The International Ice Hockey Federation's Under-20 World Championship, known commonly as the World Juniors Championship, will take place this season in Ufa, Russia and may have a larger surplus of talent than usual due to the NHL lockout. Players who may have otherwise been in the NHL, such as Montreal's Alex Galchenyuk, may now take part in the tournament.
Team USA doesn't possess the most talented roster heading into the tournament, but they're in the second tier and have a good chance to compete and medal. In case you're interested in catching the action, Team USA's start times in the round robin are: 9 a.m. (EST), 9 a.m., 4:30 a.m. (vs. Canada), and 5 a.m. Set your alarm clocks!
The following are notes on every player USA Hockey invited to its selection camp being held this week at the New York Rangers' practice facility in Westchester County. The breakdowns are based on my own observations and from conversations with NHL scouts and executives. The final roster for Team USA will be named December 23rd.
Riley Barber, RW, Washington Capitals (Miami-CCHA): Barber fell to the 6th round in the 2012 draft, which was a little farther than I thought he'd go. Barber is a skilled power forward, who was inconsistent with the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) last season, but he has been on fire for Miami as he sits near the top of the scoring leader board for college rookies and drafted prospects. He wasn't invited to the Lake Placid summer camp but he's earned a shot now.
Cole Bardreau, C/W, 2013 draft eligible (Cornell-ECAC): Bardreau stood out for a few games in the summer camp, showing speed, energy and defensive value. However I've heard from NHL scouts who question what exactly Bardreau will bring to the team due to his size (5-foot-10).
Tyler Biggs, RW, Toronto Maple Leafs (Oshawa-OHL): Biggs is a high-end physical player with a strong frame and an edge to his game. While I wouldn't classify him as a pure goon, as he has some skill, he's below-average in that area. Biggs should be an effective fourth-line winger for the US.
Alex Galchenyuk, C, Montreal Canadiens (Sarnia-OHL): The 3rd overall pick from the 2012 draft got off to a moderate start between the summer camp and first few OHL games, but has been on fire as of late and completely looks the part of an elite prospect. Galchenyuk should be the focal point of the USA's offense and display his high-end all-around game.
John Gaudreau, LW, Calgary Flames (Boston College-Hockey East): After turning a lot of heads in his freshman season, Gaudreau has risen to prominence this season and has arguably been the best player in college hockey. "He has high-end skill and vision and he's shifty," said one scout on Gaudreau. He was used on Galchenyuk's wing in the summer and likely plays on Team USA's top line in the WJC.
Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Philadelphia Flyers (Union-ECAC): One NHL executive called Gostisbehere a quality "offensive defenseman who's very smart with the puck and makes plays." Gostisbehere was very good in the summer camp and even though he's in a weaker college division, he has stood out the last two seasons. He's got a good shot to make the tournament roster.
Jon Gillies, G, Calgary Flames (Providence-Hockey East): Gillies is what one scout calls "a big, athletic kid with a lot of tools who needs to refine his technique and fundamentals." Gillies has gotten off to a torrid start so far in his freshman season, but barring injury Gibson will carry the torch in net.
John Gibson, G, Anaheim Ducks (Kitchener-OHL): Gibson is one of the top goaltending prospects in hockey who brings a great combination of hockey sense and calmness in the net. He also has a very impressive track record of puck stopping. With the USA in a tough group with Canada and Russia, he likely plays just about every game.
Rocco Grimaldi, C, Florida Panthers (North Dakota-WCHA): Grimaldi is as exciting as he is small, and he comes in at a solid 5-6. He missed most of last season due to a knee injury and probably was a top-six forward on last year's USA team without the injury. He's a fantastic skater with high-end skill, a great shot and tremendous intangibles.
Matt Grzelcyk, D, Boston Bruins (Boston University-Hockey East): When Grzelcyk's name was called last June in the third round, it was hard to find someone who wasn't surprised. Even as a small defenseman though Grezelcyk has started to prove the doubters wrong and Boston right with a great start to his freshman season. He's a skilled defenseman with high-end speed and hockey sense.
Ryan Hartman, C/W, 2013 draft eligible (Plymouth-OHL): Hartman got off to a slow start with Plymouth but his play has picked up as of late. He's a very skilled forward who plays with energy and has solid speed although he's undersized (5-11).
Sean Kuraly, C, San Jose Sharks (Miami-CCHA): At the summer camp Kuraly was fantastic, displaying high-end speed, scoring ability and a good power game, but this year in college scouts say he's been average. In the course of a few months he's gone from a lock to on the bubble and he'll have to once again make a case for a job at the lower end of the USA roster.
Seth Jones, D, 2013 draft eligible (Portland-WHL): Jones is as about as good a defense prospect as you'll find with off-the-charts hockey sense, high-end skating, a great shot and a big body as well. If he was healthy he may have been the USA's top defenseman in this tournament last season. Depending who you talk to there are some scouts who would take him at this year's draft with the No. 1 pick.
Mario Lucia, LW, Minnesota Wild (Notre Dame-CCHA): Lucia has missed most of the season to this point after breaking his left fibula. He's a very high quality prospect who -- when going at 100 percent -- has the offensive ability and size to make a difference for this club. But the evaluators will need to make the call if he will be up to the pace of an Under-20 tournament.
Jake McCabe, D, Buffalo Sabres (Wisconsin-WCHA): A few months ago McCabe was probably a longshot for this team but his play this season warrants serious consideration for a spot. Once considered a solid defensive defenseman, McCabe has added a quality offensive element to his game to add to his shutdown skills, although his decisions at times could still use work.
Stefan Matteau, LW, New Jersey Devils (Blainville-Boisbriand-QMJHL): Matteau's had a bit of a bumpy start to his season with some average play and a suspension as well. Matteau has a shot to make USA's team as a fourth-line, energy player although he has some skill to bring to the table too.
J.T. Miller, C/W, New York Rangers (Connecticut-AHL): Miller has gotten off to a bit of a slow start in the AHL as he's been adjusting to the pro game. He was a bottom-of-the-lineup player last year for the USA, so some premier ice time should be a nice change of pace for him. Miller shows the ability to be effective, be it through his playmaking or through his physical game and energy. He's the kind of forward who can make a nice play or go through an opponent.
Connor Murphy, D, Phoenix Coyotes (Sarnia-OHL): Murphy has had injury issues for the last few seasons, but when he's healthy, he is a notably above-average player who can be effective in a lot of areas. According to one NHL executive, he's a defenseman who can play versus the opponent's top players and be effective offensively too. Murphy's mobility and hockey sense are his biggest strengths.
Stefan Noesen, RW, Ottawa Senators (Plymouth-OHL): When talking to NHL sources there was some head-scratching as to why Noesen wasn't on the team last year, but he could be one of USA's better players if he plays. However, due to a suspension he received in the OHL, his World Junior chances seem grim. He's a great power forward whose skill elements have steadily developed. On offense his hockey sense is evident. Editor's note: Noesen was officially ruled ineligible Monday.
Blake Pietila, LW, New Jersey Devils (Michigan Tech-WCHA): While Pietila is a bit on the bubble, should he make it he has the right components to be a checking/energy type of forward for the USA. Offense really isn't a notable part of his game, although he has an okay amount of skill.
Mike Reilly, D, Columbus Blue Jackets (Minnesota-WCHA): Reilly was simply outstanding at the Lake Placid summer camp, but has been up and down so far in college. He's a high-end skater and puck mover who may still be going through some adjustment periods for his all-around game. But he can most certainly man a powerplay as well as anyone on this USA roster.
Brady Skjei, D, New York Rangers (Minnesota-WCHA): Skjei has struggled recently for Minnesota, even at times being a healthy scratch, so he may not be as much of a lock for this roster as he was back in the summer. Still, he's an elite skater with a big body and good hockey sense. I think he has a pretty decent shot at being on the team.
Garret Sparks, G, Toronto Maple Leafs (Guelph-OHL): Sparks is a goalie with solid athletic tools who has played very well as of late but will probably be hard pressed to push for some -- if any -- real playing time at the tournament.
Vincent Trocheck, C/W, Florida Panthers (Saginaw-OHL): Trocheck has been among the top 10 players in OHL scoring for most of the season. Aside from being just a tad undersized, it's hard to find a true weakness in his game. He's a gritty, smart, skilled player who plays well in his own end. Look for him to impress at this tournament.
Jacob Trouba, D, Winnipeg Jets (Michigan-CCHA): Trouba has been very good in his freshman season at Michigan, showing significant offensive and defensive value. He was impressive as a 17-year-old in the World Juniors last year and should probably be one of the tournament's top defenders.
Patrick Sieloff, D, Calgary Flames (Windsor-OHL): To one scout, Sieloff is a great intangibles prospect with a top-end work ethic and someone who loves to hit. He skates at a solid pace too. Sieloff's started to get more involved offensively in the OHL, but that's not his game. He's a 1994 birthdate and the tournament will be on a large ice surface, so while he has a shot, he may have to wait until next season.
Jimmy Vesey, LW, Nashville Predators (Harvard-ECAC): Vesey's an interesting prospect as scouts describe him as a high-end skill player and goal scorer. Vesey broke the EJHL's single season scoring record last season and was drafted in the third round after being passed over in the 2011 draft. He's a prospect with good upside but for now he may be hard pressed to make the team.
As always, if you have any questions on a player feel free to leave a comment below and I will get back to you.