In what was the best game for any U.S. team at the National Junior Evaluation Camp to date, USA White took down Finland 5-2.
It had the most flow of any game, which was pretty good to see. The forwards in particular really stood out, while the defense showed some great improvement from Day 1 to Day 2 of games.
Part of it was some tired legs on Finland’s behalf as the U.S. seemed to be in quite a bit better shape and out-skated the Finns. Overall, however, many of the American players stepped up in a big way in its second game.
This game poses many more tough decisions when it comes to making the cuts before Wednesday’s single-roster games begin.
After the jump, the scoring summary from today’s contest and thoughts on U.S. players of note as well as some other odds and ends.
Scoring Summary — USA White 5 – Finland 2
First Period — 1. USA, Stepan (Cammarata, Brodzinski), 6:22; 2. Clifton (Grzelcyk, Santini), 7:03; 3. Cammarata (McCarron), 10:06.
Second Period — 4. USA, McCoshen (Cammarata, Shore), 8:04; 5. USA, McCarron (Samuelsson, Motte), 16:31.
Third Period — 6. FIN, Teravainen (Lehkonen), 18:10; 7. FIN: Mustonen (Rauhala, Haapala), 19:48.
Goalie Summary (saves/shots)
Collin Olson (USA) — 15/15
Jon Gillies (USA) — 13/15
Joonas Korpisalo (FIN) — 26/31
Players of Note
Taylor Cammarata — F — With a three-point game, Cammarata showed off some of the skill and creativity that made him the USHL’s MVP last year. Offensively, everything is there. He showed good patience and vision and really didn’t try to do too much. If a play wasn’t there, he found the soft area of the ice. He scored on a nice wraparound after bobbling the initial pass and his feed to Zach Stepan was just perfect. Of the forwards in camp for Team USA, it’s pretty clear Cammarata’s stick skills are right near, if not at the top.
Michael McCarron — F — McCarron had a goal and an assist today and really showed well for Team USA. His goal was off a rebound at the net-front, which is where you hope McCarron can establish a presence at his size. The play actually started with McCarron getting in on the forecheck and forcing a turnover that led to a shot from Tyler Motte. McCarron was there for the rebound. He did take one bad penalty and lacked finish at times with his shots, but McCarron did show some of those quality hands that seems to be a rarity for a player at his size. He made a statement in today’s game that he might be ready for an honest shot at this roster.
Steven Santini — D — Among defensive defensemen, Santini has really stood out and did so again today. He doesn’t have much offense, but he was so sound at the back end. That freed up Matt Grzelcyk to do a little more offensively without much concern. His skating is top notch and his positioning on the big ice is really solid.
Matt Grzelcyk — D — I would’ve liked to have seen a little more from Grzelcyk today in terms of creation, but he was making really good decisions with the puck and never really got caught in a bad spot too much. Grzelcyk is so good at exiting the zone and finding the right outlet and his instincts in the offensive zone are advanced. I thought he was a little under his normal performance, but only by a bit. Grzelcyk is going to be an important piece of this team.
Ian McCoshen — D — I think McCoshen took a step toward potentially making the team with his performance today. He has good puck-moving capabilities and showed a maturity in his decisions. He scored a goal on a nice quick release from the left faceoff circle that stunned the Finnish goalie. He has good size and the mobility is going to be great for the big ice. Could both BC freshmen McCoshen and Santini make the final roster? I think yes.
Collin Olson — G — After giving up three goals yesterday, Olson needed to have a bit better showing today and was great. He made some huge stops and looked so sound in his crease. He’s a big guy and uses his frame well, but he has enough athleticism to make that last-ditch save. It was an important performance for him today as he angles for a spot on the roster. Olson was the only goalie to finish a game unblemished over the last two days.
Michael Brodzinski — D — The skills are absolutely there for Brodzinski. He can make guys miss and he’s confident with the puck, but I feel like he got overconfident today. He tried the same exact toe drag no less than four times at the offensive blue line. It worked OK, but that fourth one got picked and went the other way down the ice. I like his skills a lot, but I think he needs to rein it in a little bit. There’s a chance he did enough to stay in camp, but I think he needs to show some more maturity. That skill, however, alludes to some serious offensive upside and I can’t wait to see what happens when his game matures.
Connor Clifton — D — Due to Jimmy Lodge’s injury, Clifton and Brodzinski split duties at D and forward today. As a forward, Clifton scored with a terrific wrist shot from distance. He’s got some great offensive capabilities and plans with a bit of an edge, which I like. I think there’s a chance he’ll stick in camp, but he’s still in tough to make the team with some other similar players showing as much or just a tiny bit more. Clifton undoubtedly has performed well in camp, however, and has improved his stock.
J.T. Compher — F — Not always the most visible guy on the ice, Compher made some great plays defensively in terms of his back-checking and shot blocking. He has some good physical edge to his game and showed off good speed. He had two huge shot blocks on a second-period penalty kill and I still think there’s a chance he makes the team as a grinding center. We’ll see if he did enough to make it through cuts.
Brett Pesce — D — I wanted to see a lot more out of Pesce today as my expectations were high for him after last season at UNH. He was OK in his own end and made a lot of questionable decisions with the puck. I think his status on the team is getting shakier. It is clear he can get the job done defensively, but his decisions when he has the puck were just not there today.
Henrik Samuelsson — F — There were some great flashes of skill from Samuelsson today, but I wanted to see himself assert himself physically more. His footspeed is still going to be a concern here. It’s clear the U.S. wants to play an up-tempo style and I’m not sure that’s what his game is geared towards. He should be given every chance to make the team due to that physical edge and good hand skills, but if the feet look like a liability, it could be a tough task for Samuelsson to make the squad. We’ll see.
Zach Stepan — F — I thought Stepan showed some good flashes today with some offensive plays that I really liked. He scored the goal by driving the net and getting a perfect pass from Cammarata and showed a few things off the rush as well. With so many quality centers in camp, I think he could’ve done a little more to stand out, but Stepan had a pretty good overall performance.
Quentin Shore — F — Shore looked great in the first period and kind of came in and out the rest of the game in terms of visibility. He’s a really smart center with good offensive capabilities. Shore sees the ice pretty well and seems to find the soft areas where he can make a few things happen. Again, center depth is challenging and there’s a very tough decision ahead for USA Hockey. He may have done just enough to stick around.
Odds and Ends
— Andrew Copp was injured in the second period, but did return to the game. He had a fair showing, but missing the ice time after the injury didn’t leave much for a full evaluation.
— Thomas DiPauli showed some glimpses of being a potential fourth-line center or wing. He has good defensive tendencies and handles the puck pretty well.
— Jon Gillies gave up two late goals, but was otherwise solid. Nothing to be alarmed about at all.
— Tyler Motte had a pretty nice game from the second period on. He used his speed well and showed some good defensive awareness. I think he’s on the bubble, but made some nice plays today.
— Tommy Vannelli didn’t see the ice much in the third and I think he’ll probably end up on the chopping block. He has good hands, but the decision-making isn’t quite there yet to be successful.
— Jake Guentzel and Boo Nieves also were kind of in and out of visibility. I’m not sure there was a lot between the two to make any definitive calls. Both clearly have some skill and speed that would be helpful, but it’s not materializing enough consistently in camp.
— It’s a lot tougher to pick out guys that should be cut from Team White than it is Team Blue, but USA Hockey still has a lot of tough decisions that are only tougher because there’s not been a lot of standout talent so far. There have been guys showing flashes, but perhaps due to the fact that it’s August, not many players are rising to the level of “oh that guy has to make it for sure.”
— Copying this from the other post, just because it is pertinent…
Something to note about the cuts that will come down tomorrow. If a guy gets cut, it doesn’t mean he can’t make the World Junior team. Cuts at this stage are purely to get this camp down to a smaller, more manageable number for evaluation.
Because this is an evaluation camp, USA Hockey may keep players that have only been OK so far in Lake Placid, but that they’re less familiar with. They need to get a better book on them in international play, so that could help a guy stay even if he’s not been the best.
By and large, the players that are getting cut either underperformed or were simply out-performed by another guy at their position. It’s always an interesting dynamic to see who goes and who stays, but it doesn’t always mean the end for certain guys. It’s just a step.
For today’s recap of USA Blue vs. Finland, click here.
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