Tuesday, December 05, 2006

US World Junior Roster Announced Tonight

USA Hockey will release their roster for the World U20 Championships that will be held in Sweden at the end of this month. The announcement will be made during the intermission of tonight's game between the Minnesota Wild and Chicago Blackhawks on Versus, meaning no one will be watching. I'll probably be out tonight, so I won't have the roster posted right away, but the roster, and my comments should be up first thing in the morning.

In the meanwhile, here's some interesting tidbits about the US team.

It's finally official that Phil Kessel won't be released. It's just as well since Alaska-Anchorage won't be sending a team to the tournament.(Yes, a year later, Kessel-bashing is still funny)

This is kind of an odd one, but at the bottom of this Hockey News article, it mentions that even though Marc-Eduoard Vlasic wasn't released to play for Team Canada, he could still technically play for the US, since his father is a US-citizen. There's chance that happens, but it would be nice if it did. First off, much less ice time for defenseman 3-6, in whom I have little to no faith. And second, arguably the two biggest international victories ever for the US(outside of the Olympics), came due to players taking advantage of their dual-citizenship(Brett Hull and the World Cup, Brady Murray and the World Junior Gold Medal).

There's a potentially huge controversy brewing with this team. The Godfather of hockey journalism, Bob McKenzie has heard rumblings that Bobby Ryan might not make the team. Ryan, of course, was the second overall pick in the 2005 draft, behind Sidney Crosby, but hasn't been reached his potential yet. It's extremely rare that a returning player doesn't make the squad again, but there are a number of things going against Ryan. He played poorly in last year's tournament. He didn't have a great camp in July. I actually followed the Ducks training camp pretty closely this year, and Ryan's performance at the camp set off a panic among Ducks fans due to his lack of skating ability, which is bad because this year's tournament will be played on Olympic-sized ice. And then he got off to a rough start in the OHL this season. Plus, there's always the X-factor of USA Hockey never giving the benefit of the doubt to a player that spurned the NTDP and went the OHL route.

That said, Ryan has started playing very well of late, and I don't think there's another player out there that they could replace him with and not have too significant of a drop-off. Still, it should be interesting to see if his name is there when the roster is announced.

Don Lucia raised some eyebrows last week when he made comments to the effect of "USA Hockey may not get all the players they want from my team." He clarified that later in the week, saying "I've talked to them [Team USA officials] about our numbers. I've said, don't take one of our guys to be the 13th forward or the seventh defenseman." Presumably that would mean Jay Barriball, who would probably be on the bubble as the 13th forward, or David Fischer, who could be on the bubble to be the 7th defenseman. I still think it's disappointing for Lucia to say that. Suck it up and play some walk-ons instead of denying these kids a chance to represent their country. Even if they don't play, it's a great experience to go overseas and be a part of Team USA.

This tournament is the most closely watched tournament in the world by NHL teams, and should have a huge impact on what happens this summer. For the players that have been drafted like Erik Johnson, Kyle Okposo, and Mark Mitera, it could be the difference between getting a big contract offer and returning to college for another season.

And for the players that haven't been drafted yet, much of their draft stock will be based on this tournament. Erik Johnson earned the first overall pick at this tournament last season, and Brian Lee moved up to 10th overall in large part because of his performance at the World Juniors.

New Hampshire recruit James van Riemsdyk has been ranked as high as second overall by ISS. He'll have the opportunity to prove he should be drafted that high at this tournament. Pat Kane moved up to 11th in the rankings, and has the chance to prove that his eye-popping numbers in the OHL aren't a fluke and that he should be a top ten pick. Colorado College's Bill Sweatt is another kid who should make the team, and is playing to earn a spot in the first round of the draft.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chris, could you say with a straight face that you are surprised by Lucia's message. At the end of the day he could care less about his players life experiences while they play for him.

Chris said...

I disagree with that. I think Don Lucia is a great coach, and a very nice guy. To say he doesn't care about his players is just silly.

I just happen to think he's wrong in this instance

Anonymous said...

Oh goodie . . . here come the incensed fans of the golden nancy boys . . . should be fun

Anonymous said...

Hey Chris,
At least Phil Kessel is playing in the NHL. Where is Dave Backes playing this season? For that matter, what kind of season is T.J. Oshie having?
I didn't think Phil was ready to make the jump but he has shown that he has what it takes to play in the NHL.

hammy said...

James van Riemsdyk is on the team.

Jeff said...

It's just as well since Alaska-Anchorage won't be sending a team to the tournament. I dont get it, so can somebody tell me what he means?
Hopefully i dont feel like an idiot for this

Anonymous said...

It's just as well since Alaska-Anchorage won't be sending a team to the tournament. I dont get it, so can somebody tell me what he means?
Hopefully i dont feel like an idiot for this

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the Gopher fan only made the comparison of Phil to Backes and Oshie...Why not compare him to Pavelski, Carle, Zajac, Statsny,Parise, Eaves, Vanek, etc, etc, etc. You would probably find one major difference is these guys is that they made a difference in the locker room, and actually had teammates that liked them.

Chris said...

RE: Kessel and Anchorage

Everyone made a big deal about Kessel scoring so many points last year, but 31% of his points came in the 6 games Minnesota played against last place Alaska-Anchorage.

Anonymous said...

USA leaves RYAN at home....What a joke..... Can we say 5th place.... With not much scoring...

Jeff said...

oh i see now.

Anonymous said...

The only ones that ever seem to make an issue of Kessel's locker room presence are fans of other teams posting their outrageously slanted opinions as unassailable facts.

The Kessel,Backes and Oshie comparison relates to where they started the season and where they are now. Kessel went directly to the NHL, he is still there. The players that you cited did not start in the NHL. They may have gotten called up but they have spent time in the minors. Kessel hasn't. As for Oshie. He is still at NoDak and having a sub par year at that. Lots of Hobey chatter by Soo fans before the season started but not so much now. Maybe next year.

Could somebody actually produce a real quote from a former teammate to actually substantiate Kessel's unpopularity? I can't recall ever seeing any. Oh wait, Chris will just fabricate one. You know, put a stupid comment in quotation marks and then say "Oh he made a statement to this effect". Let me know.

Anonymous said...

Chris,
It really is kind of funny how you will make the argument the 31% of Kessel's goals came against Anchorage, as though there is something wrong with that. I'd be ticked off if he didn't score against the Seawolves.

Two can play that game. Lets pick Drew Stafford as an example. Drew had 24 goals for the season but he only had ONE goal against St. Cloud and ZERO against Minnesota, Denver, CC and Wisconsin. That equates to 4.1% of Staffords total goal output. He totalled one goal and ten assists against these teams. Against Tech and Duluth Stafford scored 45.8% of his goals. That is 11 of 24. Kind of looks as though Drew wouldn't show up against the upper division teams but got fat on Tech and Duluth.

Kessel by comparison scored five goals against St.Cloud, Denver,CC, WI and NoDak. He also had nine assists for 14 points against these teams. If you look at the entire season you will see a pretty high level of consistency and production against everyone he played against. Like I said I'd be ticked if he didn't score against the Seawolves.

Anonymous said...

Good Stuff....Kessel is a stud and will be scoring at the NHL soon also.... But he should of played in the "O".....

Anonymous said...

Chris - Don't Kessel hate, he is a pimp and your know this. I don't have to look for fun facts to realize that. Just watch him skate and blow pass everyone and take the zone at will anytime he wants.

Anonymous said...

Can you please post on here how many minutes combined Pavelski, Carle, and Zajac have logged in the minors before these so called call ups you're talking about. Eaves, Vanek, and Parise all had one year of minor league play because the NHL was in a lockout, otherwise they are up right away. If you want others to post facts to support their comments, try doing the same.....

Anonymous said...

"Could somebody actually produce a real quote from a former teammate to actually substantiate Kessel's unpopularity?"

I know I'm late on this, but Jack Johnson said Kessel was a "dirtbag" at the NHL draft combine last summer. Then the Columbus GM asked reiterated Johnson's comments in an interview with Kessel. It was all in ESPN magazine and it wouldn't be that hard to find.