December 23, 2012
Team USA has announced their (almost) final roster for the upcoming WJC, and among the final cuts was a bit of a surprise. Expected to cut one forward and two defensemen, Team USA cut just one of each, pending the medical condition of one of the remaining blueliners. The playing status of the undisclosed player will determine whether another cut will be made. Not making the final roster were 2012 1st-round picks defenseman Brady Skjei (NYR) and forward Stefan Matteau (NJD). Matteau was a bit of a surprise while Skjei not as much. A great skater who loves to join the rush, Skjei has work to do without the puck and would not contribute on special teams. Stefan Noesen, expected to make the team, was declared ineligible by the IIHF as a result of his current suspension from the OHL.
Here is a breakdown of the team:
John Gibson (ANA) – The key to Team USA’s success lies with Gibson. If they aren’t able to control the puck and get a sustained forecheck, this team will likely give up a lot of shots and scoring chances to the opposition. When Gibson is on, he’s fantastic, but he will need a team effort defensively in front of him.
Jon Gillies (CGY) - Not likely to see action this year, but is gaining experience for next year’s tournament.
Garret Sparks (TOR) – Coach Phil Housley would probably turn to Sparks if a substitute is needed.
Jake Trouba (WPG) - Trouba should led the defense, if not the team, in ice time during the WJC. He plays in all situations, is steady and has experience.
Seth Jones (2013) – All eyes will be on Jones at the WJC, as NHL scouts assess his worthiness for the upcoming draft. The son of a former NBA player, Jones is a tantalizing combination of strength and skill, and could overtake Nathan MacKinnon for the number one overall selection with a strong showing in Ufa.
Mike Reilly (CBJ) – Reilly’s game is speed, and he likes to use it to create offense. He will be asked to use his speed to protect his own end first, but also to supply offense for the Americans.
Jake McCabe (BUF) – A solid but unspectacular defenseman, McCabe is very dependable and doesn't make many mistakes. Hard-working and well-respected, McCabe was named team captain.
Connor Murphy (PHX) will be a defense-first defenseman to allow the more offensive guys the security to jump up and pinch in when possible.
Shane Gostisbehere and Matt Grzelcyk provide depth.
Pat Sieloff (CGY) – The extra defenseman and likely final cut if the mystery injured player is deemed healthy enough to play.
J.T. Miller (NYR) – Named as an assistant captain, Miller will provide leadership and solid play (four points in six games last year).
Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) – Will be the leader offensively and looks to have a big tournament. The Canadiens will be watching their top prospect closely.
John Gaudreau (CGY) – Creative and quick, Gaudreau will look to find space to get some offense going.
Rocco Grimaldi (FLA) – The speedy Grimaldi will look be another finisher for the Team USA offense.
Tyler Biggs (TOR) – The aggressive Biggs will supply a physical forechecking presence up front.
Ryan Hartman (2013) – Hartman is hoping to use the tournament to raise his draft stock. Hartman, an Illinois native, is currently playing with Plymouth in the OHL and is averaging nearly a point per game. He also plays with an edge, compiling 83 penalty minutes through 29 games.
Vince Trocheck (FLA) and Riley Barber (WSH) are a couple of lesser-known prospects to keep your eye on. Trocheck is a very intelligent, consistent player who can be used in any role or situation. Barber is having a fantastic college season and is a legitimate sniper.
Cole Bardreau (Undrafted) – Bardreau doesn’t show up on the scoresheet frequently, but does the little things that help a team win. A very hard worker with great character, Bardreau received the honor and responsibility of being an assistant captain on the squad.
Mario Lucia (MIN) – Lucia is an energy guy who is a tenacious forechecker and good penalty-killer.
Sean Kuraly (SJS) and Jim Vesey (NSH) – Will provide forward depth. Vesey was a healthy scratch for the final tune up match against Finland, and was expected to be the forward cut rather than Matteau.
Based on the Finland game, coach Housley has his work cut out to find forward combinations that click. The team seemed a bit out of synch, which is not totally unexpected but will prove problematic if not corrected before the tournament begins. Team USA will struggle in this talent-laden event if they don’t play their game and play together.
Thanks for reading.