On Saturday evening in Lake Placid, the first intrasquad game among the 45 players invited to the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp will be played, formally opening the competition. Each team will play a total of three games, two against each other and one each against Sweden or Finland, before the first cuts are made. That just means each player has to be ready to go from the drop.
Earlier, I previewed the group of forwards placed on Team Blue. The teams were split up on a somewhat modified alphabetical basis. It just so happened the alphabet put the majority of the highly-skilled guys on Team Blue and a lot more of the north-south and grittier forwards on Team White.
There are 24 forwards total in camp, and Team USA is going to need a good balance of skill and grit, so it should be interesting to see which team has more success in the split-squad games before the cut downs.
USA Hockey is going to know pretty quickly which guys are going to be able to do which jobs based on this camp, so there’s no question the split-squad games are going to be pretty exciting to watch.
Coming up after the jump, a look at the forwards placed on Team White.
Same format as the Team Blue post:
Name — 2012-13 Team — Draft Rights (Team, Rd., Overall, Year) — Report
Cole Bardreau — Cornell University — Undrafted — In each of the last two drafts, Bardreau has been passed over. A lot of that might have to do with his size (5-10, 184), but the way he plays makes him noticeable. Bardreau is not going to be a point producer, but he plays with a lot of energy and grit. A relentless forechecker, Bardreau also has the ability to shut down other opponents’ best lines with smart defensive play. He played that role well at the 2011 World U18 Championship. If Bardreau is going to have any chance at making this team, it has to be as a defensive, energy-line-type player who does everything that’s asked of him, which he’s done before.
Tyler Biggs — Toronto Marlies OR Oshawa Generals — TOR, 1st Rd., 22nd Overall, 2011 — After leaving Miami University in the offseason, where Biggs ends up is still up for the 2012-13 regular season is still up in the air. He hasn’t been signed by Toronto yet, but when he does, he’ll likely be given a chance to make the Marlies. This camp will be the first glimpse of Biggs since he made his decision, so he’ll have a lot to prove in camp. He is a rugged forward that plays the body, does a lot of dirty work and can be an intimidating presence. For his size, Biggs is a solid skater and has a pretty good shot. He’d likely be asked to do a little bit of everything and he’ll have to be willing to do it to earn a spot on this team.
Reid Boucher — Sarnia Sting — NJD, 4th, 99, 2011 — Of the players in camp, Boucher might be the most natural goal-scorer, with his ridiculous release and penchant for big goals. He scored eight, almost all of them hugely important, at the 2011 World U18s. Boucher doesn’t have great size, but he’s strong on the puck. He’s also not the best skater in the world, which could hold him back. Boucher is really going to need to convert on the opportunities he’s expected to in camp to prove he can bring that nasty goal-scoring touch to this team. With his international track record, I think Boucher is going to be given every opportunity to earn a spot on this squad.
Travis Boyd — Univ. of Minnesota — WSH, 7th, 177, 2011 — After a somewhat underwhelming freshman season for the highest-scoring team in college hockey, Boyd might have been a bit of a surprise invite. That said, he has some international experience, playing a big role on the U.S. U18 gold in 2011. Boyd is a good play-making center who can create time and space with solid puck skills. He also has shown good defensive abilities despite being a bit undersized at 5-10, 186. If Boyd is going to make the team, he’s going to have to show he can shut down opposing forwards while also being able to kick in some offense. He might have an uphill battle, but his international experience certainly helps.
Alex Broadhurst — London Knights — CHI, 7th, 199, 2011 — The Chicago Blackhawks took a late-round flyer on this local kid and in the end, it could end up paying off huge. After going in the seventh round in 2011, Broadhurst was the most productive player for the USHL’s best team with 73 points for the Green Bay Gamblers. He ranked third in the league and was a force in the playoffs helping the Gamblers win the Clark Cup. Though a tad undersized, Broadhurst has a good on-ice work ethic which allows him to play in all situations from the power play to the penalty kill. He has decent finish and good vision. After his game took a giant leap forward, Broadhurst will receive serious consideration for this club so long as he continues on this same track of being a productive all-around forward.
Ryan Hartman — Plymouth Whalers — Draft-eligible in 2013 — The late 1994-birth date is the lone forward in camp that will be a first-year Draft-eligible in 2013. Hartman is a forward who likes to throw the body, but he also has pretty solid skill. His numbers were underwhelming in 2011-12, but Hartman has shown some goal-scoring touch in the past. He posted six points in six games at the World U18 Championship this year and played a very hard-nosed style in all areas of the ice. After choosing to play at Plymouth instead of Miami University, Hartman will join WJC veteran J.T. Miller. Hartman has to bring his physical game in camp, but he’s most likely going to put himself in the best position to make the final roster by being productive, finding open teammates and scoring goals.
Stefan Matteau — Blainville-Boisbriand Armada — NJD, 1st, 29, 2012 — After being barred by the IIHF from participating at the World U18s for Team USA on a bogus eligibility issue, Matteau has been cleared to play for the U.S. going forward. It’s a good thing, too. Matteau has power-forward skills including powerful skating, strength on the puck and the ability to throw his weight around. He should have a productive first half in his first season in the QMJHL, but can also give himself some early positioning for a spot on Team USA with a breakout performance in camp. Having lost the U18 world championship as a crucial evaluation event, Matteau should come out flying in Lake Placid. His first-round pedigree and edgy game make him an early favorite to make the final roster.
J.T. Miller — Plymouth Whalers — NYR, 1st, 15, 2011 — The only forward in camp that played in the 2012 World Junior Championship, Miller comes in with high expectations. Miller was inconsistent, as were most Team USA forwards at the WJC last year. Still, a year older and a year wiser, Miller should be able to step into a key role for this U.S. squad. He put up just better than a point-per-game last year in Plymouth. Miller will have to show the way in camp and should be counted on to be both productive and physical. Returnees are almost never kept home from the tournament and I would not expect Miller to be an exception. His WJC experience and skill-set are needed if the U.S. has plans on competing for a medal in Ufa.
Logan Nelson — Victoria Royals — BUF, 5th, 133rd, 2012 — A good two-way forward, Nelson’s game took a gigantic leap forward in his first WHL season. He posted 62 points last season for Victoria, but I would not expect Nelson to earn a spot due to his ability to put up points. He has good enough size and skating ability to be given a chance to play more of that shut-down type of role. Any offense he could bring to the table would be an added bonus. He’s a bit of an unknown to USA Hockey having had no international experience, so Nelson has a lot to prove in a short amount of time. If he can display that two way game that vaulted him into a lot of draft conversations last year, he could put himself in a good position going forward.
Blake Pietila — Michigan Tech University — NJD, 5th, 129, 2011 — Though tucked away at Michigan Tech, Pietila put together quite a freshman season for the Huskies. He tallied 24 points including 10 goals, but his real value is in his ability to play defensively. Pietila would be an ideal candidate to match up against opponents’ top lines in a shut-down role. He can grind it out with the best of them and has the strength and the motor to be successful. Pietila is good on the forecheck, he can get some minutes on the penalty kill and yes, he can pop in the odd goal. His grind-it-out, blue-collar style could be just what this team needs in Ufa. If he shows that style in camp, he’ll position himself well for December.
Vince Trocheck — Saginaw Spirit — FLA, 3rd, 64, 2011 — While he doesn’t have tremendous size, Trocheck has good skill and can skate. He was a standout in last year’s Junior camp in Lake Placid, so that experience should come in handy. He’s also an Ivan Hlinka veteran, so there’s some good international experience attached to Trocheck. He’s posted 190 career points in three OHL seasons and should be even better in his fourth year. With Trocheck’s offensive capabilities, he’ll be an attractive top-nine forward option for Phil Housley. As long as he shows his game has grown just a bit more from last season, he’s going to be a strong candidate to end up among the final 22 players named.
Jimmy Vesey — Harvard University — NSH, 3rd, 66, 2012 — Of the forwards listed for Team White, Vesey is the one I’m most looking forward to seeing. After his 91-point, MVP season in the EJHL, Vesey will have to be ready for the big jump up in competition. He has a good frame, skates well and has tremendous puck skills. With some natural goal-scoring prowess, Vesey would have to come into camp looking to put up points and make his presence felt immediately. This event is going to be a terrific proving ground for Vesey who looks to have grown a lot in the last season. To make the team, he has to be a guy they can slot into their top-nine and expect points out of. I think the USA Hockey brass will handle Vesey with care and monitor his progression at Harvard closely, but he can do a lot for himself over the next week in Lake Placid.
All of the games starting Saturday at 4 p.m. EDT, will air live on FASTHockey.com. For a complete broadcast schedule of the events, click here.
Coming up Friday on USofH, a brief look at the four goaltenders, as well as some of the head-to-head battles to watch for in camp.