December 16, 2012
There are less than two weeks before the WJC begins, and USA Hockey has announced the preliminary 27-man roster for the tournament. With John Gibson, J.T. Miller and Jacob Trouba as the only holdovers from last year’s squad, Team USA will be young and inexperienced, but should be fun to watch. They lack the star-power of Canada but have the potential to have a high-powered offense matched with a very capable goaltender.
Here is a breakdown of the team by position, along with my prediction on who makes the final cut:
Goalies- Coach Phil Housley is expected to give John Gibson (ANA) the opportunity to be the man in the crease for the Americans. Gibson was the backup to two-year starter Jack Campbell last year and saw action in one game. The backup competition will be between Jon Gillies (CGY) and Garret Sparks (TOR) will be interesting. Sparks plays in the OHL where he is having a good season for Guelph, while Gillies has been outstanding as a freshman at Providence.
Final Roster: Gibson,Sparks
Defense- I believe this group will be the key to the success of the team, as it is an extremely talented bunch offensively, and gives the USA the look of a potentially explosive squad. The question, of course is whether they can generate a formidable transition game without sacrificing defense and allowing too many quality chances for the opposition. The blueline corps will be led by the returning Jacob Trouba (WPG). Trouba has performed as expected (if not better) as a freshman at Michigan, playing solid defense while quarterbacking the power-play. Housley will count on Trouba in all situations. 2013 draft-eligible Seth Jones, along with Mike Reilly (CBJ), Brady Skjei (NYR), Matt Grzelcyk (BOS)and Shane Gostisbehere (PHI) are all offensive defensemen that love to join the rush. The final roster will reflect whether Housley will go all-in on the offense or go with two-way players such as Jake McCabe (BUF) and Connor Murphy (PHX) and physical, stay-at-home Pat Sieloff (CGY).
Final Roster: Trouba, Jones, Reilly, Skjei, Connor are locks. McCabe probably will make it as will Sieloff as the defensive conscience of the group. The final spot would come down to the undersized Grzelcyk or the less-polished Gostibehere.
Forwards- J.T. Miller (NYR) returns to provide leadership and solid play (four points in six games last year). Housley will also look to Alex Galchenyuk (MTL) and John Gaudreau (CGY) to supply offense, and likely Rocco Grimaldi (FLA) as well. Galchenyuk has been dominant of late inthe OHL and should star at the WJC. A total of five 1st-round picks, including Galchenyuk, Miller, Tyler Biggs (TOR), Stefan Matteau (NJ), and Stefan Noesen (OTT) are among the forwards on the preliminary roster. 2013 draft-eligible Ryan Hartman is a potential 1st-rounder next summer. Hartman, an Illinois native, is currently playing with Plymouth in the OHL and is averaging nearly a point per game. He also plays with an edge, compiling 83 penalty minutes through 29 games. Vince Trocheck (FLA) is a lesser-known name to keep an eye on. Miller, Galchenyuk, Gaudreau, Grimaldi and Noesen should be in the top-six, while Biggs and Matteau and possibly Hartman will be asked to play bottom-six type roles.
Final Roster: Miller, Galchenyuk, Gaudreau, Grimaldi, Biggs, Matteau, Noesen, Hartman, Trocheck, Riley Barber (WSH), Sean Kuraly (SJS), Jim Vesey (NSH), Mario Lucia (MIN).
Team USA should be an exciting and competitive team, with many NHL prospects to keep an eye on. Thanks for reading.