With the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship now less than two months away, United States of Hockey will be spotlighting candidates a few times per week, in addition to tracking other WJC-related news all the way up to USA Hockey’s pre-tournament camp.
Shayne Gostisbehere — Defense
Hometown: Margate, Fla. Birthdate: April 20, 1993
Current Team: Union College
NHL Rights: Philadelphia Flyers (3rd Rd., 78th overall, 2012)
National Team Experience: None
The race for spots on the U.S. National Junior Team is only intensifying as we get closer to the pre-tournament camp for the World Junior Championship. Plenty of spots appear to remain up for grabs with just over a month to go before USA Hockey brings an expanded roster together to make the final decisions.
One of the strengths of this team should be its defensive corps, with many solid options for the final roster, head coach Phil Housley has some tough decisions to narrow the group down. What he’ll definitely like to see, however, is the number of gifted offensive-minded defensemen he has at his disposal.
One of the better ones is Shayne Gostisbehere from Union College, who is in our World Junior Watch Spotlight this week.
The Union sophomore is tied with Mac Bennett as the nation’s leading point-getter among defensemen with nine in seven games. The slick-skating Dman has three goals and six assists and has a maturity to his game beyond his years.
Union has a pretty high-flying offensive team in general, Gostisbehere’s ability to distribute and make good decisions in all zones makes him stand out. That ability caught the eye of the Philadelphia Flyers, who made Gostisbehere a third-round pick in his second year of draft eligibility.
After going unselected out of prep school his first year, Gostisbehere has taken steps forward in each of the last two seasons developmentally, which shows his high upside as a young player, but also puts him in front to be a part of this U.S. National Junior Team.
He’s not just an offensive guy, either. Gostisbehere doesn’t have that physical size or strength to push guys around, but has terrific D-zone awareness and a good defensive stick to break up passes. His skating is a huge key as well, keeping up with top forwards and making himself difficult to get around.
After a terrific camp in August, Gostisbehere showed that he belonged among the elite U.S. players. He’s only continuing to prove that this season with his strong start at Union. A guy like him can do a lot of damage on the big ice in Ufa, so he appears to be on the inside track to possibly even a top-four role at the World Juniors.
Who’s Trending Up, Trending Down for Team USA Roster Spots
On The Rise…
Matt Grzelcyk — D — Boston University — The freshman defenseman’s youth has barely been evident in his first five games with the Terriers. He has five assists on the young season and is proving a formidable threat on BU’s power play. Jack Parker told CSN New England Grzelcyk has “Larry Bird court vision,” in describing how the 1994-born Dman processes the game. His size and his youth go against him, but his poise and confidence are notable. He performed well in camp, but will it be enough to get him a spot this year? We’ll see.
Adam Erne — F — Quebec Remparts — Erne is having the type of season that is really hard to ignore. He’s a 1995-born player and underagers are only going to make this team if there is an absolute need for them, or there is a role they can fill. Age is certainly a factor. With two hat tricks in a one-week span, Erne has posted 14 goals and 27 points in just 17 games. He has good size and skates well, and has international experience. I still think Erne has only an outside shot at making the team as it is incredibly rare to bring an underager from outside the NTDP, but his current productivity rate is notable and likely brings him under consideration.
Riley Barber — F — Miami University — With 10 points through his first six collegiate games, Barber was named the national rookie of the month for October. Playing on a line with WJC veteran Austin Czarnik, Barber has been a consistent scoring threat on the right wing. The Caps prospect has a U18 gold medal to his name and a lack of depth on the wings brings him to the forefront of this race. As an 18-year-old, he’s in the hole a little bit as Team USA would likely prefer to have more 19-year-olds up front, but Barber has to be in the hunt now.
Jon Gillies — G — Providence College — The freshman goalie continues to impress in his early career, calming concerns about confidence issues. Gillies has been solid between the pipes, posting a 1.80 goals-against average and .932 save percentage, while going up against some of the best teams college hockey has to offer.
Alex Galchenyuk — F — Sarnia Sting — The Canadiens first-round pick has been doing exactly what you’d expect and that’s a very good thing for USA Hockey. The young centerman now has 28 points in 18 games. He put up seven in his last two games alone. Guess the knee’s OK.
Mike Reilly — D — University of Minnesota — An offensive dynamo at the World Junior camp, Reilly has at times been a defensive liability for the Gophers, which most recently lost to Minnesota State. Reilly still has those immense skills that could easily translate to the WJC level, but he’s looked like a freshman this season. Grzelcyk’s emergence puts Reilly’s role slightly in jeopardy, but don’t count him out yet as he continues to adjust to the college game.
Brady Skjei — D — University of Minnesota — Skjei was slowed by an injury a few weeks back and struggled a bit in last weekend’s series with Minnesota State. Skjei’s value for the junior team is his ability to defend, but he has struggled in his own zone at times and with making decisions with the puck. He gets a bit of a free pass after coming off the injury, but he’ll need to be a bit better to make this team as an 18-year-old.
J.T. Compher — F — U.S. National Under-18 Team — I liked Compher’s chances of making this team as an underager because of his ability to fill just about any role and give a hard-nosed edge to the U.S. roster. An injury prevented Compher from suiting up in the ongoing Four Nations Tournament in Ann Arbor and he’s only appeared in six games so far this year. He has the skill to make the team, but his missed time this season hurts as he was not invited to the camp. It’s a tough break, but he’s only a 1995-born. If this isn’t his year, he gets two more cracks at it.
Just a reminder, there are three international tournaments going on this week…
World Junior A Challenge
The U.S. Junior Select Team got off to a 2-0-0 start at the World Junior A Challenge, earning a bye to the tournament semifinals, which will be held Friday. Team USA still awaits who it will play as the quarterfinals are tonight. Austin Cangelosi leads Team USA with four points (1-3), while Ryan Fitzgerald has three goals in the tournament. You can follow the games live on FASTHockey.com. Schedule and results here.
Under-18 Four Nations Tournament
The U.S. National Under-18 Team was stunned by Switzerland last night in Ann Arbor, 5-4, in a shootout. The U.S. needs a win Friday against Sweden and potentially a Swiss loss to advance to the championship game. Team USA is led by Tyler Kelleher (1-2–3) and Sean Malone (2-1–3), who each have three points. The game against Sweden airs live on FASTHockey at 7 p.m. Friday night. For full tournament details, click here.
Under-17 Four Nations Tournament
The U.S. National Under-17 Team opens play in Monthey, Switzerland, Friday at the U17 Four Nations Tournament against Slovakia. Game time is set for 8:30 a.m. ET. Team USA beat Switzerland 2-0 in its lone exhibition prior to the tournament. Alex Tuch had a goal and an assist, while Joe Wegwerth also scored and goalies Eric Schierhorn and Edwin Minney split the shut out.
United States of Hockey will have a tournament roundup upon each’s conclusion.