Prospecting the National Junior Evaluation Camp: Hockey East/ECAC Version

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By Eric Donnellan       HockeyEast/ECAC Editor     August 16, 2012

As the cream of the crop of ’93 and ’94 born U.S. hockey players converged on the sleepy village of Lake
Placid, New York, for the 2012 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp (NJEC) over the weekend, revenge was
the prevalent thought on the minds of many.

The advent of the NTDP program and the proliferation of hockey in general in the good ole US of A has culminated in raised expectations on the international hockey stage. With sustained success comes lofty expectations as the US program has come a long way in the past decade plus.

The 2011 U.S. WJC squad finished a disappointing seventh just one year removed from one of the most
exhilarating gold medal game victories in 2010  over the rival Canadian Junior Team. And what better
place to cleanse the mind and regroup than the site of arguably the most monumental achievement in
United States Olympic lore. If the US program is in need of some catharsis, how could the enchanting,
historical backdrop of Lake Placid not be the remedy? It certainly did wonders for the Boston Bruins
during their 2011 Stanley Cup quarterfinal reprieve from the distractions of the bustling city of Montreal.

GM Jim Johannson and his USA Hockey staff invited 45 fresh faces to camp along with new head coach, Phil Housley.

The invitees competed in the seven-day camp which was the first step in a
long and arduous process to determine a final roster for the 2013 IIHF WJC in Ufa, Russia

Camp Home Page Team USA

As evidence of the sweeping changes at the NJEC this year- in glancing at the 2012 NJEC roster, only
forward  J.T. Miller, defenseman Jacob Trouba and goaltender John Gibson were members of the 2011 US WJC Team.

Included in this new regime is a solid core of Hockey East and ECAC budding superstars, all with varied levels of

Full NJEC Roster

HEA and ECAC Camp Invitees:

Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College), Matt Grzelcyk (BU), Colin Blackwell, Jimmy
Vesey and Brian Hart (Harvard), Adam Reid (Northeastern), Shayne Gostisbehere
(Union), Jon Gillies (Providence College), Joakim Ryan and Cole Bardreau(Cornell)
and Mike Paliotta (UVM)

The WJC roster is predominantly and historically dominated by 19-year-olds as the US staff inherently
looks to have a seasoned group of skaters on the final WJC roster.

Players like speedy forward Colin Blackwell (Harvard), relative newbies to the USA Hockey system, will have
to prove their mettle and make an instantaneous impression at the NJEC session. When I asked Kirk
Kluedeke of the New England Hockey Journal about Blackwell’s chances, he had this to say via Twitter:


“[Blackwell] is a long shot. He didn’t come up thru US NTDP and is undersized, so he’ll have to be lights
out and far outplay others.”

I had the chance to ask Colin Blackwell about his take on whether or not the lack of NTDP experience
would hinder his chances of making the ’13 team.

“No, I didn’t feel any added pressure in Lake Placid because the coaching and scouting staff for the
team followed me this past year at Harvard and will be watching this upcoming season as well.” said
Blackwell. “Although they may have been more familiar with players who had played on NTDP the last
two years, I felt that I was there for a reason and I just needed to play my game and show them what I
can do.”

Because of the disparate levels of experience amongst the players in camp, ranging from prep school
and college to major junior, it is often said that guys with a year of college under their belt may indeed
have a competitive advantage.

Blackwell expressed his sentiment on this very subject when I asked him about it earlier this week.

“I felt that playing a year of college hockey definitely helped me a lot,” Blackwell said.  “The speed of the game is so much
faster and sometimes you can play against players that are possibly five-six years older than you. So, that
experience alone gave me a lot of confidence going in to the NJEC.”

The 2nd half of camp saw the US squad  compete against some of the world’s finest as Team Finland
and Team Sweden sent their elite U20’s to Lake Placid. Team USA’s week was undoubtedly highlighted by a 10-2
drubbing of Sweden on Thursday in which Johnny Gaudreau of Boston College picked up a goal and an

Although much of the hype and pre-camp defensive press clippings were focused on blue liners Seth
Jones and Michigan-bound Jacob Trouba, it was relatively unknown Shayne Gostisbehere from
Union College who quite possibly left the largest impact on the coaching staff.

Adam Kimelman of spoke to Phil Housley regarding the Union Dutchmen defenseman.

Shayne Gostisbehere, a 2012 third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, scored a pair of power-play
goals and had an assist,” noted Kimelman.” He also played solid defensively, which U.S. coach Phil
Housley was quick to point out.”

“His all-round game was good,” Housley said. “His defense is getting better throughout the whole week.
The stick is definitely good. He can skate it out of trouble. He moves the puck quite well. He’s improving
all week, and I think he played excellent tonight.”


Jon Gillies (Providence College), one of the most hyped recruits entering HEA this season, came into
camp looking to win the role as back up to the clear number, John Gibson. Fortunately for the hulking
Gillies, the evaluation process is not limited solely to the performance over the past week. Gillies
struggled mightily, surrendering 8 goals on just 43 shots (.814%, 5.39 GAA); and as a result will have to
prove himself between the pipes at Schneider Arena this year if he has any shot at making the final cut.


Johnny Gaudreau (Carneys Point, NJ – BC), who was invited to camp last year as well, is a virtual
shoo-in for a top six forward spot, given his dynamic hands and unmatched offensive skillset. In reading
the scouting report from several experts last week, it seemed Gaudreau struggled a bit early on in
camp playing on a line with the electric Alex Galchenyuk. Perhaps he was feeling a bit of the pressure
bestowed upon this line because of the heady expectations and giant press clippings of both he and
Galchenyuk. He did finish the week strong, however, after the lines were mixed up slightly and ended
the week with 2 goals and a helper, including a power play tally.


Jimmy Vesey (Harvard ’13 – North Reading, MA) was a somewhat surprised addition to the final NJEC
roster announced after the weekend scrimmages. The offensively-skilled Harvard recruit starred in the
EJHL last year with the Massachusetts based South Shore Kings where he took home MVP honors. He
was impressive enough in camp (one goal, one assist) to make the first cut which means the US brass were
real keen on taking a good hard look at this youngster. That said, the jump from the EJHL to the NJEC is
a significant one so unless he has a phenomenal rookie campaign at Harvard, we project he will miss the


Matt Grzelcyk (Boston University) Despite his lack of sheer size, the 5-9 170 pound Charlestown, MA, native
is a standout presence on the ice. He is the proverbial ‘puck moving defenseman’ who was drafted
by the hometown Bruins (85th overall) this past season. Grzelcyk has a few factors
working against him. Simply stated, there are niche roles for each player to fill in assembling the final
puzzle piece. Mike Reilly and Shayne Gostisbehere are both ’93 birth dates, fill a similar finesse role,
and had impressive camps and that could be very tough to overcome. His innate hockey sense and NTDP/International
pedigree might just tempt the US staff to take the future Terrier to Russia.


Cornell’s undersized, tenacious forward Cole Bardreau, is another player with NTDP pedigree. They say every
championship team needs not only superstars, but role players. Bardreau falls into the latter category
and if effort was awarded a roster spot, he would be a first line forward on the WJC team headed to
Russia. Like Blackwell, he does have a year of NCAA experience under his belt so perhaps the play
against older, more refined players will help him in his bid to earn one of the final forward spots.


All in all, it was a great week of hockey for most of the HEA and ECAC invitees. As we continue to emphasize,
this past week was merely the first step in the evaluation process. Stay tuned to all of the Hockey East
and ECAC rinks near you as these talented youngsters will be scouted heavily until the 2013 WJC pre-camp invites are made.

For a unique look at what all the players thought of the experience in Lake Placid, see what the camp
attendees said on Twitter.

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