The first post ran a bit long, so here is part two, covering the U17 team.
The U17 Team
The youngsters got off to a hot start in this tournament, winning their first two games before dropping the last two. I think they played two weaker teams in their first two games, and in the last two, they seemed to wear down against the older, stronger competition.
Still, it was a very impressive performance given how inexperienced this team was. Tim Taylor said at one point in one of their first games, they had to call a timeout because the team was two men down, and they had to draw up a three man penalty kill. They had also only worked on the powerplay at one practice. Despite that, they looked like an incredibly cohesive unit. Taylor was raving about the group's hockey sense, which was evident.
I don't know if this is related or not, but this team has a huge number of kids that moved far away from home in order to try and further their hockey careers. There area a lot of very talented kids from non-traditional hockey areas that ended up getting great coaching and look pretty advanced for their age. I'm still not sure moving away from home at such a young age is the healthiest practice, but it seems to have worked here.
More good news is that rumors are, everyone in this group is pretty coachable and there aren't any primadonnas in the group.
I'll break down the forwards line by line, since they pretty much stayed the same all tournament, and then do the defensemen as a group.
Line 1: Nick Shore-Jason Zucker-Luke Moffatt
When I saw Zucker play last year at the Select 15s, I thought he was a nice player, but borderline to make the NTDP team. Over the course of the past year though, he's taken a huge jump in level of play, and now looks like he'll be the team's top center and one of the most complete forwards on the team.
Moffatt is another player that I wasn't entirely sold on going into last season, but his year with Compuware looks like it served him well. He should be one of his team's best forwards. I was also impressed with his defensive play and work along the boards.
Shore struggled a little bit and didn't do much on the weekend, but it can take players a little while to acclimate to playing in the NTDP, and he has a lot of talent.
Line 2: Chase Balisy-Matt Nieto-Emerson Etem
The All-California Line looked like the team's second line. All three players have a lot of offensive talent and good hockey sense. Etem went through a bit of an awkward stage last year, but is starting to grow into his body, and has the potential to be a dominant player. Nieto is very good offensively, and Balisy is a nice complement to his linemates.
Line 3: Stuart Higgins-Matt Rust-Michael Mersch
A very high energy line featuring two sparkplugs in Higgins and Rust. Mersch gives the line a bit of a scoring threat, as demonstrated by the wicked shot he scored with on Wednesday, but most of the team's scoring will likely come from elsewhere.
Line 4: Jacob Fallon-Shane Sooth-Austin Czarnik
This line provided a lot of offense for a fourth line. Czarnik was the smallest player on the ice by far, but played much bigger than his size and ended up with four goals. Jacob Fallon struggled on Wednesday, but seemed to gain confidence as the week progressed. He has the potential to be one of the best of the bunch if he can play with confidence. Sooth is incredibly versatile as the line's center, giving them some size while holding his own offensively.
The Defense: Kevin Clare, Adam Clendening, Stephen Johns, Frankie Simonelli, Justin Faulk, Jarred Tinordi
Clare was pretty obviously the leader of this group. Having played junior hockey last year, he looked most comfortable against the older competition. I was a little skeptical of Simonelli being on the team after seeing him last fall, but he really took a big step forward over the past year and should be one of the team's better defensemen. Clendening is a pretty exciting offensive defenseman. On Friday, when they lost both Simonelli and Clendening, the quality of the defense definitely went down.
Faulk, Johns, and Tinordi can probably all go in the same category of being very big, very talented, but also very raw, which can lead to some ugly defensive mistakes from time to time, but if they all develop, they could be very good players. The question is will they develop fast enough for the US to be able to count on them in international play?