Maybe USA White got the unlucky draw. Both Sweden and Finland have sent tough teams to Lake Placid, but Sweden has the kind that pounces on every mistake and finishes on every quality chance. That’s kind of what happened in Monday’s 5-1 rout.
With what Sweden was able to do for much of the game and the frustration that set in as a result for USA White, it was kind of a tough game to judge.
When the U.S. split-squad rosters came out, it became clear that USA Blue had more of the highly-skilled, shifty forwards, while White had more of the brawn with some skill mixed in. That was evident in Monday’s game with the inability to create offense.
It was a bit of an unfortunate game for Team White, particularly with the importance of the game as the final evaluation point for the decision makers before the camp cut downs. If you look solely at results, it would appear we’ll see more Blue forwards move on than White, but there were at least some bright spots.
Coming up after the jump, a (brief) scoring summary from the game, USA White’s line combinations and notes on some of the top U.S. performers from the game.
There’s not a whole lot to cover in terms of Team USA’s scoring summary, as it was pretty much all Sweden
Pontus Aberg, Mika Zibanejad, Viktor Arvidsson each scored once while Victor Rask potted a pair in the game for the Tre Kronor.
Mike Reilly scored the lone U.S. goal in the second period and it was certainly a pretty one. The offensive defenseman took a clean feed from Alex Broadhurst and wired a wrister from the top of the left faceoff circle. The shot stunned Swedish netminder Niklas Lundstrom, who was too slow to react to the wicked release from Reilly.
Garret Sparks started the game in goal, and despite giving up a pair of goals in the early goings of the game, the Guelph netminder was pretty solid. He made a big stop on a breakaway when it was 1-0, biting on the initial fake, but keeping the bottom of the net covered with his pad. He also made a really nice glove save right before making way for Anthony Stolarz, who had the pleasure of coming in and facing a Viktor Arvidsson shot from about seven feet out that went top-right shelf. Sparks made 21 saves in just 29:41 of work. Pretty solid.
Here’s a look at the lines Team USA White started the game with against Sweden:
Stefan Matteau – Travis Boyd – J.T. Miller
Blake Pietila – Cole Bardreau – Tyler Biggs
Jimmy Vesey – Alex Broadhurst – Logan Nelson
Vince Trocheck – Ryan Hartman
Scratched: Reid Boucher
Jake McCabe – Connor Murphy Garret Sparks
Brian Cooper – Andy Welinski Anthony Stolarz
Mike Reilly – Seth Jones
Joakim Ryan – Robbie Russo
Mike Reilly — Reilly may have scored his team’s only goal, but that’s not why he’s on this list. I had seen Reilly very little prior to this camp, and was a little skeptical in my first viewings. After watching him at this level, I think it’s pretty clear his 83 points in the BCHL were no joke. With elite skating ability and high-end puck skills, Reilly stood out the whole game. He created chances offensively and while he definitely freelances quite a bit, his speed allows him to make up ground quickly. He’ll need to have a responsible D partner, but there wasn’t a defenseman I saw in Monday’s games that were as creative or as threatening offensively as Reilly. He’s adequate in the D-zone, but a potential weapon offensively. If he can bring this same style to Minnesota in the first half, he could be in a top-four role with that skill-set. I haven’t seen too many U.S. defensemen play like Reilly. He’s certainly an exciting talent.
Seth Jones — The reason I said Reilly needs a responsible D partner? Well he had Seth Jones today, and that pair was pretty great. Jones is able to shut down his opponents, but can also move the puck well. That, and he’s 6-3, 200. That combination of size, skill and confidence allowed Reilly to get a little loose and try and get involved in the offensive play. This camp experiment could become a WJC success story, assuming both continue on this path they look to be on. Sure, it’s August, and December is far away, but this could be a very intriguing match.
J.T. Miller — The lone returning forward from last year’s WJC team, Miller showed why he’s going to be a key to the team in the World Juniors this year. The maturity in his game from last summer to this summer is prevalent. Miller showed great poise with the puck, using his body when he needed to, but keeping his eye on his outlets. He’s really good at working plays from the half wall and allowing things to develop in front of him. Miller has good speed and strength. He’s shown great vision and confidence in all zones. Another solid effort today.
Ryan Hartman — I thought the 2013 Draft-eligible was one of Team USA’s most consistent threats at forward. Hartman was generating chances for a team that really struggled to get anything going offensively. He was able to use his decent speed and hard-nosed style to get to the middle of the ice and get shots off. Hartman wasn’t able to finish off some of his quality chances, but his mix of toughness and skill are going to be attractive. I think he may have helped propel himself into avoiding the camp cuts.
Alex Broadhurst — Having seen how much his game has grown over the last two seasons, I expected Broadhurst to have a strong camp and he really has so far. This is a guy who could be angling for that No. 3 or 4 center spot on the team in December. He’s not the biggest, but he showed some fairly good skills and vision and definitely has some tenacity to him. He’s a guy who I think warrants more viewings when they put the full team together after cuts, so I think he could stay.
Tyler Biggs — The Toronto first-rounder showed elements of why he’s a first-round pick, laying the body, using his strength and generating some offense too. Biggs does not have great hands, but he has a powerful stride that allows him to get past defenders and get pucks to the net. I wouldn’t say he was a standout today, but the tools that he brings to the table definitely are required for success. It’s just a matter of him being able to put everything together and be that bruising forward he can be, while making things happen offensively despite limited puck skills.
Andy Welinski — I think Welinski is going to be on the bubble when the cuts are finally made, but he showed some really good two-way elements against Sweden. He has a pretty nice shot from the point and is smart about when he uses it. Welinski has versatility, which I think is pretty positive. The race for D spots is so tight, I would not be surprised if he stayed or if he was cut. It’s just that tough.
Robbie Russo — I think the same can be said for Russo as was about Welinski in terms of being on the bubble. Russo showed off his standout puck-moving ability, but looked to struggle a bit more than I’m used to seeing in the D zone. With such a tough group to crack, I wonder if the undersized Russo is going to find a spot. I think he did enough to stay in camp, but so did at least nine other defensemen. Just a matter of how many they decide to keep now.
Travis Boyd — Despite generating little offense in his freshman year at Minnesota, Boyd showed that he has some jump to his game in camp. Playing with J.T. Miller and Stefan Matteau, a pair of natural-born horses, Boyd had a little more room to work and showed off improved skating. He was finding lanes and seams to get pucks through and helped create a bit.
Connor Murphy — I thought Murphy looked pretty good for much of the game today. He’s another guy that’s just really good at both ends. Murphy isn’t necessarily a great skater, but he has a really developed hockey brain and seems to always make great reads and great decisions. He did that again today.
Garret Sparks — Of the two netminders for Team USA White, Sparks had the better day. He made some big saves, looked very much in control in the crease and showed pretty good athleticism in facing a lot of shots. The backup spot is the one he’s gunning for now and after three days, he might have the inside track on it. I think USA Hockey would prefer to take a younger goaltender, one that will be back the next year, but they will not hesitate to take a 1993, assuming he’s the best available. Sparks did himself well in convincing the decision-makers it could be him.
There are no games for U.S. teams Tuesday in Lake Placid, though Sweden and Finland will square off at 4 p.m. EDT. That game will be carried live on FASTHockey.com. If Monday was any indication, the two European rosters in New York are really fun to watch. With seven first-rounders between the two, it might be worth your time to check that game out on FASTHockey.
The trimmed U.S. roster will be in action Wednesday against Finland.
After cuts are made, USA Hockey typically doesn’t announce who was cut, rather just who made it through to the next stage of camp. As soon as that updated roster is finalized, I’ll have full reaction on United States of Hockey. Make sure to check back for that.
Also, I’ll keep the National Junior Evaluation Camp coverage going on Twitter. Feel free to ask questions, share your own thoughts or yell at me. All are welcome.
As always, you can do the same in the comments. Who’s in? Who’s out? Who do YOU like? There’s a little box a few inches below these words for you to type into. Don’t be shy now.