent that will compete for a coveted top-six/nine role.
The thing that stands out about this roster is that there doesn’t appear to be any players left off that would make the team appreciably better. There are a few notable omissions, but not any that are necessarily shocking. Among the most notable left off (not disagreeing, just pointing out): Boo Nieves, Brady Vail, Nick Ebert and Sam Kurker.
It’s also important to remember that just because a player isn’t in camp doesn’t mean he’s out of the mix. For each of the last three years, players that were not in Lake Placid were invited to the pre-tournament camp in December and at least one player per year not invited to LP made the team. So don’t get all twisted up if your favorite player didn’t make it. He’s not dead yet.
There’s also the fact that no 1995-born players were invited to camp, which doesn’t mean there aren’t any under-agers good enough to make the team. USA Hockey rarely invites the U18 players unless that player is clearly in the mix for the team like Seth Jones last year. Here are some 1995s you might want to watch out for come December: J.T. Compher, Hudson Fasching, Tyler Motte, and Will Butcher.
Coming up tomorrow on United States of Hockey, NHL Draft coverage continues with a look at the 20 players eligible for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft named to this Junior Evaluation Camp roster.