Projecting Team USA’s 2014 World Junior Roster

Image courtesy of sports.yahoo.com

USA Hockey revealed it’s 26-player preliminary camp roster yesterday morning for the the 2014 World Junior Championships in Malmo Sweden later this month.The selection camp will take place between Dec.15-18 in Minneapolis and will include five practices at Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota, as well as a pre-tournament game at Minnesota State University on Dec. 17. The final roster will be announced on Dec. 23rd.

University of Minnesota head coach Don Lucia will run a camp that includes 15 forwards, eight defenseman, and three goaltenders. Returning from last year’s gold medal-winning team are forwards Riley Barber of Miami University and Ryan Hartman of the Plymouth Whalers, and goalie Jon Gillies of Providence College.

I’m a bit surprised Minnesota forward Taylor Cammarata (NYI, 76th overall, ’13) was not chosen to the camp roster. He’s produced and played well as a true freshman with the Gophers this season, but I guess his own coach (Don Lucia) didn’t think he was worthy of a selection. The only two players who made this camp roster and were not named to USA Hockey’s initial summer camp roster are BC’s Ryan Fitzgerald and NTDP’s Jack Eichel.

The full roster can be found here.

Below I break down who I think will make the final roster.

Note: USA Hockey will have to take 20 skaters and three goalies to Malmo. Other players could be named to the roster next week because there are still some injury concerns with a few players. 

Goalies

Jon Gillies (CGY, 75th overall, ’12)

Anthony Stolarz (PHI, 45th overall, ’12)

Thatcher Demko (2014 eligible)

The three goalies named to the roster are the three you will see in Malmo. Gillies sustained an injury a few weeks ago, but the Providence netminder will get the majority of the starts no doubt. The South Portland, ME native has been stellar in goal for the Friars this season posting a .945 save percentage and 1.81 GAA in 14 starts. He’s the Calgary Flames goalie of the future.

Stolarz will push Gillies for a start or two, but will primarily be used as the backup. He’s been solid with the London Knights this season. The Jackson, NJ native has a .929 save percentage and a 2.40 GAA in 22 starts this season.

As the youngest player in college hockey, Thatcher Demko will be along just for the ride and experience. The San Diego, Calif. native is the goalie of the future for Team USA.

Overall, Team USA is solid in net.

Defenseman  

Note: These are not projected pairings. These are the players I think will make the final cut.

Matt Grzelcyk (BOS, 85th overall, ’12) – Steven Santini (NJD, 42nd overall, ’13)

Brady Skjei (NYR, 28th overall, ’12) – Connor Carrick (WSH, 137th overall, ’12)

Ian McCoshen (FLA, 31st overall, ’13) – Brett Pesce (CAR, 66th overall, ’13)

Tony DeAngelo (2014 NHL draft eligible, Sarnia Sting)

USA Hockey will have to make one cut since they brought eight defenders to camp. Minnesota’s Brady Skeji, BU’s Matt Grzelcyk, Hershey’s Connor Carrick, BC’s Ian McCoshen and Steve Santini are locks in my book. Both Skeji and Santini are defensive-defenseman, while Grzelcyk and Carrick are more offensive minded. McCoshen is a mix of both. New Hampshire’s Brett Pesce has struggled this season and struggled in Team USA’s August camp, but his size and physicality could be an asset for Don Lucia’s squad. He’s strictly a stay at home defender, but could bring balance to the back end. I think he gets the nod as well.

The final defensive spot will likely come down to Denver’s Will Butcher (COL, 123rd overall, ’13) and Sarnia Sting standout defenseman Tony DeAngelo. Both are very similar players as they can skate and move the puck with ease. DeAngelo was sent home early from summer camp after Butcher beat him out. I don’t see that happening now.

DeAngelo leads all OHL defenseman with 39 points (9 goals, 30 assists) in 27 games played. The Sewell, NJ native has played exceptional in Sarnia this season and USA Hockey would be wise to select him for the roster because of his offensive tools. He brings an offensive upside reminiscent of current San Jose Shark Dan Boyle. DeAngelo will most likely be a first-round NHL selection come June.

Overall, there are no defenseman with WJC experience but I don’t think that will be a problem. They’re a young group and they have some core players to build around. However, could you imagine what this corps would look like if Seth Jones, Jacob Trouba, and Pat Sieloff were available?

Forwards

Note: Like the defenseman, these are not projected line combinations. These are the players I think will make the final cut.

Nic Kerdiles (ANA, 36th overall, ’12) - J.T. Compher (BUF, 35th overall, ’13) - Riley Barber (WSH, 167th overall, 12)

Adam Erne (TB, 33rd overall, ’13) – Andrew Copp (WPG, 104th overall, ’13) – Ryan Hartman (CHI, 30th overall, ’13)

Stefan Matteau (NJD, 29th overall, ’12) – Quentin Shore (OTT, 168th overall, ’13)- Hudson Fasching (LAK, 118th overall, ’13)

Tommy Di Pauli (WSH, 100th overall, ’12)- Jack Eichel (2015 draft eligible)- Tyler Motte (CHI, 121st overall, ’13)

Ryan Fitzgerald (BOS, 120th overall, ’13)

Team USA took 15 forwards, which means they will cut two.

Riley Barber returns from last year’s gold-medal winning squad and I see him playing the top-line wing this year. J.T. Compher would look great centering Barber and Nic Kerdiles on the top line. Compher is a do-it all kind of player who excels in all situations on the ice. He has a deadly shot and currently leads the Wolverines in scoring with 14 points as a true freshman.

Kerdiles is a strong skater with excellent puck skills who is playing center for Wisconsin this season. He could fill the other wing position on the top line for Don Lucia. Kerdiles has 10 points in 10 games for the Badgers this season.

Andrew Copp has been  a tremendous two-way player for Michigan this season and is second in points (13) behind Compher. You could slot him anywhere in the lineup, but I see him somewhere in the second to third line spot. Adam Erne, Stefan Matteau, and Ryan Hartman are locks.

The bottom of the USA lineup is where things could get interesting. There are three intriguing players, who were named to the camp roster, that I think will make the final cut in Notre Dame’s Tommy Di Pauli, BC’s Ryan Fitzgerald, and UTDP’s Jack Eichel. That leaves BU’s Danny O’Reagan (one of five natural centers selected to camp) and Edmonton Oil Kings winger Henrik Samuelsson (Dual American-Swedish citizenship) on the outside looking in, however, both players could make it. My guess is a good as any right now.

If he’s healthy enough to go, Di Pauli will play a shutdown role for Team USA. He’s only appeared in six of Notre Dame’s 16 games this season, but that shows you how much faith Team USA has in Di Pauli. He’s a physical forward who has the ability to play smart defensive hockey up front. He can show flashes of skill when called upon. He’ll bring an element to the American lineup that they need.

I think Fitzgerald has a great shot at making this roster because BC assistant coach Greg Brown is one of Team USA’s assistant coaches, plus Fitzgerald has really turned some heads with the Eagles so far this year with 14 points in 14 games as a true freshman. Some people see the North Reading, MA native as a bubble guy battling for the 13th forward spot, however, I don’t see that because of the familiarity Brown has with Fitzgerald. He’s a bit small at 5’9, 166 pounds, but that didn’t hurt fellow BC Eagle Johnny Gaudreau.

Eichel, who could be a top-five pick in 2015, has been playing outstanding hockey with Under-18 squad and I’m not surprised he made the camp roster. He’s the best skilled forward USA Hockey has produced since Patrick Kane. He stands at 6-1, 190, and possesses a strong skating ability with some downright special skill. Eichel has 35 points in 19 games with the NTDP and is a dynamic player to watch.

Like DeAngelo, USA Hockey would be wise to include Eichel into their final roster. I see him as a top-six forward and a point producing machine for Team USA. The Chelmsford, MA native is scheduled to attend Boston University in 2015. Eichel’s CHL draft rights are held by the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL, however, he was selected by the Halifax Mooseheads 15th overall in the 2012 QMJHL draft, but decided to play with the NTDP instead.

Overall, this group of forwards is not as high-powered as some of the other teams we’ll see in Malmo. (Canada, Sweden, and Russia). The Americans are going to be challenged in this tournament no matter what. Alex Galchenyuk, Johnny Gaudreau, Vincent Trochek, J.T. Miller and Rocco Grimaldi are no longer here, which means finding offense could be tough.

As a whole, I like the makeup of this USA squad. I don’t see them repeating as Gold Medal winners since they are young and inexperienced, but I can see them medaling. The loss of Jones, Trouba, Galchenyuk, and Sieloff ultimately will hurt, but it’s a short tournament and with Gillies in net he’ll keep USA in every game they play.

It’s certainly going to be fun watching the future of the NHL in this tournament.