LAKE PLACID, NY - Seven different athletes who will play within the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League this year participated in the World Juniors Evaluation Camp over the weekend and each of them had an impact in their own way.
As usual, the United States Hockey program hosts U-20 teams from Finland and Sweden at their training facility in Lake Placid, the site of perhaps the biggest upset in sport's history. The U.S. uses the opportunity, along with a training camp in December, to fully evaluate their players and, ultimately, choose which of them will represent their country in Helsinki, Finland this December.
To start the tournament, the U.S. split up the 39 players they invited into two teams, one in white jerseys and one in blue. They then kicked off the tourney with a scrimmage between the two teams, before launching into regular play.
The roster will then be cut down Tuesday, before the USA will play Sweden and Finland again as one whole team.
We'll take this opportunity, before the cuts happen, to take a look at how each U.S. Division players has performed and how what their outlook is to eventually represent the U.S. this December. We will see how many, or of any U.S. Division players are cut on Tuesday and of course how many are invited back to December's training camp.
4-3 win over U.S. Team White
2-5 loss to Sweden
3-10 loss to Finland
Drafted by Edmonton Oilers, 4th round-2015
Jones played three games with a goal and an assist. He exhibited speed, a great one-timer, and the ability to go coast to coast with the puck to drive the play. Unfortunately, he was also caught out of position multiple times defensively, the most notable being on Sweden's third goal Sunday. Overall, he seems to rely on his stick in disrupting play, rather than physical play, and had mixed results as Finland scored a goal off a rebound Monday. While he left flailing at it on one occasion, on another he brilliantly broke up a back door play that would've assuredly been a goal.
Outlook: If he makes it to Helsinki it will be mostly on the strength of his point shot and his ability to quarterback a power play effectively. Team Blue was consistently looking for a Jones one timer while on the man advantage. If he is not kept past Tuesday's cuts, it would not be too terribly surprising.
Drafted by Nashville Predators, 2nd round-2014
Dougherty scored no points in three games, but was Team Blue's most consistent defenseman, which is not saying much for a squad that gave up 15 goals over the last two games. He seemed to be more of a stay-at-home D-man, and was paired mostly with Noah Hanifin over the first three games. Dougherty plays with an edge and is not afraid to get involved in the rough stuff. He demonstrated a pretty solid point shot, but definitely looked to pass and get a cycle going, rather than take a quick shot. He was not caught out of position too often.
Outlook: He was invited to camp last year but did not end up making the final roster. He should get a longer look as Head Coach Ron Wilson will probably want to see if he can develop some chemistry with Hanifin, who is a lock to make the roster.
Drafted by Detroit Red Wings, 3rd round-2014
With a goal in three games, Turgeon was part of Team Blue's best line on Saturday along with Alex Tuch and Kyle Connor. This waas the one line that was able to successfully create a cycle and scoring chances whenever they were out there.
He ended his Sunday night with an embarrassing gaffe, however. With Team Blue down 4-2 late, and with the net vacated for an extra attacker, he had his pocket picked at his own blue line, leading to an easy empty net goal. But he rebounded on Monday against Finland, as he was the squad's best back-checker, and appeared to be one of the few Team Blue forwards that was not emotionally and physically exhausted. He also ended up receiving a lot of 3-on-five penalty killing ice time, as Team Blue took penalty after penalty in a lopsided loss.
Outlook: He was also an invitee last year that was not kept on the final roster. His best bet is that Buffalo does not allow Jack Eichel to participate in the WJCs, as this will greatly diminish their depth at the Center position. He will probably make it past Tuesday's cuts.
Drafted by Columbus Blue Jackets, 2nd round-2015
Bittner scored three goals in three games, and actually would've had a hat trick, had his first period goal on Monday not been disallowed, due to a teammate making contact with Finland's Goalie. His two second period goals were scored about four minutes part and both were scored right in front of the net. On his first, he displayed incredible hands in tight, and on the second he merely tipped home a rebound. He and fellow 6'4" power forward Jordan Greenway crashed the net consistently and, when they were at their best, Team Blue was driving play.
Outlook: Goal scoring is at a premium in these tournaments and size does not hurt either. Of the 4 Winterhawk's players, he seems to have the best chance at landing on the final roster.
3-4 Loss to Team Blue
5-2 win over Finland
10-4 win over Sweden
Eansor's addition to the roster seemed to be a bit of a surprise as he's undrafted, but apparently his stellar play in the 2014 WHL playoffs put him on Team USA's radar. He has done nothing to hurt his stock at Evaluation Camp, scoring two goals and two assists in three games. His speed in on the fore-check caused every team he played fits and he continually put himself in great positions on the ice for the U.S.' best players to find him, as was the case on his goal Sunday against Finland. He always seems to be the hardest worker on the ice and Coach Wilson may want to keep him as a depth forward, to get the team going when they are struggling.
Outlook: Just like Turgeon, Eichel missing the tourney greatly increases his chances. As he has not played much for the U.S. National Program, I would not be surmised if they gave him a long look this week.
Tri City Americans
Drafted by Boston Bruins, 2nd round-2015
Carlo is the one U.S. Division representative that played at the WJCs last year and will most likely be relied upon to return and play more of a leadership role at this year's tourney. With one assist in three games, he played well over the weekend and continues to be hard for any forward to get around with his long reach and 6'5", 200 lb frame. He is definitely able to play the role of shutdown D-man, but also has a pretty solid point shot that is heavy and can be trouble for an un-prepared Goalie.
Outlook: A lock to return to the team.
Tri City Americans
Eligible for 2016 Draft
Sarthou played parts of 3 Games, stopping 31-of-35 for 0.886 save percentage and 2.69 GAA. He played much better as the tournament went on and stopped 19-of-20 over the last two games. Even during scrambles for the puck at his feet, he stayed calm and collected and was able to cover up. He may have been added to the roster with an eye for next year's team, but overall he has been the most consistent goalie for the U.S. so far at camp. The Black Diamond, WA native is playing with a lot of confidence and is positionally very sound. He is exceptionally good at seeing through screens and finding point shots in traffic.
Outlook: He should be kept in camp as the U.S.'s Team Blue Goalies really struggled over the last two games and Sarthou has looked much better