This was the first year that USA Hockey sent both their U18 and U17 team to compete at the NAHL Showcase in Blaine, Minnesota, and I think it was a pretty big success. While all the games drew pretty decent crowds and a fair number of scouts, the games featuring the USA teams always drew the most people. I think people were curious to see the NTDP teams play because it gives people a first look at the U17 team, and a first look at the U18 team in their draft year.
I saw the U17 team's first three games and the first two games of the U18 team. I'll give a few opinions on what I saw, starting with the U18 team.
The U18 team
They finished the tournament with 2 wins and 2 losses. Jeremy Morin only dressed in two games. You can probably guess which two. I don't think that was a coincidence either. This team is likely going to be defined by incredible top end talent, but very little in the way of depth. Without Morin, the offense looked pretty stagnant. There was way too much play on the offensive perimeter with guys who aren't suited for that style of play. The powerplay mostly consisted of defenseman blasting one-timers from the point, which were often ineffective because there was no one in front of the net for deflections or rebounds.
I think once this team gets into the college portion of their schedule, they--much like last year's team--will start playing a little better just because they're force to. The big question will be how far can their top players carry them this season, and will the lack of depth come back to haunt them.
Here are some individual thoughts on players, and whether or not they helped or hurt their draft stock this weekend:
Cam Fowler: Not eligible for the draft this year, but should go early in the first round next year. Played very sloppy in their second game, but overall, has an unbelievable amount of talent. He may not ever leave the ice in critical games for the US. Draft Stock: Too early to tell. I'd say he's at worst a top 10 pick next year. How he performs next year will likely determine where in the top 10 he goes.
Jeremy Morin: One of the most explosive goal-scorers the US has ever had. The one player that looked absolutely dominant against weaker competition. Draft Stock: Teams will wait and see how he does against better competition, but he could move into the top 10 in the draft.
Drew Shore: I don't think he played very well, despite finishing with a nice point total. Everything just seemed a little off. The size and skills are there though, and you can probably chalk it up to being early in the season. Draft Stock: I'd hold him steady at a late first/early second round draft pick.
Sam Calabrese: Played forward the whole time and didn't really do much. Draft Stock: I'd be surprised if Calabrese got drafted.
Ryan Bourque: One of the better US forwards on the first night. He was skating hard and making plays all over the ice. Draft Stock: I'd move him up from where I had him listed in my draft rankings.
David Valek: Got knocked out early in the second game with what looked like a concussion after scoring a pretty goal. He was one of the guys that should have been grinding in front of the net rather than trying to play on the perimeter. Draft Stock: Down a little.
Chris Brown: I continue to be impressed with how he's playing. He's big, skates well, and throws his body around. Plus, he's starting to get time with the top lines and his point totals look to be going up. Draft Stock: I already had him fairly higher, but he might move up even higher.
John Ramage: Played pretty well for being a newcomer. He should be reliable defensively, though his aggressiveness should put him the box fairly frequently. Draft Stock: Up a little bit.
Kevin Lynch: Not the prettiest player to watch, but very effective. Can stickhandle around any defender one-on-one, though I'm not quite sure how. Draft Stock: Should stay about the same.
William Wrenn: Not that noticeable, which is good for a defensive defenseman, though he wasn't exactly dominant from the blueline. Draft Stock: I probably had him a little high, and he should move down a little bit.
John Henrion: Looks like a very good player, though he didn't do a lot in the two games I saw. You can probably chalk it up to being a new guy. Draft Stock: He'll get drafted somewhere; how high will depend on how he adjusts to playing for the US.
Richie Crowley: Got moved to forward after Valek's injury. Was decent on the blueline and invisible as a forward. Draft Stock: Probably moving down, but I think he can still contribute as a defenseman.
Nick Mattson: Not the most physically gifted, but sees the ice unbelievably well and made some incredible passes. It's fun to see him get the puck on his stick just to see what he'll do with it. Draft Stock: He'll be in the 2010 draft. He's not a definite first round pick, but should be drafted somewhere in the first day.
Kenny Ryan: Played on the the third line and was pretty quiet. Draft Stock: Too talented to not be drafted somewhere, but probably somewhere later in the draft.
Brendan Rempel: I've never been overly impressed with Rempel and I thought he really struggled here. He's new though, so there will probably be an adjustment period. Draft Stock: Down a little bit.
Chris McCarthy: Also on the third line with Ryan and was pretty quiet. He showed some flashes of offensive brilliance, but I don't think he'll be a huge offensive contributor this year. Draft Stock: May play his way into being drafted this year.
Tyler Amburgey: Played pretty sparingly. Was a forward on Thursday. I saw him take a few shifts on defense on Friday. Draft Stock: Not seeing as much will probably hurt him.
Brandon Maxwell and Adam Murray: Both goalies did not look their sharpest. Maxwell let in 8 goals on 39 shots, Murray let in 8 goals on 40 shots.