Philadelphia - October 14, 2013 - There are a number of returning forwards eligible for the US from last year’s gold medal winning squad. The most notable is Alex Galchenyuk, who is currently playing over a point-a-game hockey in the NHL, so it’s a safe bet the Canadiens will not release him. There are a couple other guys that are still eligible to return and are basically locks for the team. Here’s a look at the 12 forwards I like:
Ryan Hartman: One of the two returning forwards that will likely be on the roster, Hartman plays a very effective all-around game. The Chicago Blackhawks 2013 first round pick is a nuisance to play against, agitating the opponent and playing a physical game. Hartman possesses some decent but not game-breaking offensive skill, and is a decent skater. He could be an exemplary bottom 6 player or a physical complementary player in the top 6.
Riley Barber: Barber was nowhere near Team USA’s radar when he began his freshman season at the University of Miami last year, but his strong play earned him a spot on last year’s roster, and he took full advantage. The highest scoring freshman in the NCAA last year will look to build on his success last year and be a pivotal contributor to this year’s squad. A goal-scoring winger, Barber possesses great speed and a strong shot.
Danny O’Regan: O’Regan was one of the most productive freshmen in all of Hockey East last year for Boston University. Possessing great vision, stick skills, and sublime playmaking, O’Regan has a good chance to be a top 6 center for Team USA this year. Although he is a bit undersized, his skill is undeniable and his size does not hamper his effectiveness.
Taylor Cammarata: Like O’Regan, Cammarata does not possess the ideal size to be a center at this level but boasts an enviable amount of skill. His claim to fame is that he outscored 2013 1st overall pick Nathan MacKinnon when they were teammates at Shattuck St. Mary’s Prep School in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Last year, he led the USHL in points by a decent margin, and is now a freshman at the University of Minnesota. It is possible he could slot in as a left wing where his size may not be as much of an issue. Don’t forget that his coach at the University of Minnesota Don Lucia is the US WJC coach, and familiarity can go a long way.
J.T. Compher: A 2013 second round pick of the Buffalo Sabres, Compher brings a little bit of everything to the table. He has some scoring ability, is a responsible two-way player, and is willing to go into the dirty areas and grind for the puck. He would be a good compliment to a couple of skill-based players to do the work and the corners defensively while they do their thing with the puck. Compher has a strong familiarity with USA Hockey, and is currently a freshman at the University Michigan.
Nic Kerdiles: The speedy left winger for the University of Wisconsin Badgers has a very good chance to make this team. After being suspended for the beginning of his freshman season, the Badgers went on a tear once Kerdiles joined the team, and he played near a point-a-game hockey as a freshman. Possessing blazing speed and a good shot, Kerdiles is a virtual lock for the team.
Stefan Matteau: At this point in his career, the best way to describe Matteau is that he is a question mark. He was able to get into some games for the Devils last year before being sent back to the Blainsville-Boisbriand Armada of the QMJHL. He was one of the last cuts for Team USA last year. In the playoffs for the Armada, Matteau left the team. He’s been known to be a frustrating player to watch because when he’s on, he can be an extremely effective power forward, but can be inconsistent and take bad penalties that hurt the team. I think Matteau will put everything together and behave himself this year, and if he does, he should make the team.
Henrik Sameulsson: Similar to Matteau, Samuelsson brings a big power forward game with decent offensive ability. He isn’t a great skater, but has played in Sweden before coming to North America to play in the WHL. The combination of an 80 point scorer in the WHL and a strong physical game makes Samuelsson hard to pass up. He could be a useful compliment to the undersized O’Regan or Cammarata, providing physicality while being able to keep up skill-wise.
Adam Erne: Erne is pretty similar to JT Compher in the sense that he is a jack of all trades, master of none. He’s not an overly large player, but willingly engages in the physical game in addition to being a useful offensive player. He has a good shot, and if he can combine his physicality and puck skills get them to click, he could be a very useful player for Team USA.
Michael McCarron: Coming in at 6’5”, 228 lbs., McCarron is hard to miss when he’s on the ice. He plays with physicality and toughness while still being able to keep up offensively, although he is far from elite in that area. He seems to be an ideal fit for the bottom six with his size and physicality being able to wear down opponents as part of an energy, grinding line.
Jimmy Lodge: Apart for Cammarata, O’Regan, and Kerdiles, the USA roster is lacking in pure offensive skill and flair. As a result, I think Lodge could be a guy whose goal-scoring ability could catch the eye of Team USA. Lodge doesn’t offer much in terms of play without the puck, but with the number of power forwards USA has to pick from, they could use his skill. If surrounded by the correct supporting players to get him the puck, he could provide the offensive spark the team needs.
Brady Vail: Vail’s value to the team comes in his versatility and diverse skill set. Although he is not a great offensive player, he is capable of being a supporting offensive player while playing well defensively at the same time. He makes sense as a bottom six forward that will provide consistent, solid minutes when called upon. The only thing working against Vail is that he was cut from the US evaluation camp in the summer, but with a strong start he could play his way back into favor.
Looking at those twelve forwards, I would expect them to look something like this:
Top Six Forwards: Barber, Kerdiles, Cammarata, O’Regan, Samuelsson, Erne
Bottom Six Forwards: Matteau, Compher, Hartman, Lodge, Vail, McCarron