WJHC Who to Watch: Team USA
The Day is nearly here, the Pre-Tournament Games are done, and its time for the World Juniors. In October I did early looks and predictions on what the rosters might look like, but I think its time to update them now, as teams are being set, and the tournament is ready to go. If you want to see any of my previous articles you can find a complete listing of my them here.
Over the Next two days I will give you are preview of Each Team in the Tournament, highlighting the key players to watch, their strengths and weaknesses, and what to look forward to in the Tournament. Yesterday, we looked at Pool A, which features defending champ Sweden, the impressive Finns, the always dangerous Czech Republic, a team that is no stranger to upsets in Switzerland, and an underrated team from Latvia.
So lets move on to Pool B, where we have already looked at Russia, Germany and Slovakia. We’ll take a look at Canada shortly, but now, the United States. .
Alex Galchenyuk , Left Wing/Centre: Galchenyuk was picked by the Montreal Canadiens 3rd overall in last June’s Entry draft. The most purely talented player on the US squad, he will be expected to bring big offence if the US squad is to have any chance at winning a gold medal.
Coach Phil Housley has been experimenting with Galchenyuk at both Left Wing and Centre during the U.S. Selection camp, and its unclear where he will play. I personally would bet on him lining up at LW though as Galchenyuk can be just as dangerous at both spots, and the US squad is far weaker at Left Wing (having little in the way of top 6 after Galchenyuk and John Gaudreau). Meanwhile, they have Trocheck and Miller who can play in the middle, along with Sean Kuraly, meaning its a much deeper position.
Galchenyuk is blessed with every talent you’d want in an offensive player. He has size and is willing to mix it up in the corners or in front of the net. He is a very good skater, able to create off the rush. He’s shown his tremendous wrist shot and release on numerous occassions for the Sarnia Sting this season, and is also an outstanding playmaker. Galchenyuk’s best asset though are his hands, which are among the best in the entire tournament.
John Gaudreau, Left Wing: Gaudreau is a pint sized winger who has been absolutely electric for Boston College and was a key component in helping them to win the NCAA National Championship last year. The Calgary Flames 2011 4th Rounder has again been one of the best players in the NCAA this year and should be a contender for the Hobey Baker Trophy.
He is a speedster, with great hands and a fearless ability to drive the net. Possessing an excellent wrist shot and release, look for Gaudreau to be a key to the American squad in terms of producing goals in the tournament. He has also shown an ability to be a playmaker as well, and will make his linemates (expected to be J.T. Miller and Rocco Grimaldi) more dangerous.
J.T. Miller, Centre: The 2011 New York Rangers first round pick. Miller is a solid two way forward, who will be important to do the grunt work in the corners and in front of the net on this line. He does have the skill to finish chances should he get them as well. Playing with Gaudreau and Grimaldi, Miller will be the size and strength in the middle of this line. He’s been playing for the Connecticut Whale this season in the AHL, and the experience against bigger and stronger opponents can only help him, playing in this tournament.
Rocco Grimaldi, Right Wing: On Miller’s Right side will be another pint-sized speedster. Grimaldi is a speedster playing in his red-shirt freshman year with the University of North Dakota. Grimaldi and Gaudreau’s speed and skill should be absolutely lethal on the big ice in ufa, and he completes a very intriguing line for the American squad. Grimaldi is also an excellent stickhandler who can make plays at high speed, and has a natural goal scorer’s touch around the net.
Vincent Trocheck, Centre: A Florida Panthers third round pick, Trocheck is expected to get the first opportunity to centre Galchenyuk’s line. Its an intriguing pairing of two of the OHL’s top scorers this seasson. While Galchenyuk sits 2nd in OHL scoring, Trochek is not far behind in a tie for 5th. Prior to this season Trocheck was known for his ability to protect the puck down low and to set up plays for his linemates. This season, the talented pivot has added a good wrist shot and release, along with an excellent one timer this season. This fact that both he and Galchenyuk can act as the playmaker or the finisher will make for an interesting dynamic for the American squad.
Jacob Trouba: Another key veteran of the squad. The Winnipeg Jets 2012 first rounder should be the anchor on the United States blueline. Trouba possesses very good size. He’s shown himself to be willing to use that size, as he is an effective hitter who separates incoming forwards from the puck. Trouba has excellent defensive instincts and is very safe and solid in his own end. He was one of the better defencemen for Team USA in last years World Junior Championships despite playing in the tournament when he was only 17 years old. Trouba is a willing shot-blocker, and has excellent hockey IQ. He makes a good first pass in his own zone, and is very calm and poised with the puck on his stick. He’s a polished defender who rarely makes a mistake.
Trouba has offensive potential as well. He has a great shot from the point and should feature on the US Power Play. He has good vision and makes smart passes in the offensive zone. He’s also very good at finding the right time to join the rush and add to his team’s offensive attack. Trouba is generally a very good skater. He’s strong on his skates, has good stops and starts, has good edge work, and is agile and able to pivot and change directions quickly and efficiently. However, he could stand to work on his top-end speed as it is the weakest part of his skating ability.
Overall expect him to play huge minutes in the tournament.
Seth Jones: Jones is the highly hyped 2013 draft eligible D, and the son of former NBA player Popeye Jones.
He’s a monster at 6’4″ at just 17 years old, but plays a much different game than you’d expect. He’s an extremely smooth skater, and a great puck mover from the backend. He also has an excellent shot. Defensively he is more likely to use his skating, positioning and strong fundamentals to stop the rush, then he is to intimidate with a big hit.
Normally draft eligible players do not excel in this tournament but Jones played on the US squad last year, and given that experience is expected to be a key member of the team again in this year’s tournament. As an October birthday he is also older than most of the other draft eligible players in the tourney and this will be a big advantage to him. Expect to see Jones play top 4 minutes and be a key part of the United States special team’s units, including the powerplay.
Jones has played well for Portland in the WHL this season, but this could be his coming out party, as he’ll be looking to have a strong tournament in an attempt to vault himself into being a favorite to go first overall in June.
Connor Murphy: The 2011 Phoenix Coyotes first rounder plays on the Sarnia Sting powerplay with Alex Galchenyuk. In this way the two players have familiarity and chemistry already. This can only help the American Powerplay in a short tournament.
Murphy is a talented puck moving defenceman with extremely good skating ability, making him very mobile on the backend. He’s got very good vision and excellent passing ability. As a shooter, Murphy prefers to use his very good wrist shot, and his snap shot from the point. His slapshot is decent but he could use it more often on the powerplay. He may play the role of Quarterback on the second unit.
Murphy has improved his defensive game this season, playing a strong positional game and using his body more effectively than we’ve seen in the past. He is a willing shot blocker, and cuts down passing lanes well. Murphy will be one of Phil Housley’s go to defenders.
Goaltending: The United States squad will be relying on Gibson to be backstop the team. Capable of being one of the best junior goalies in the world when he’s on his game, Gibson hasn’t been on his game of late. The US will need that to change if they are to be a serious threat in Ufa.
Jon Gibson: Gibson has international experience as a two year starter for the US NTDP and has a World U18 Gold Medal to his name. He’s among the top goalies in the OHL and has backstopped the Kitchener Rangers to a decent start this season, despite the fact that the team just isn’t scoring enough goals in front of him. In November though he started to struggle, and the US hopes he can overcome those struggles and play like he is capable in this tournament.
He has excellent technique and very good rebound control. One of the top goalie prospects in the world, Gibson could steal games for the US squad, and has an opportunity to be the best goalie in the tournament if he gets hot.
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