2013 World Junior Championship: USA Preliminary Roster Outlook

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By Andrew Weiss (@WeissFC)

The Canadian Hockey League feels like it just got underway a little bit ago and the college hockey season feels like it just started last week. As it turns out, perceptions are not reality as the CHL is almost a third of the way done with their regular season and the NCAA is a month into its own schedule.

With those portions of the season already completed, attention is beginning to be focused in on the 2013 World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. The Subway Super Series, which helps Hockey Canada and Russia select their World Junior teams, is a third of way done, with the QMJHL and Russian team splitting the first two games.

Attention for the World Junior Championship has also picked up here stateside, as less than month from now USA Hockey’s Jim Johannson and his committee will release their preliminary roster for the Dec. 26 tournament. Johannson and his committee have a lot of moving pieces to work with this year, with just three players eligible to return from last year’s team. In addition to having to fill 19 spots with first year players, the committee has to assemble the team with an Olympic ice rink in mind for the first time since 2005.

Last year USA Hockey named 17 forwards, 10 defensemen, and three goaltenders to their preliminary roster used a six day camp in Camrose, Alta. to whittle the roster down to 22 for the tournament. While USA Hockey has not said how many players will be named to this year’s preliminary roster, I have assumed they will be bringing the same number to camp this year and I’ve selected the 30 players I believe should be considered for this year’s team.

Forwards (17)

C. J.T. Miller (Connecticut, AHL): 9 GP, 1 G, 3 A, 4 PTS
Miller is the only returning player from last year’s team, though he’ll have to get released from Connecticut/New York to play. I don’t see this being a problem for the likely first line center.

C. Rocco Grimaldi (North Dakota, WCHA): 6 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 PTS
After sitting out most of last year with a knee injury, Rocco hasn’t missed a beat. He’s a center, but don’t be surprised to see him on a wing in camp and/or in Russia.

LW. Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College, Hockey East): 7 GP, 4 G, 5 A, 9 PTS
While Gaudreau continues to battle for the Hobey Baker, he’s a lock to make this team.

C. Alex Galchenyuk (Sarnia, OHL): 18 GP, 11 G, 17 A, 28 PTS
Galchenyuk will be one a handful of 1994-birth years that will be key contributors to this year’s team.

RW. Tyler Biggs (Oshawa, OHL): 19 GP, 9 G, 10 A, 19 PTS
After a freshman season at Miami that left people wanting more, Biggs is having quite the season in Oshawa. Biggs’ versatility will be big for the US.

LW. Reid Boucher (Sarnia, OHL): 18 GP, 8 G, 9 A, 17 PTS
With the way Boucher shoots the puck, it’s impossible not to imagine him on this team.

C. Vincent Trocheck (Saginaw, OHL): 18 GP, 10 G, 15 A, 25 PTS
Trocheck and a couple others have carried Saginaw’s offense this year. One could have made the argument about him making the preliminary roster last year; this year he’s definitely ready.

RW. Henrik Samuelsson (Edmonton, WHL): 17 GP, 9 G, 9 A, 18 PTS
Samuelsson could play a similar role to Tyler Biggs on this year’s team. The more power forwards the Americans bring to this tournament, the better.

RW. Stefan Noesen (Plymouth, OHL): 17 GP, 10 G, 4 A, 14 PTS
Much like Trocheck, Noesen could have played last year, but is ready to make an impact this year.

LW. Blake Pietila (Michigan Tech, WCHA): 8 GP, 5 G, 2 A, 7 PTS
Pietila is one of those fly-under-the-radar guys, but has been outstanding as a sophomore for Michigan Tech this year.

LW. Mario Lucia (Notre Dame, CCHA): N/A
Notre Dame Head Coach Jeff Jackson hopes Lucia can be back from a broken leg on Nov. 23. That’s good enough for me to give him a roster spot.

C. Travis Boyd (Minnesota, WCHA): 7 GP, 3 G, 2 A, 5 PTS
Boyd’s game has grown leaps and bounds from when he played his first college game till now. Boyd could be a very good bottom six forward if he makes it.

C/LW. Nic Kerdiles (Wisconsin, WCHA): N/A
Much like Lucia, it’s a tough call to give a roster spot to a player who will play his first game Nov. 30, but Kerdiles’ skillset and versatility is worth it.

RW. Riley Barber (Miami, CCHA): 8 GP, 4 G, 6 A, 10 PTS
Barber has had quite the ride playing on Miami’s first line, but he’s played well and deserves a good look.

C. Brady Vail (Windsor, OHL): 19 GP, 7 G, 15 A, 22 PTS
Vail, another ’94 birth year, leads Windsor in points and plays a game that would translate well if he makes the team.

C. Colin Blackwell (Harvard, ECAC): 3 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS
Blackwell was one of the big surprise standouts at the Junior Evaluation Camp in August and has looked good thus far for Harvard.

RW. Adam Erne (Quebec, QMJHL): 17 GP, 14 G, 13 A, 27 PTS
Erne is another power forward option that USA Hockey has at their disposal. Could he be the first 17-year-old forward to make the team since Jason Zucker? Probably not, but I’d like to see him at least make the preliminary roster.

Forwards just missing cut: Alex Broadhurst, Sean Kuraly, Stefan Matteau

Defense (10)

Jacob Trouba (Michigan, CCHA): 6 GP, 2 G, 4 A, 6 PTS
Wolverine fans’ dream pairing of Trouba/Merrill has yet to happen, but Trouba has made the transition to college hockey just fine without him. Look for Trouba to improve on last year’s World Junior performance.

Seth Jones (Portland, WHL): 15 GP, 4 G, 6 A, 10 PTS
He is Seth Jones. Seth Jones is making this team.

Jake McCabe (Wisconsin, WCHA): 6 GP, 1 G, 2 A, 3 PTS
McCabe no longer has Justin Schultz to look to, but has done just fine on his own this season. I’d be very surprised not to see him on this year’s team

Shayne Gostisberhere (Union, ECAC): 7 GP, 3 G, 5 A, 8 PTS
Gostisbehere has gone from being passed over in his first year of draft eligibility to being one of the best ’93-birth-year American defenseman. Being the highest scoring defenseman in college hockey right now helps the cause too.

Mike Reilly (Minnesota, WCHA): 7 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 PTS
While Reilly has struggled to make the college transition thus far, he still possesses a skillset that can help this team through mobility and playmaking ability.

Connor Murphy (Sarnia, OHL): 17 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 PTS
Playing with a less than stellar defense corps, Murphy hasn’t had the best season, but a healthy Connor Murphy can help this team.

Connor Carrick (Plymouth, OHL): 17 GP, 3 G, 8 A, 11 PTS
Carrick’s transition to major junior hockey has been a pretty good one,  and he has had lots of playing time to improve his weaknesses in Plymouth.

Michael Paliotta (Vermont, Hockey East): 5 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 PTS
Paliotta did not have the best Evaluation Camp, getting sent home early, but has had a good season as Vermont’s top defenseman.

Robbie Russo (Notre Dame, CCHA): 8 GP, 2 G, 2 A, 4 PTS
Like Paliotta, Russo was one of the early cuts at August’s Evaluation Camp, but has made up for it with a good start for the Irish.

Pat Sieloff (Windsor, OHL): 19 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 PTS
Compared to last year’s team, this year’s defensive group looks less physical. If Sieloff were to make the team, he would definitely close the gap.

Defenseman just missing the cut: Matt Grzelcyk and Jordan Schmaltz

Goalies (3)

John Gibson (Kitchener, OHL): 9-3-0-0, 2.04 GAA, .937 SV%
Gibson got his feet wet last year. This year he’ll be expected to carry the full load.

Garret Sparks (Guelph, OHL): 11-4-0-1 3.35 GAA, .909 SV%
Sparks has had a good year, and should be one of the goalies battling for the backup spot.

Jon Gillies (Providence, Hockey East): 4-3-1 1.80 GAA, .932 SV%
The true freshman has played all but a period through nine games this year for Providence. Worst case, Gillies should be over in Russia with the team as the emergency goaltender.

Goalie just missing the cut: Matt Mahalak 

USA Hockey’s assistant executive director of hockey operations Jim Johannson and his committee and I have not always seen the same things when it comes to selecting this team (see: Jared Knight and Shane Prince). I also slightly favor CHL players over NCAA players for this tournament, and my preliminary roster is reflective of that. I would expect the preliminary roster, when it comes out early next month, to have more college names than the near split of NCAA and CHL players my roster has.

It should also be noted college players are at a bit of a disadvantage at this point in the season because most have only played four to eight games on top of being freshman. Major junior players have played around twenty games against players who are mostly their age.

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