MINNEAPOLIS — The U.S. National Junior Team’s training camp is now two days in. With the 29 players getting their legs under them, things picked up. The second practice in particular brought the implementation of potential power play and penalty kill units.
Though none of those are likely to be set in stone, the players’ were able to show off their skills and what kind of roles they might be able to play at the World Juniors.
Day 2’s night practice had a really solid pace where the speed of the group was abundantly clear. There’s plenty of skill out there with the candidates, but the speed is abundantly clear. Everyone in camp can move.
The competitiveness is notable, too. It’s not the adversarial kind of competitiveness, but each player is doing a solid job of showcasing himself for the staff and giving clues as to where he might fit.
Tuesday represents the biggest day in camp. Some cuts are expected to be made after the exhibition game against Minnesota State. That increases tensions, and potentially nerves for players, which creates some of that tournament atmosphere. That may help aid the evaluation process as it reaches make or break time for many of Team USA’s players.
After the jump, some notes on Day 2, including some of the combinations used and other observations.
The U.S. worked a lot on power play and penalty kill for much of the hour-long session. Here’s a look at some of the combos they tried out. Don’t take these as gospel, but they help show some of the experimentation…
Forwards on PP:
Adam Erne – Jack Eichel – Ryan Hartman
Nic Kerdiles – Danny O’Regan – Riley Barber
Stefan Matteau – Vince Hinostroza – Henrik Samuelsson
Defense on PP:
Will Butcher/Matt Grzelcyk – Connor Carrick
Anthony DeAngelo – Ian McCosehn
Forwards on PK:
Andrew Copp – Hudson Fasching
Quentin Shore – Tyler Motte/Zach Stepan
Compher – DiPauli/Fitzgerald
Defense interchanged on the PK, but here’s who was out there…
Brady Skjei – Steven Santini
Jaccob Slavin – Brett Pesce
Notes and stray thoughts…
— Jack Eichel, the youngest player in Team USA’s camp is clearly being given every chance to play a big role on this team. Head coach Don Lucia said he thought Eichel looked better today than he did during the first practice. He made a few youthful errors and was victimized by a few bad bounces here and there, but started getting comfortable as practice wore on. Playing with Adam Erne and Ryan Hartman, two players all but guaranteed to make the final roster almost all of the second practice, it would seem the 17-year-old phenom would appear to have a roster spot within his grasp. He just has to keep progressing in camp, more than likely.
— Will Butcher and Connor Carrick saw a lot of time together in the power play drills. The two were a pairing in Lake Placid camp and performed extremely well there. It was the same story in Minneapolis. The two looked downright dynamic, moving the puck well in the offensive zone and creating time and space for themselves and their teammates. It’s only practice, but there seems to be some real chemistry developed between the two.
— Brady Skjei was getting a lot of run on the penalty kill and performed quite well. He does a nice job of getting to loose pucks and getting them out of the zone quickly. He also showed discipline in his positioning and kept things simple. His ability to close on forwards and make good decisions serves him well.
— I’ve seen Anthony Stolarz on video an awful lot over the last few years, but had never seen him in person. I knew he could move, but seeing him live, he is remarkably quick for such a large human. At 6-6, 220, he takes up so much net, but it is his nimbleness between the pipes that makes you see why Philadelphia thought so highly of him to make him a second-round pick in 2012 and what has made him successful in the OHL this year. He is quite a prospect and only will get better as he continues earning high-level experience.
— Ryan Hartman and Riley Barber are clearly the veteran guys. They’ve taken on leadership roles, but also go about their business in a very effective manner. They’re also among the most noticeable forwards in every drill, making plays with their skill and speed.
— Jon Gillies practiced lightly, but looked sharp. Also looking sharp, his bald eagle mask, of which I will try to snap a few pictures of tomorrow.
— J.T. Compher made a huge shot block during practice while playing in a penalty kill role. It was met with loud cheers from his teammates. Compher came away hobbled on the play, but said he was fine after practice. He has a calculus final Tuesday morning. Seriously.
— Speaking of tests, Hudson Fasching had to leave for an economics final. Seeing as the camp is on the campus where he goes to school, it was an easy trek, but how would you like trying out for a U.S. national team and also having your grades to worry about. Brady Skjei also had to scurry away from the rink quickly to prepare for a final exam of his own.
Exhibition Tuesday vs. Minnesota State
I’ll have a brief preview for the exhibition game between the U.S. squad and Minnesota State tomorrow. Head coach Don Lucia said the plan was to play more of the players on the bubble as opposed to guys they’re confident will make the team. Tuesday night’s game is a critical evaluation point and could be a make-or-break moment for several players.
The U.S. staff does not want to travel overly heavy to Sweden, so they’ll be giving the players they need extra notes on more run Tuesday.
Lucia said he plans to use 13 forwards and eight defensemen tomorrow, meaning four forwards and one defenseman will sit. All three goalies may also see action as well.
If you can’t make it to Mankato for the game, it will air live on Charter cable in Minnesota and will also be available via live stream on America One on a pay-per-view basis. Details can be found here on how to access the game.
I’ll be at the game providing some thoughts on twitter as it happens and in a complete recap Tuesday night.