Weiss: 2013 USA World Junior Hockey Championship Review
Yuri Kuzmin, Getty Images
Andrew Weiss (@WeissFC)
For the third time since 2004, the United States World Junior team captured the gold medal despite not being the tournament favorites.
Just like the 2010 tournament, the Americans showed why the outcome of the World Junior Championship is so difficult to predict. The team once again pieced together a run through the final round en route to gold despite finishing third in Group B. In the preliminary round, the United States was able to beat the teams they were favored against in Germany and Slovakia, but sputtered offensively losing to both Russia and Canada by a score of 2-1 in consecutive games.
After the two losses, many believed the team would be lucky to medal. Much to the chagrin of these tournament followers, the team was able to get hot at the right time, find their offensive touch and win four consecutive elimination games to win strike gold.
Looking back atfor Team USA, there were five major question marks facing this year’s team that made predicting their success difficult heading into the tournament. Below is a look at what the answers were. Even further below is a look at how each of the twenty-three players fared at this year’s tournament and a look into what could be the 2014 World Junior team for the United States.
Question 1) Can J.T. Miller be the team’s top center and looked to be a leading goal scorer on the team?
Expectations for Miller were high heading into this tournament with his experience in last year’s tournament and his professional experience in the AHL this year. Like much of the team’s first line, Miller got off to a slow start, but became more effective as the tournament went on. Adding Jimmy Vesey to his line helped as the two both recorded points on four goals in the team’s final four games. Miller finished the tournament with nine points—tying with Johnny Gaudreau and Jacob Trouba for most points on the team.
2) Will Johnny Gaudreau and Rocco Grimaldi be effective despite their size at this tournament?
While neither seemed to be out manned because of their smaller stature, both faced various levels of adversity at the tournament. Much like fellow line mate Miller, Gaudreau got off to a really slow start, but turned it on after consecutive losses to Russia and Canada. Gaudreau went pointless in the tournament’s first three games but exploded for seven goals and two assists in the final four games. In these four games, Gaudreau was seemingly a threat to create a scoring chance any time he stepped on the ice.
As for Grimaldi, the North Dakota forward struggled throughout the majority of the tournament. Grimaldi would go large stretches of time where he was invisible and when he was noticeable, it seemed as if he was trying too hard and forcing the play. After the third game, Grimaldi was removed from the first line and did not get a shift in the team’s final preliminary round game.
Putting a positive spin on his tournament, the saying “you are only as good as your last game” is very fitting for Grimaldi. In the gold medal game, Grimaldi had the first two goals and was much more effective playing on a line with Vince Trocheck and Tyler Biggs.
3) Can Alex Galchenyuk be a point per game or more player in his first IIHF event?
From the start of the tournament, it was apparent Alex Galchenyuk was one of the most talented players on the US squad. While he only scored two goals, Galchenyuk did create scoring opportunities for his line mates. In seven games, Galchenyuk had six assists and his eight points placed him eighth on the tournament’s top scorers list. Regardless, with eight points in seven games, the answer is yes.
4) Aside from Miller and Galchenyuk, who will be the surefire point getters?
An obvious point getter was Gaudreau once he settled in, but aside from those three, the US got scoring from almost everyone on the team. All twenty skaters recorded at least a point and ten of those players would go onto average more than half a point a game.
Housley’s four lines all bought scoring potential as well as the majority of the team’s defensemen. The depth was huge for this team’s success in being able to hang with the top tournament teams who were considered to be deeper in talent on paper.
5) Is John Gibson healthy and how effective will he be after getting his feet wet at last year’s tournament?
The obvious answer is “very healthy” and “very effective” when it comes to Gibson’s play over the nine day span. Gibson showed no signs of his hip being a problem and arguably turned in one of the best performances in World Junior history. Gibson recorded a 1.36 goals against average and a .955 save percentage en route to winning gold and picking up the tournament MVP award.
Sean Kuraly—Kuraly was a player who many questioned as to how he made the team after a very slow start to his college career. Centering Miami teammate Riley Barber and Alex Galchenyuk, Kuraly never really found his offensive touch, but did contribute defensively. Grade: B-
J.T. Miller—I expected Miller to be more of a threat throughout the tournament, but he did play well and contributed when it really mattered. Grade: B
Mario Lucia—When the offense was struggling, I thought adding Lucia’s size and offensive ability to the first line would help. Housley instead moved Vesey up and Lucia played the entire tournament as the extra forward. It’s tough to give him a grade for that reason, but he played well in a limited role. Grade: B
Johnny Gaudreau—It took him a three games to settle in, but when he did he was a force. Grade: A
Alex Galchenyuk—The offensive production was not exactly there that everyone was expecting, but he still managed to contribute and was a key component to the US’ gold medal run. Grade: B+
Riley Barber—Statistically Barber had a very good tournament with six points in seven games. Upon further inspection, five of his points came in two games where the US outscored their opponents by a combined 15-0. That said, expectations weren’t the highest for Barber, but playing in tournament as an 18-year-old, Barber did play well and well benefit from this experience in next year’s tournament. Grade: B
Cole Bardreau—Much like Kuraly, many questioned why he was on the team heading into the tournament. Bardreau centered the grind line with Ryan Hartman and Blake Pietilla and did not look out of place on the line. Bardreau tied for the best plus/minus among American forwards and did what was expected of him on the team’s energy line. Grade: B+
Blake Pietila—Pietila was another component to the grind line and quietly had a solid tournament in a shutdown, energy role like Bardreau and Hartman. Grade: B
Ryan Hartman—This tournament was yet another chance for the draft eligible Hartman to improve his draft stock and his performance continues to put him in the argument for being a late first round pick. Hartman finished the tournament with two goals and an assist and played great without the puck on his stick. Grade: A-
Tyler Biggs—Biggs played a smaller role on the team, playing on the team’s third scoring line, but did everything that was expected of him. He provided a big body on the penalty kill and someone who could win puck battles anywhere on the ice. Grade: B
Rocco Grimaldi—Grimaldi shined when it mattered, but aside from the gold medal game had a bad tournament. Everyone expected more from the undersized forward throughout the tournament and his lack of size will still remain a large question mark as to whether he can be effective in the pro game down the road. Grade: C+
Vince Trocheck—Many believed Trocheck would center the team’s second line but ended up playing a smaller role on the team’s third scoring line. That said, Trocheck did everything that was asked of him and still managed to get six points in seven games. Trocheck played in key game situations including in the gold medal game where he closed out the game with an empty net goal. Grade: B+
Jimmy Vesey—Vesey was a major factor in US turning their success around after being moved up to the team’s first line. Previously, Vesey played on third scoring line in a limited role and played well in that role as well. Grade: A-
Seth Jones—At times Jones appeared to be trying to do too much, but still showed why he is deserves to be in talks for the first overall pick. Jones showed all of his strengths throughout the tournament in what will probably be his first and last World Junior tournament. Grade: A
Connor Murphy—Murphy may not have made as much noise as most American defensemen because of his lack of offensive ability, but defensively he was outstanding in whatever role he was asked to play in. Murphy’s plus-six plus/minus was third best behind Jake McCabe and Jones on the team and is also impressive because only had one point in tournament. Grade: A-
Mike Reilly—Reilly showed off why many draft analysts believe he was a steal for Columbus in the 4th round of the 2011 NHL Draft at the tournament. Reilly showed great skating ability and was one of the best defensemen on the ice in the gold medal game. Grade: B+
Jacob Trouba—As a 17-year-old in last year’s tournament, Trouba was prone to trying to do too much, but at this year’s tournament Trouba did much that contributed to the success of the team. Defensively, Trouba was a shutdown defenseman and offensively he flexed his muscles with nine points in seven games. Grade: A+
Shayne Gostisbehere—Gostisbehere’s role got smaller after his one game suspension in the quarterfinal game, but did play well up until that point. Most expected more offensive production from Gostisbehere, but he did play better defensively than most expected. Grade: B
Jake McCabe—Captain McCabe’s game got stronger as the tournament went on and shined in the semifinal game against Canada with two goals. McCabe finished second in the tournament with a plus-eight plus/minus and contributed offensively with six points. When watching McCabe, it’s obvious to see the potential and have to wonder if he will be the next big defenseman coming out of Wisconsin. Grade: A-
Pat Sieloff—Sieloff was a late addition to the team and played a limited role in the six games he played in. Sieloff will most certainly be back next year and will play a large role as a shutdown defenseman. Grade: B
Garret Sparks—Sparks was the third goaltender and did not see any action during the tournament Grade: N/A
Jon Gillies—Gillies played in the third period of the tournament opener against Germany and turned away all seven shots he faced. Look for Gillies to be the starter in Sweden in 2014. Grade: B+
John Gibson—What more can be said about Gibson’s performance? Gibson was outstanding and was one of the major reasons the USA struck gold. Grade: A+
Closing: A (Way Too Early Prediction) at USA’s 2014 World Junior Team
Danny O’Regan – Brady Vail – Ryan Hartman
Boo Nieves – Nic Kerdiles – Riley Barber
Adam Erne – Stefan Matteau – Sam Kurker
Hudson Fasching – Thomas DiPauli – Henrik Samuelsson
In the mix: Jack Eichel, Ryan Fitzgerald, Cody Payne, and Tyler Motte
Pat Sieloff – Dylan Blujus
Matt Grzelcyk – Connor Carrick
Brady Skjei – Steve Santini
In the mix: Jacob Trouba, Keaton Thompson, Jaccob Slavin, and Michael Downing
In the mix: Evan Cowley, Eamon McAdam