Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the column looking at Hockey’s Stars. Today Team USA announced the 26 young men who will be going to the Selection camp and competing for spots on the World Junior Team, a tournament that will be played in Malmo Sweden from December 26, 2013 to January 5, 2014. As always, you can check out the previous Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
This 26-man camp roster will be paired down to a 22-man team for the tournament in Malmo, Sweden. We should see a team made up of two goalies, seven defencemen and thirteen forwards. The United States are defending champs and will look to repeat their Russian success in this year’s tournament in Sweden.
Thatcher Demko: A freshman with Boston College, Demko was passed over in the 2013 Draft, but looks to be in the conversation in 2014. He’s already started five games as a freshman for the Eagles and put up an .899 save percentage, not too bad for a young goalie just getting his feet wet in the NCAA. At 6’3″ he has ideal size and cuts down angles well in order to give shooters very little to look at. He skates well, meaning he recovers quickly and stays with shooters if they try to deke. He also has good lateral movement and puck control. Demko plays a butterfly style and is extremely hard to beat down low due to his long and quick legs. He does need some work on his rebound control.
Jon Gillies: Gillies was the backup goalie to John Gibson on last year’s team, and is likely to take over as the starter this year. We all know what Gibson did, and expecting any goalie to have a repeat performance of how he played is completely unrealistic, and an unfair expectation on Gillies shoulders. That said, Gillies has the talent to backstop the squad to a gold medal. Gillies was the Calgary Flames 3rd round choice in the 2012 NHL Draft, and is the goaltender for Providence University. He is a big goalie (6’5″) who plays a butterfly style. He comes out of his net to cut down angles and takes advantage of his frame giving the shooter very little net to see. He has quick legs and takes away the bottom of the net effectively and has a decent glove and blocker to take away the top of the net. If there is a weakness though, its in his rebound control as it is inconsistent. There are times it is very good and times it can be an issue. The American defense will need to be on alert.
Anthony Stolarz: The Flyers second round pick in 2012. Stolarz started out at the University of Nebraska-Omaha last season, but when he felt he wasn’t getting enough playing time he left school and jumped to the OHL’s London Knights. In London, Stolarz was excellent in the regular season, but hit a snag in the playoffs (specifically the OHL final) and lost his starting job. However, he’s come back very strong this year and is currently playing excellent hockey for the Knights. Now that he’s regained control of the Knights goal, the team is playing much better than when he was splitting time with Jake Patterson earlier in the year. Like Gillies, Stolarz is a big goalie (6’5″) who plays a butterfly style. He also has good legs and a good glove and blocker. Also like Gillies he comes out of his net and cuts down his angles giving the shooter very little to shoot at. This can sometimes get him in trouble though, as Stolarz needs to work on his side to side movement. If there is one area he can get beat it is on cross-ice passes as he does not track the puck as well as he should, and has a tendency to sometimes over push and go to far getting himself out of position as a result.
Will Butcher: A fifth round pick of the Colorado Avalanche, Butcher is a freshman at the University of Denver. He played for the US NTDP last year, winning silver at the Under 18s and was the leading scorer amongst defencemen with 11 goals and 37 points in 67 games with the team. He has very good vision and the ability to thread the needle on passes both to start the transition game and in setting up plays in the offensive zone. He also has a good shot, and understands how to get it through to the net and keep it low to create opportunities for tip-ins and rebounds for his teammates. Has good agility and walks the line well to open up passing and shooting lanes. Butcher is a little undersized and can be overpowered in the defensive zone, but works hard and has good positioning and a quick stick to try and avoid these situations. If he makes the final team, expect him to see plenty of power play time in the tournament, as offensive specialist would be his role.
Connor Carrick: A fifth round pick in 2012, started the year in the NHL getting in a few games with the Washington Capitals, and even scored his first career NHL goal. He is now playing in the AHL with the Hershey Bears, and it is expected that he will be released to play in the tournament. He is an outstanding skater and puck mover who will bring offense to this pair. He loves to join the rush and even has the stickhandling skills to lead it out of his own end. He is also a strong passer with great vision that can be utilized both in the transition game and on the powerplay, where he should also be featured on this squad. Carrick is undersized for a defenseman at just 5’11″ and he isn’t known as the most physical player, but he competes hard in his own end and has really improved in his defensive awarness and positioning since he was drafted.
Anthony DeAngelo: Anthony DeAngelo of the Sarnia Sting is a 2014 Draft eligible prospect, but with an October birthdate he’s already 18 and in his third year in the OHL. Last season he finished third amongst defensemen in scoring with 58 points in 62 games. He has been even better this year, tearing things up in the OHL with seven goals and 27 points in 19 games for a rebuilding Sting team. He is a great skater who has always loved to lead and join the rush and create offensive attacks. While this has gotten him in trouble and out of position in previous years, it has been really impressive how he has been more responsible defensively and more willing to pick his spots this year, all while improving his numbers significantly. He seems to be making smarter, and less risky plays and has really cut down on the turnovers. He has an excellent wrist shot with a great release, as well as a hard and accurate slapshot. DeAngelo’s offensive skills will be the reason he makes this team and he can be used to help generate a lot of offense from the back end. Defensively he’s not hugely physical but can be effective with good positioning.
Matt Grzelcyk: A third round pick of the Boston Bruins in 2012, Grzelcyk has one goal and seven points in 14 games to start the year for Boston College. He was the final cut for the US team last year, travelling with the team to UFA before being sent home without getting into the lineup in what must have been a huge disappointment. Grzelcyk is a little undersized, listed at just 5’9″ but has outstanding skating and good offensive instincts. He can be a threat both to join the rush, or to make plays in the offensive zone. He has outstanding vision, and can really quarterback the powerplay controlling the play and making precise tape to tape passes. He also has a very good point shot. Defensively, he never gives up on a play and is an extremely hard worker and battler. However his limited size does mean that he can be overpowered by big forwards at times.
Ian McCoshen: McCoshen, a second round pick (31st overall) by the Florida Panthers, has had an excellent start to the season with Boston College. Once seen as a pure shut-down defender, he has developed his offensive game and is now an excellent two-way defenseman. McCoshen is a fast skater, with excellent speed both forwards and backwards. He has a long stride and generates a ton of power. However he does need some work on his pivots and can sometimes be beaten to the outside as a result. However this is relatively rare, and McCoshen is known to play an excellent defensive game. He has great gap control, and is very physical with players who try to beat him one on one. He loves to hit and will battle hard in the corners and in front of the net. Not afraid to sacrifice his body, McCoshen is a tough and willing shot blocker. McCoshen has good size and an active stick which helps him to cut down passing lanes. He is also very aggressive, putting a ton of pressure on opposing forwards when they have the puck and forcing them to make mistakes. Offensively, he has a powerful slapshot, and has really improved at getting it through traffic and on net. He keeps his shot low and on target, generating rebound and tip-in opportunities his teammates. His stickhandling has also improved and McCoshen looksconfident leading the rush. This has also translated into his playmaking ability, as he is poised and confident with the puck on his stick.
Brett Pesce: Pesce was taken 66th overall, early in the third round by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2013 Draft. He is playing for the University of New Hampshire, where is now in his second season with the Wildcats. Pesce is very solid in the defensive zone. He’s not one to lay huge hits, but he plays a physical game, rubbing out opponents along the boards, and battling in front of the net and in the corners. Pesce maintains very good gap control which keeps him in great position to make those plays. Pesce has a quick stick and is able to steal pucks with a poke check or by anticipating passes well. The strong defensive game is built around Pesce’s skating. He has great pivots, edgework, and agility, which gives him really good mobility on the ice. He is able to make quick cuts and changes in directions in all 360 degrees. Pesce has good top end speed both forwards and backwards, generated from a long and powerful stride. However his startup is sometimes a bit choppy, and this can rob him of his acceleration at times. He is strong on his skates and has decent balance, but it can be improved if he can add some lower body muscle. Offensively there isn’t much to write home about with Pesce. He is very much a stay at home defender with a good first pass.
Steve Santini: The captain of the US’ silver medal winning team in last year’s Under 18 World Championships. Santini also took home the award as best defenseman in the tournament. Impressive for a player who didn’t put up a single point in seven games. He was taken in the second round of the 2013 draft by the New Jersey Devils. Santini’s true value is in his defensive game. He isa true shutdown defender. He has good size and at 6’3″ 207 lbs, has a well developed frame for an 18 year. He plays a very strong physical game, clearing the front of the net, and working hard in battles along the boards. He maintains great gap control, always keeping himself between the puck and the net. Santini is a willing shotblocker. Opponents need to keep their heads up if coming down Santini’s side of the ice, as he’s been known to throw some very punishing hits. Those who try to sneak by Santini along the boards have to be fearful as he is capable of making them pay the price. Santini is a great skater. His straight line speed both forwards and backwards is excellent. He has a good first step and excellent acceleration based on compact, powerful stride. He has great edgework and pivots, and his strong agility allows him to quickly change direction and cover a ton of ice. The skating skill gives him the ability to be a top notch defender. While the offensive game is undeveloped, he does have a good first pass.
Brady Skjei: A first round pick of the New York Rangers in 2012, Skjei is an outstanding skater. He possesses excellent edgework and agility for a big man (6’3″). He has very good mobility, balance, and makes quick pivots. Skjei has above average speed and uses it to join the rush. This skating ability helps him in both the offensive and defensive zones. Skjei is always willing to join the rush. He handles the puck well, and is willing to make dynamic rushes, and take the puck right to the net. On the Powerplay Skjei is a good passer who makes smart decisions and can make creative passes putting the puck on the tape of his teammates. He’s not much of a shooter from the point though, as his shot could use some work, and so he takes on the role of set up man. Defensively Skjei uses good positioning, hockey sense and his great skating to keep defenders to the outside. He also is pretty effective at keeping the crease clear for the Americans and at picking up loose pucks. He uses his size to limit passes and chances against. He’s not known as a big hitter though.
Riley Barber: Barber has had an outstanding start to the year with 10 goals and 24 points in just 16 games for the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks. This sixth round pick of the Washington Capitals in 2012 is looking like an NHL draft steal. He is another outstanding two way player with great instincts and hockey sense at both ends of the ice. Again he is very good on the cycle game, and so these three players will look to work the puck down low where they can control the play on the boards while looking for an opening to take the puck to the front of the net or pass it to a linemate who is cutting there. Barber is a good skater, who has very good top end speed and acceleration, and also the strength and balance to fight through checks and get to the front of the net. He protects the puck extremely well with good stickhandling, and combined with his balance it makes him extremely difficult to knock of the puck.
J.T. Compher: A second round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, Compher has had a nice start as a freshman for the Michigan Wolverines, with 14 points in his first 13 games. He is a talented agitator who plays an irritating game. He is always yapping and always in an opponents face after the whistle. Compher has the ability to get opponents off their game and draw penalties. Compher always seems to have a nose for trouble, finding himself in the middle of any scrum that starts when he is on the ice. He is not afraid to go to dirty areas of the ice, and wins board battles and establishes position well in front of the net. He also drives the net hard, and has been known to take a goalie interference penalty or two for his efforts. He has the skills to back up his chirping and agitation as he has the vision, and passing ability to be an effective playmaker. Compher has very good stickhandling skill and can protect the puck well and control the play off the cycle. Compher combines this with a very good shot and release, and he knows how to put the puck in the back of the net. He also has the hockey sense to always find himself in the right place at the right time. Compher’s skating stride is not pretty, but it gets him where he is going and it is effective. He has decent speed and acceleration. He is very strong on his skates, and has good balance allowing him to fight through checks and get to the net. He is difficult to knock off the puck. Defensively, Compher is well developed. He brings his tenacious, hard working, physical game to the defensive end of the ice. He is willing to sacrifice for his team and puts his body on the line to block shots. His hockey sense, and ability to diagnose plays is very good and he often finds himself in the right spot in the defensive zone as well.
Andrew Copp: A fourth round pick of the Winnipeg Jets, Copp is playing his second season for the University of Michigan Wolverines and has had a strong start with eight goals and 13 points in 13 games. Copp is a good skater with strong speed and acceleration. He is a torpedo on the forecheck and battles hard in the corners and in front of the net. He has the balance and power to fight through checks, and does a good job of protecting the puck on the cycle game. He plays a relatively simple game, getting to the front of the net to pick up his points. He is also a committed defensive player, willing to sacrifice his body to block shots. He is tremendously gritty, working to get in the fact of the other team’s top players and to be at the middle of scrums. He is a veteran of the US NTDP, though was rarely used in 2012, as he fought injury issues and was mostly relegated to the press box. The determination to keep improving and the good attitude he showed in the tough situation of his draft year (he was passed over), along with his determination to make the Wolverines and get drafted in 2013 show the type of good character player every team needs. Copp will play any role his coach asks of him, and will do his best to help the team win. He’s a candidate for an energy line role and can also provide excellent faceoff skills.
Tommy DiPauli: A fourth round pick of the Washington Capitals in 2012, DiPauli will also be competing for an energy line role on the team. He’s battled injuries early in the year, but is now back playing with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish where he is still trying to find his game. He’ll need to get into form quickly if he wants to make Team USA. Its a testament to his game and how he is viewed by the program that they are bringing him to camp despite the rough start, clearly the brass was impressed by his strong play in the summer camp and want to give him every opportunity to get back to that level. DiPauli is a hard worker who isn’t the most skilled player but can pick up points by playing a strong cycle game and getting to the front of the net. He is good defensively and strong on faceoffs. The profile is very similar to Copp and it will be interesting to see if the two are competing against each other at Team USA camp or if one is switched to wing in an attempt to build 2/3rds of a grind line.
Jack Eichel: A late 1996 Birthdate, Eichel is not draft eligible until 2015 where he is expected to compete for the 2nd overall spot behind Womderkid Connor McDavid. He has been absolutely fantastic for the US NTDP program this year with 12 goals and 21 points in 9 games. Eichel is a strong skater, with incredibly slick hands. He is an offensive dynamo who can be both a playmaker or a goal scorer with excellent stickhandling, vision, passing, and a strong shot with a quick release. He is a threat to score everytime he is on the ice at the USNTDP and it will be interesting to see how he handles the step up in competition playing against the best players 2+ years older than he is. Watch for Eichel to be eased into the lineup slowly, if he reacts well though, he could find himself stealing a job from an older player.
Adam Erne: A 2nd round pick of the Tampa Bay Lightning. He is a power forward who plays a very physical game. He loves to get in on the forecheck and throw big hits, the type that can really set the tone. He just loves to win battles on the boards and to fight for position in front of the net. Erne is at his best when he drives the net and uses his soft hands to beat the goalie in close. He can do this by taking defenders wide off the rush, or in the cycle game by just fighting through checks and barreling his way to the crease. He drives the net effectively without the puck as well. Erne also has a good wrist shot and a quick release which he can also use to beat goaltenders. His vision and playmaking ability have vastly improved this season, and he has shown off his ability to set up teammates for good scoring chances. Erne is a very good skater. His stride is long and powerful, which allows him to generate good top speed, but also gives him the balance and strength necessary to be strong on the puck and fight through checks to get to the dirty areas of the ice. His acceleration, edgework and agility are decent as well. Erne is already advanced in his defensive game and is reliable in his own zone. He brings the same strong physical play in the defensive zone as well as the offensive zone. Most times he plays his position extremely well, keeping his man to the outside and cutting off shooting and passing lanes. The only issue he can sometimes have is getting a little overzealous in his approach and looking for the big hit which will get him out of position in the defensive zone.
Hudson Fasching: He has had a great start to the year with six goals and 14 points in 14 games as a freshman with the University of Minnesota. An L.A. Kings draft pick, Fasching has all the tools you would want in a power forward. He is 6’03″ and 213 lbs. Fasching takes the puck to the net, and can score goals in tight, or via a good wrist shot and snap shot with a quick release. He gets to the front of the net, where he uses his big body to establish position, and his soft hands to bang in rebounds or make deflections. Fasching is a load to handle in the corners and loves to play a strong, physical game, with plenty of hits on the forecheck. He has also shown good vision and passing skill off the wing. Fasching is a powerful skater with a long stride. He is a natural power forward who has excellent balance and is very tough to knock of the puck. His power and size allows him to fight off checks, and to bulldoze through defencemen off the rush or own the cycle. His top end speed is good, but the acceleration could be improved going forward, especially his first step. Fasching shows good agility and he has the natural athletic ability but must refine his skating technique with some work on his turning and edgework. Fasching is also a valuable two way player, playing important penalty killing minutes for the USNTDP club last year. He shows very good hockey sense and anticipation, cutting down passing lanes. He shows his aggressive physical side in the defensive zone, pressuring the puck carrier and not being afraid to mix things up along the boards
Ryan Fitzgerald: The son of former NHLer Tom Fitzgerald, and a 4th round pick of the Boston Bruins in the 2013 NHL Draft, Ryan led the Valley Jr. Warriors to the EJHL championship last year. He also got valuable experience playing for Team USA at the World Jr. A. Championship, and five games for the US NTDP. Fitzgerald is undersized, but he is a very good skater. He has excellent top end speed, good acceleration, and has good edgework and agility. He couples this with good stickhandling, and elusive moves to be extremely dangerous leading the rush. Fitzgerald also has great hockey sense, and the good vision and passing skills to be a strong playmaker. He can score goals as he also has a good wrist shot and a quick release. Fitzgerald has started strong with Boston College scoring seven goals and 14 points in his first 14 games with the Eagles.
Ryan Hartman: A first round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks, Hartman is listed at 5’11″ and 185 lbs and many wouldn’t think of Hartman as a power forward, but that is the type of game that Hartman plays. He is extremely physical in all areas. Hartman protects the puck very well down low and is excellent in the cycle. He fights through checks to the dirty areas of the ice. Hartman is a playmaker, with excellent passing skills and very good vision. He has very good hockey sense and often makes the smart play. His wrist shot is extremely heavy and has an excellent release. He also can score goals by taking the puck to the net, and using soft hands in close. Hartman is an agitator who loves to chirp opponents and is often in the middle of things. Hartman is a very good skater, he has good top end speed, and reaches it quickly with a quick first step and good acceleration. His biggest asset is his excellent lateral agility, and good edgework which allows him to escape checkers and pull away from them. Defensively his game is advanced as she pressures the puck very well and forces his opponents to make errors. He is fearless in blocking shots and brings his physical game to the defensive end. He is also solid on the penalty kill.
Nic Kerdiles: Its tough to find a real go-to scorer in the US lineup, but Nic Kerdiles might just be the closest thing they have. A second round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in 2012, he is a talented offensive player and incredibly smart with very high hockey IQ. Kerdiles is great at working down low, and playing the cycle. He makes great tape-to-tape passes and has very good vision. He also has a knack for finding open space from where he can unleash an extremely accurate shot. He’s got soft hands in close which he uses to score goals from tip-ins and rebounds. Kerdiles is a versatile forward who can be used both at Centre and on the Wing. A natural leader, Kerdiles possesses an insatiable work ethic. He is an effective forechecker chasing down opposing defenders and getting on the puck. He’s also extremely gritty, winning a ton of board battles and taking punishment in front of the opponents net. He’s fearless, committed to winning, and willing to take a hit to make a play. Kerdiles is also known to look for the big hit if it is available. Its not something he’ll do recklessly or get himself out of position, but if an opponent makes a mistake, Kerdiles can lower the boom. Kerdiles is also good in his own zone. He is an active and committed back checker. His hockey IQ translates into the defensive zone, as he is excellent positionally and anticipates plays well. He is very good at cutting down passing lanes, and has an uncanny ability to strip opponents of the puck. Kerdiles is very much a complete player, capable of playing in any situation.
Stefan Matteau: : Matteau was a first round pick of the New Jersey Devils. Like his father, Matteau is a gritty, hard working, winger who is capable in all three zones. Matteau seems to relish playing a physical game, is effective on the boards winning battles, and protecting the puck in the cycle game. He is more likely to bull through a defender than to go around them. Matteau has a hard, heavy wrist shot and a decent release. When Matteau doesn’t have the puck in the offensive zone, you can find him causing havoc in front of the net. Matteau will need to show more discipline as he is a player who needs to play on the edge but not cross the line especially with the stringent reffing in IIHF tournaments. He is playing in the AHL this season and started slow but now has 11 points in 20 games. Thats good production for a player who is amongst the youngest in the league, and still has junior eligibility.
Tyler Motte: Tyler Motte has natural chemistry with Compher, playing as his linemate at Michigan and at time with the USNTDP last year. He has five goals in 13 games to start the season as a freshman. He was a fourth round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks this past season. A little undersized at just 5’9″, Motte doesn’t seem to let that get in the way of playing a determined defensive game with good anticipation, the ability to cut down passing lanes, and create turnovers. He is a tremendous skater generating great top end speed and outstanding acceleration as well as having great agility and edgework. When he does create those turnovers, he can kick it into another gear, transitioning to offence where he can use his good stickhandling and good vision playmaking skills to create offense off the counter attack. He has good hands in close, but could use a little more power on his shot from further out.
Dan O’Regan: O’Regan is an interesting case. We all know he has talent, and many saw him as the potential line centre on this team, but after just ten points in 14 games to start the season with Boston University, its unclear if he’ll be given that big a responsibility. A fifth round pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2012, O’Regan scored 38 points in 39 games for Boston University as a freshman. When he’s at his best, this 5’9″ centre has very good speed and skating ability, and the ability to make plays with the puck while skating at top speed. He has great vision, and has excellent passing ability, able to thread passes through the smallest of openings. He can score a few goals, as O’Regan has good hands, and a good release on his shot, but still lacks some power.
Henrik Samuelsson: A 2012 First Round draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, Samuelsson is a big bodied, power forward. He’s versatile as he’s been used at both centre and on the wing. He’s had a good start to the year with 33 points in 24 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings. Samuelsson uses his size and strength to battle opponents for loose pucks on the boards and to plant himself in front of the net. He has soft hands and a knack for banging in rebounds and tipping shots in close. His huge frame is also an effective screen for opposing goalies. Henrik has a good wrist shot and release, and is also good on one-timers. Samuelsson has also shown a creative playmaking side, utilizing great vision, tape-to-tape passing skills to rack up assists. He doesn’t shy away from traffic or from a physical game, and has been known to throw big hits. Defensively Samuelsson is a conscientious back checker and strong positionally. He is willing to use his size to be physical and again is often involved in battles for loose pucks. Samuelsson is willing to block shots and understands how to cut down on the passing lanes. Skating wise, Samuelsson has good top end speed for a big man and is very strong and balanced on his skates.
Quentin Shore: A 6th round pick of the Ottawa Senators, Shore has put up 10 points in 13 games in his sophomore season at the University of Denver. Good in all three zones, Shore will likely be given important defensive assignments for Team USA. He is willing to battle along the boards, and to fight for loose pucks, as well as play strong defensively, and block shots. Basically Shore is the type of player who will do all the little things that help his team win. Offensively he has good hands and a decent wrist shot, but is known more for playing a straight forward North-South style game than being overly creative. He creates his chances through hard work and being good on the forecheck and just taking the puck to the front of the net at every opportunity.
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