Before getting into the spotlight, some housekeeping: USA Hockey announced that it will unveil the preliminary roster, expected to be 27 players or so, for the 2013 U.S. National Junior Team on Tuesday, Dec. 4. United States of Hockey will have full reaction to and analysis of the preliminary roster, including player-by-player breakdowns.
USA Hockey will open its pre-tournament camp in New York at the Rangers’ practice facility Dec. 16-18, where it is likely a few cuts will be made before the expanded roster goes to Finland for the continuation of the camp as well as some exhibition games Dec. 19-23. The final 23-man roster (teams can bring three goalies this year) is expected to be unveiled on Dec. 23.
Jacob Trouba — Defense
Hometown: Rochester, Mich. Birthdate: February 26, 1994
Current Team: University of Michigan
NHL Rights: Winnipeg Jets (1st Rd., 9th overall, 2012)
National Team Experience: National Team Development Program (2010-12), U.S. Men’s National Under-18 Team (2011, gold; 2012, gold), U.S. National Junior Team (2012, 7th)
The lone returnee from last year’s U.S. National Junior Team defensive corps, Trouba has some added responsibility this time around. The then 17-year-old played his way into a more substantial role as Dean Blais gained more trust in the young defenseman.
Team USA’s blue line struggled in most games in last year’s tournament, shouldering part of the blame for the dreadful finish, but Trouba was possibly the team’s most reliable defender.
Trouba’s always been at an advanced size for his age, which has allowed him to physically dominate his peers, but he was physically dominating at the World Juniors in games against Canada and Finland despite the fact that he was one of the tournament’s youngest players.
Now it’s up to Trouba to be that oftentimes game-changing physical force, while also contributing in other areas for this edition of the U.S. National Junior Team.
Earlier this week on United States of Hockey, Trouba was identified as one of the five core players for Team USA. =As such, he’ll be one of the players that has to be at his best in order for Team USA to have success. As good as Trouba was last year, he’ll have to be that much better in this tournament. There’s plenty of evidence that he’ll be ready to do just that.
Every season for the last three that I’ve been following Trouba, he’s taken gigantic steps forward in his game. From the sometimes wild 16-year-old to the measured, all-around defenseman of today, Trouba has defied projections by adding new wrinkles to his game.
In his draft-eligible season last year, many pegged Trouba as nothing more than a physical defenseman whose offensive attributes would hold him back from being a top-10 pick, that despite being the top point-producing defenseman on the U.S. National Under-18 Team.
As we know now, Winnipeg didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and the pick may turn out to look even better than it did on draft day as early indications suggest.
Early in his freshman season at Michigan, Trouba has proven that there’s more to him than physical defense. Trouba has 10 points in his first 12 collegiate games, including four goals.
His skating has always been one of his plus tools, as he has a powerful stride and terrific footwork that allows him to make things happen at both ends of the ice. His punishing body checks and relentless battle level along the boards make him a nightmare for opposing forwards. Trouba’s had an NHL shot since he was 15 years old.
The one thing that had been holding Trouba back was his hockey sense. His decision-making skills were evidently raw. When playing as a 16-year-old in the World Under-18 Championship, Trouba struggled to make decisions at the pace required to have success. Sure enough, the following year, Trouba became more calculating, making better decisions with and without the puck and making mature plays.
As he built his game more and more, Trouba never lost that nastiness that gained him notoriety and remains the source of scouts’ salivary glands going into overdrive.
He’ll need his entire package of skills in Ufa, as Trouba will see a lot of opponent’s top lines as well as some special teams time. He’ll have to make great decisions on the big ice, where mistakes can be exploited quickly. However, unlike many other defensemen in the tournament, Trouba may be able to shrink the ice due to his terrific skating and physical play.
The U.S. should have a very strong defensive group this year, and Trouba will be right there leading the way. His WJC experience and growing confidence should make him one of Team USA’s most important players in its quest for a medal.
Many U.S. WJC Candidates on National TV This Weekend
There will be six college hockey games on television tonight, three of which feature several World Junior Championship candidates and another two tomorrow, so there will be no shortage of opportunities to watch many World Junior candidates in the last weekend of evaluation for the preliminary roster.
Most of the decisions are already made, but there might be a few spots still up for grabs making this weekend important for those on the bubble. Here’s a look at which games are on TV and which players you’ll want to watch closely ahead of Tuesday’s announcement of the preliminary roster.
Also, you can get the full TV schedule for this weekend right here.
All Times ET
Boston College at Boston University — Friday — 7:30 p.m. — NBC Sports
Boston University at Boston College — Saturday — 7:30 p.m. — NBC Sports
Johnny Gaudreau — F — Boston College — His place on the team is secure, but it doesn’t hurt to watch one of the top players in Team USA’s selection pool. Gaudreau has dominated this year as a sophomore and USA Hockey will be hoping his NCAA success translates to WJC success. He has 19 points (9g-10a) in 11 games this year for the No. 1 Eagles.
Matt Grzelcyk — D — Boston University — Grzelcyk is a guy that is expected to get an invitation to the camp based on his outstanding play as a freshman at BU. With a goal and nine assists, Grzelcyk is third among all Terriers with 10 points. His production has come against one of the nation’s toughest schedules as well. He plays a mature, puck-moving game and has such poise with the puck. His size goes against him, but his hockey IQ probably outweighs it.
Danny O’Regan — F — Boston University — Likely not in the mix for this year’s team, O’Regan is worth watching as a strong candidate for the 2014 World Juniors. The true freshman has five goals and nine points this season and is showing advanced skills and creativity.
Nebraska Omaha at Minnesota — Friday — 8 p.m. — FCS/FSN-North+
Nebraska Omaha at Minnesota — Saturday — 8 p.m. — FCS/FSN-North
Brady Skjei — D — Minnesota — Skjei has been a bit on the WJC bubble after some early-season struggles at Minnesota, but is one of those guys that has the tools to make an impact at the WJC level. Perhaps this is the last evaluation point for him to make an impression. If so, expect a pretty solid effort from the Rangers first-rounder.
Mike Reilly — D — Minnesota — The dynamic offensive defenseman has been making the adjustment to college hockey, but it hasn’t always been pretty. That said, he has immense skills and can be a thrill to watch. I think he’s done enough to earn an invite to camp, but I don’t think his place on the final roster is yet secured. Every game counts between now and the end of the evaluation camp.
Travis Boyd — F — Minnesota — Boyd has had a very nice season for the Gophers as a sophomore. The center scored just once in his freshman season, but already has three goals to go along with six assists. He’s in the mix due to his strong penalty-killing skills and attention to detail. He has good defensive instincts, but is able to also create some offense with good puck skills and vision. The big question is if he fits in somewhere with this center group. He’s well known to USA Hockey, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise if they give him a chance to earn a spot in camp.
Wisconsin at Denver — Friday — 10 p.m. — NBC Sports
Nic Kerdiles — F — Wisconsin — If there’s one player that this weekend is most important for, it’s Kerdiles. He comes back from his 10-game NCAA suspension tonight and only has two games to show he’s ready to play at a high level. The U.S. has a real weakness down the left side, but Kerdiles could help shore that up if he can prove he’s in solid game shape. He played in two games earlier in the year with the U.S. National Under-18 Team, but got hurt in one of them, so there wasn’t a lot to see. Expect Kerdiles to come out the gates flying, but with such little game action since August, expect there to also be some rust. The pressure is on.
Jake McCabe — D — Wisconsin — In the hot competition for spots on the U.S. blue line, McCabe has made a fairly good case for himself. He’s improved all aspects of his game over the last two years, while continually playing sound defense. Adding some offensive capabilities has rounded out his game more and makes him an attractive option to fill out one of the lower D positions on the roster. McCabe is no sure thing due to the depth at the position, but he’s a sound option should Team USA choose to take him. He’s a likely camp invite, but will have to battle in New York to stick around.
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While I applaud USAH and the NHL for steitng up a true dev. program, my concern is that we continue to see very low rates of new players coming into the game. Why would we not focus on that area of concern? IE. Look for ways to lower the cost to play the game. It’s expensive and ice costs are ridiculous in Dallas. People simply cannot afford the high costs of the equipment and fees to play, what is an incredible game. The really good and gifted kids will always stand out and scouts, etc. are going to find them. The cream always rises to the top, and so why focuses money and energy at the top, when there is dry-rot in the roots?