The USA Hockey National Team Development Program will be holding their final tryout camp for next year's U17 team next weekend in Ann Arbor. The camp runs from March 22-25, with 46 players born, all born in 1992.
Here's a little look at the kids that will be at the camp. The kids that get a *shrug* are kids I haven't seen, or didn't have anything to say about. It's more of a reflection on me than them.
1. Jack Campbell - Honeybaked (U18)
Comment: It’s a really strong year for ’92 goalies in Michigan, and Campbell may be the best of the bunch.
2. Mac Carruth - Chicago Fury (U18)
Comment: Committed to Minnesota-Duluth. A really big kid with a lot of talent
3. Andy Iles - Salisbury Prep
Comment: I don’t know too much about Iles, other than that he’s received a fair amount of hype. I don’t think he has played a ton at Salisbury this year because he’s backing up an older goalie.
4. Willie Yanakeff - Honeybaked (U16)
Comment: Another really good goalie from Michigan.
Overall: This looks like a really strong group. I’m not sure who will get selected, but any two of the four should make for a strong goaltending duo.
A wild guess on who makes the team: Campbell and Carruth
1. Evan Accettura - Victory Honda (U18)
Comment: A big kid, though still fairly raw. I’m not sure if he’ll make the team, but a bright future regardless.
2. Bennett Carroccio - Phillips Academy
3. Kevin Clare - New Jersey Hitmen
Comment: The only player at the camp to play junior hockey this season. Already received a good amount of college interest and should be a near lock to make the team.
4. Adam Clendening - Toronto Marlies
Comment: I’m not too familiar with him, but people in Ontario are very high on him. He’s a little guy that could provide an offensive threat on the blueline.
5. Michael Gunn - Compuware (U16)
Comment: Committed to Michigan State. Another big, talented defenseman that should earn a spot on the team.
6. Kevin Gravel - Marquette (U18)
Comment: Big, defensive defenseman. I think he might have flown under some people’s radar because he plays in MQT, but I like the way he plays.
7. Derek Forbort - Duluth East HS
Comment: Another big kid that can do just about everything. I think playing with the NTDP would be good for him, because he’d learn how to play with a little more meanness. In another year, he might have good shot at making the team, but it could be tough with this group.
8. Stephen Johns - Pittsburgh (U18)
Comment: Johns has always impressed me with his play. He should definitely be offered a spot.
9. Ben Marshall - Mahtomedi HS
Comment: *shrug* I know he’s capable of playing both forward and defenseman, so he does bring some versatility.
10. Kevin McMorrow - Park Rapids HS
Comment: USHR thought he was great the Select 15s. I thought he looked kind of raw. A lot will probably depend on how he developed during the high school season.
11. Jeffrey Pauluk - Bloomington Jefferson HS
12. Michael Reardon - Noble and Greenough Prep
13. Joe Rubbelke - St. Paul Johnson HS
Comment: A really talented, athletic kid. He’s good at some other sports as well, so he may want to stay in Minnesota for that.
14. Brandon Russo - Salisbury Prep
Comment: Russo really impressed me at the Select 15s. A little smaller, but plays the game very well.
15. Frankie Simonelli - Team Illinois (U18)
Comment: I saw him at the Elite League NIT, and he didn’t really stand out against older players, but everyone seems to agree that the talent is there.
16. Jarred Tinordi - Washington Jr. Nationals
Overall: This is a really strong group, and should hopefully be one of the strengths of the team. There are a lot of big, talented players to choose from, and some tough choices will have to be made.
A wild guess on who makes the team: Merrill, Clare, Johns, Gunn, Clendening, Gravel, Russo, Forbort/one of the kids I haven’t seen.
Update: I just received word that Jon Merrill had a family commitment that he couldn't change, so he won't be at the camp, but he has already been offered a spot for the team.
1. Bill Arnold - Noble and Greenough Prep
2. Chasen Balisy - Toronto Jr. Canadiens
Comment: Maybe one of the most talented players at the camp, but the OHL is always going to be looming. Is it worth taking him when chances are he plays one year in the US, at most?
3. Nick Bjugstad - Blaine HS
Comment: The more I’ve seen Bjugstad, the more he’s grown on me. Maybe not the best now, but has the tools to be a great player.
4. Connor Brickley - Belmont Hill Prep
5. Emerson Etem - Shattuck St. Mary’s
Comment: Very talented. Should be a great player with a little time to develop. I think he’ll definitely get offered a spot.
6. Jacob Fallon - Texas Attack (U16)
Comment: Fallon really impressed me when I saw him earlier this year. He should definitely make the team.
7. Max Gardiner - Minnetonka HS
Comment: Played pretty well as a sophomore against some great high school teams, but I don’t know if he has his brother’s skating ability yet.
8. Colton Hargrove - Texas Attack (U16)
Comment: A nice power forward with good size. He could definitely fill a nice role if given an opportunity.
9. Christian Isackson - St. Thomas Academy
Comment: Based on the way he was playing during the high school season, he should definitely get an offer to play for the team.
10. Jared Knight - Compuware (U16)
Comment: Committed to Michigan. Missed a lot of time this year with an injury, but has a ton of talent.
11. Phil Lane - Rochester Alliance (U16)
12. Alex Lippincott - Cleveland (U18)
Coment: Committed to Ohio State. Does everything pretty well. Playing for the NTDP should help him get better at using his teammates more.
13. Jeff McMinimy - Texas Texas Attack (U16)
Comment: Fast and skilled. Maybe not one of my first choices to make the team, but wouldn’t be out of place if he did.
14. Michael Mersch - Team Illinois (U16)
Comment: A power forward that can score and hit.
15. Luke Moffatt - Compuware (U16)
Comment: Committed to Michigan. Maybe the most talented player at the camp. Needs to use his teammates better, and playing on a skilled team like this should help.
16. Matt Nieto - Salisbury Prep
Comment: A very effective player that always finds a way to score points.
17. Bryan Rust - Honeybaked (U16)
Comment: Committed to Notre Dame. Plays a lot like his older brother Matt. A good skater that can play in all situations.
18. Brandon Saad - Pittsburgh (U18)
Comment: A big kid that can skate well. He should definitely be offered a spot.
19. Nick Shore - Colorado Thunderbirds (U16)
Comment: *shrug* Older brother Drew is already with the program.
20. Andrew Sinelli - Honeybaked (U16)
Comment: Committed to Michigan State. Always seems to put up a lot of points. Team USA’s weight training program would really help him out.
21. Shane Sooth - Salisbury Prep
Comment: Another player that brings good size, as well as scoring ability to the table.
22. Colten St. Clair - P.F. Changs (U18)
Comment: Committed to Colorado College. *shrug* I’ve heard a lot of good things about him, and the fact that CC was willing to commit to him so early should say something.
23. K.J. Tiefenwerth - St. Anthony's HS
Comment: Committed to Boston College. Last summer he looked really talented, but also really lanky. Should be excellent once he fills out.
24. T.J. Tynan - Chicago Mission (U16)
Comment: Committed to Notre Dame. A really speedy little guy with great playmaking ability.
25. Austin Watson - Compuware (U16)
Comment: Committed to Maine. Lots of rumors about the OHL too. A big guy, but is also a nice playmaker. He’s got a lot of potential.
26. Jason Zucker - Compuware (U16)
Comment: Another kid that is really good with the puck.
Update: Maine recruit Stuart Higgins was also scheduled to be at the camp, but has mono, so he will be evaluated at this summer's Select 16 Festival.
Overall: Not a bad group. It’s always a little tough to tell too much with forwards this early. The amount of players who can score three points a game against weaker competition is much larger than the amount of players who can score a point per game against quality competition. There’s a lot of players with a ton of upside in this group, however, and I’d have to think at least a few will come out as quality players.
My picks: Moffatt, Fallon, Watson, Etem, Rust, St. Clair, Sinelli, Saad, Mersch, Knight, Isackson, Tiefenwerth, Bjugstad
Eleven kids trying out for the team have already made college commitments. It was only like 6 years ago that it was considered bizarre if a player made a commitment during his first year with the NTDP program.
Didn’t kids in Massachusetts used to play hockey? The New England Prep schools are still represented thanks to some out-of-state kids, but there’s very little representation by Massachusetts at the camp. If I’m not mistaken, both Texas and California have more representatives at the camp than Massachusetts, a trend that I don’t think is an accident.
There are an astounding number of MWEHL alums at the camp, which is really a credit to that league when it comes to bringing players and developing them. You can argue the merits of putting that much emphasis on bantam hockey, but it has brought a lot of very good players together to play with and against each other.
Minnesota has a fair number of kids trying out, as they usually do, though I’m not sure how many will actually get invited. Minnesota kids tend to not do as well at this first camp, but are usually the first ones asked to join the U18 team if there are any spots to fill. Players like Pat White, Aaron Ness, and most recently, Nick Leddy didn’t make the team the first time around, but were offered spots later, though all three chose to stay in high school.