The U.S. National Junior Team, still with its preliminary roster yet to be finalized, will play Sweden in a pre-tournament game today. It was scheduled to start at 1:30 p.m. ET, but will likely end up closer to 2 p.m. ET due to some issues with the ice in Angelholm. Canada is taking on Finland today as well.
These last two pre-tournament games are important for a number of reasons. For Team USA, it’s a chance to get a few last evals in before making three more cuts. It’s also about getting a rhythm, establishing chemistry and trying to get more familiar with systems and the team’s style.
It should be a very telling couple of days for the U.S. as they adjust to each other and begin to establish more defined roles.
Team USA will meet Sweden, the tournament’s host and silver medalist from last year. The Swedish team is very good and should give the U.S. a tough test as the pressure is on the Tre Kronor to get back to the gold-medal game with a different result. They still have yet to finalize their roster as well.
After the jump, some brief thoughts on the game including Team USA’s lineup.
In these exhibitions, you worry less about results and more on what actually happens in the game. Are players fitting into certain roles? Are they overmatched against this opposing player or that one? Is the special teams system working for this group?
There are a lot of important questions to answer and kinks to work out, which is what makes these pre-tournament games against fellow WJC teams so telling and helpful.
Here’s a look at Team USA’s confirmed lineup for today’s exhibition tilt.
Nic Kerdiles – Danny O’Regan – Riley Barber
Zach Stepan – Jack Eichel – Ryan Hartman
Stefan Matteau – Andrew Copp – Hudson Fasching
Tommy Di Pauli – Quentin Shore – Henrik Samuelsson
Brady Skjei – Brett Pesce
Jaccob Slavin – Connor Carrick
Ian McCoshen – Matt Grzelcyk
Will Butcher – Steven Santini
Scratched: Tyler Motte, Adam Erne, Jon Gillies
Some notes on the lineup…
– It’s interesting to see Zach Stepan slotted in on the wing on the second line. He was pretty solid in the Minnesota State exhibition and will get an opportunity today to play in a more offensive role. He’s been tested more in defensive settings on the PK and in lower-lineup situations, so this could be an interesting test for him.
– Anthony Stolarz is going to get the start against Sweden and this will be a tremendous test for the projected No. 2 man in net for Team USA. If he has a good showing, as he did against Minnesota State, Don Lucia may see more of a need to find him a game or two in tournament play.
– Brady Skjei and Brett Pesce is the only D pairing that is the same as last time. They have potential to be Team USA’s go-to shutdown pairing if both can play up to their ability.
– Jaccob Slavin is getting tested out with Connor Carrick and I like that mix. Both move the puck well, but Slavin brings size to that pairing. Will Butcher played with Carrick most of camp and that goes back to Lake Placid. Giving Slavin a shot with a quick guy like Carrick might force Slavin to focus more on the defensive side. So he’ll be tested today.
– Matt Grzelcyk is inserted into the lineup on the right side as a left shot. The U.S. is heavy on lefty D, so it should be good to see how Grzelcyk defends on his weak side. He certainly has the smarts and speed to do so and if he and Ian McCoshen are paired up down the road, I think that could be an exciting duo.
– Henrik Samuelsson is bumped to the fourth line, thought I don’t see that as a true demotion. I think that’s kind of where he’ll need to go. He has to be physical and good defensively and give Team USA an option as a net-front guy with some grit. I don’t think he’d see big minutes offensively in a tournament like this.
– We’ll get our first in-game look at the line Team USA really needs to work well with Kerdiles-O’Regan-Barber. That has potential to be a potent line with as good mix of size, speed and skill.
– Vince Hinostroza is likely to make this team as a 13th forward if at all. He’ll be slotted in that role today. If he can give the U.S. roster flexibility, that will only help his chances of making the final roster.
– The scratches don’t mean a ton at this point. Jon Gillies gets a nice rest before the heavy workload he’s expected to carry. Adam Erne and Tyler Motte are both still firmly in the mix for spots, but now the coaching staff can get a look at some different options. The scratches for the final pre-tournament game — Sunday against Finland — may be more telling.
The game will be airing on TSN in Canada. If you don’t have it, I unfortunately don’t have any real good advice for you. If you’re creative, though, you might be able to find a live stream somewhere.