Young and eager
Young and eager
U.S. hoping kids and confidence lead the way
The American entry to the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship is decidedly young. This team is comprised of five current NCAA players and thirteen players under the age of 25.
Led by college phenomenon Jack Eichel, Team USA will be a squad worth watching over the first round, if only because they are so young and possessing of significant potential on paper. But this is the elite IIHF competition where the stakes are higher and these young men will be taking on veterans of the tournament who are fully developed professionals.
The last time the World Championships were held in the Czech Republic, the Americans took home a bronze medal. The road to a medal will be decidedly tougher this time around.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck was named to the team over the weekend. This is his second invitation to join the men’s national team. Last year in Belarus, Hellebuyck was the third goaltender behind Tim Thomas and David Leggio. After an accomplished NCAA career as a student athlete, Hellebuyck has excelled since turning pro with the Jets’ minor league affiliate St. John’s IceCaps. Hellebuyck was named 2015 AHL Eastern All Star team where he was tabbed as the starting goaltender. Alex Lyon is one of the best goaltenders in the NCAA. In his two seasons with Yale University, Lyons has impressed in the college hockey ranks. This season he led the nation in goals against average (1.62), save percentage (.939) and shutouts (7). Lyon is an undrafted free agent and has earned much interest from NHL teams. A strong showing in here will further boost his stock.Continue reading
D-man experience comes with Justin Faulk, who has participated in two recent World Championships (2012 and 2013) and the 2014 Winter Olympics. At the 2013 World Championship in Stockholm and Helsinki, Faulk was a member of the bronze-medal winning American team. This season Faulk led the Carolina Hurricanes defencemen in all offensive statistical categories and was second on the team in scoring.
A late addition, and an important one, for Team USA is Seth Jones. Jones is making his second consecutive World Championship appearance. This season Jones played all 82 games for the Nashville Predators. Tory Krug should be a key contributor on the backline. An offensive minded defenceman, Krug has registered double digits in goals for the Boston Bruins over the past two seasons.
University of Minnesota product Mike Reilly makes his senior team debut but comes with international experience. He was a member of the 2013 gold medal winning U20 team that won it all in Ufa, Russia. Jake Gardiner and Connor Murphy are returnees from the 2014 team that competed in Minsk, Belarus.
At forward, there is a fascinating mix of skaters from the NHL, NCAA, AHL and the KHL. The significant member of this group is Jack Eichel. All season long, Eichel was mentioned alongside Connor McDavid as potentially the first overall selection in the upcoming NHL entry draft. Eichel was impressive in his freshman season with Boston University. The North Chelmsford, Massachusetts native led the nation in scoring, took his team to the NCAA Finals and won the Hobey Baker award as college hockey’s best player.
Joining Eichel will be the top collegiate goalscorer, Jimmy Vesey. In 37 games Vesey scored 32 goals for Harvard University. This team’s top goal scorer- statistically- is Steve Moses, who struck 36 times for Jokerit, the Finnish entry in the Kontinental Hockey League. Another export to the KHL is Dan Sexton, who plays for Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk. Sexton is coming off his finest pro season in time to represent Team USA.
Depth is built around NHL veterans Marc Arcobello, Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin, Matt Hendricks and Trevor Lewis. Nick Bonino of the Vancouver Canucks was recently selected and should be a big boost. Bonino was traded to the Canucks for Ryan Kesler and filled a big spot in their lineup. Bonino is a solid two-way player who will be a tremendous addition to the American side.
Crystal, Minnesota native Todd Richards is leading the U.S. men’s national team for the first time. Richards is currently the coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Since taking over the Blue Jackets in 2012, Richards has helped turn the fortunes of the franchise around, including guiding them into the 2014 playoffs where they earned the first postseason win in the club’s history. Prior to being appointed head coach of the Blue Jackets, Richards coached two seasons with the Minnesota Wild. Richards played college hockey for the University of Minnesota and was a second round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 1985. Joining Richards will be 2014 U.S. men’s Olympic team head coach Dan Bylsma and current St. Lawrence University bench boss and former NHL player and assistant coach Greg Carvel.
Team USA will play in Group B in Ostrava. With Russia and Finland in the group, competition will be decidedly tough for the Americans. They will battle to emerge from the Preliminary Round and find a place in the quarter-finals. What will be intriguing is how this rather young team will fare in close games and more experienced and skilled teams in the group. What this young squad lacks in senior international experience they will more than make up for in determination.
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