Last year's third overall pick Alex Galchenyuk will be expected to lead Team USA's forwards - Jamie Sabau
Thoughts on USA Hockey's selections to their preliminary World Juniors roster.
USA Hockey released their preliminary roster this morning. They selected 15 forwards, nine defenseman, and three goalies, meaning they'll need to cut just two forwards and two defensemen to get down to the 20 skaters they're allowed on their roster.
Here's a few quick thoughts on the roster they selected:
Goalies- No arguments here. These were pretty much the three everyone expected to be selected, Teams can now carry three goalies, so they're all going to Ufa. Gibson is likely your starter, Gillies the back-up gaining experience, and Sparks available in an emergency.
Defense-This is a younger group with the '94s outnumbering the '93s by a 5-4 margin. Seth Jones and Jacob Trouba are the stars here, and Team USA will need them to eat a lot of minutes. Connor Murphy is probably a lock, assuming he stays healthy, so 50/50 shot he actually makes it to Russia. McCabe and Gostisbehere have both played very solid in the NCAA and should be there. Brady Skjei seemed like a lock to make the team, but he's struggled a bit in his transition to NCAA hockey; might be a bit of Derek Forbort-redux there for Team USA. Sieloff has been impressive blowing up 12 year olds in the OHL, but his skating could be a hindrance on the bigger ice surface. Grezelcyk and Reilly will probably be fighting for a spot at camp.
Forward-Goal scoring could be tough to come by for this team. Alex Galchenyuk is the only big name scorer in this bunch. After that, they'll probably be hoping tiny, speedy forwards Rocco Grimaldi and John "Gaudreaubey Baker" Gaudreau have huge tournaments. Riley Barber was a bit of a surprise addition, but they may have been looking to add some extra scoring punch there. I was really glad to see Blake Pietila's name show up on the roster, because I think he's been great at Michigan Tech this year, and has played his way into a spot on the team.
Notable omissions- I have no idea how Nic Kerdiles wasn't selected. Yes, he's really only played four games since last April, and probably isn't at 100% yet, but the tournament doesn't start until the end of the month, and there's plenty of time for him to get there. He's too talented to leave off the roster. I also really wanted to see Minnesota's Travis Boyd selected. He's flown under the radar after coming into the NCAA really young last year, but he's quietly developed into a pretty nice player. I wouldn't have any trouble finding a couple guys on the roster to swap out for those two. On defense, Minnesota-Duluth's Andy Welinski is a bit of a surprise, but not one I'm banging my shoe on the table over.
Overall impressions- This roster was about what I was expecting, and I wasn't expecting a thrilling roster. This just isn't a strong year for the US. I think they'll come into the tournament pretty clearly behind Canada, Sweden, and the Russians. The US has typically done better in the underdog role though, so maybe that plays to their advantage. They also appear to be pretty strong in goal, which can make a huge difference in a short tournament format.