Saturday, August 4, 2012

Game on

Brady Skeji(
Forgive me if I sound a bit giddy but my off-season is over as 3 New York Ranger, 1 New York Islander and 2 personal favorite prospects begin their quest to earn spots on the 2013 Team USA Under-20 squad. This is the beginning of the process that will help determine which players will represent the USA at the 2013 World Under-20 championships.

This year's competition will be held in Ufa, Russia starting on December 26th 2012 and runs until January 5th 2013. Team USA will be looking to rebound after last year's embarrassing trip to the relegation round.

New York Ranger 2012 first round Brady Skeji will be looking to move up from the Under-18 squad that won a gold medal for the 4th straight year last April. The 6'3 200 lb defender from Lakeville, Minnesota will be giving Ranger fans a glimpse at what they might see down the road.

What I am hoping for is that Skeji is separated from his usual defensive partner Seth Jones so he can play a more offensive role while at the camp. If you want things to look for then watch for Skeji's vision on the ice as well as his decision making.

I know the Rangers say that Skeji will develop into a solid 2 way defender but right now his defense is what is more developed. Skeji is able to play a finesse defense equally as well as a physical one which is impressive given his young age.

It won't break my heart if Skeji winds up as a mainly defensive defender as I have heard people compare his game to Scott Stevens and nobody liked facing Stevens. Since I already mentioned him I have to talk about Seth Jones next.

(Getty Images)
Seth Jones if the 2013 NHL Entry draft was held tomorrow would go either 1st or 2nd. The soon to be Portland Winterhawk is going to turn heads when fans get to see him in action.

Skeji's defensive partner at the World Under-18 Championship, Jones was Team USA's best player (and captain) with a 3-5-8 performance in winning his 2nd gold medal. Jones has the total package of skating, skill, physical play and a lethal slapshot.

Jones is going to be one of the reasons why the 2013 Team USA will not wind up back in the relegation round. Portland Winterhawk fans had best get their look at him while they can because I don't expect him to spend more than 1 season in the WHL.

(Plymouth Whalers)
J.T. Miller (NYR 2011 1st) is back looking to make the Under-20 squad for the 2nd straight season. This time Miller is back bigger in size and will be counted on to be one of the team leaders.

Miller who had 4 points on the 2012 team (2-2-4) is going to want to use a strong performance in order to impress more than the Team USA staff as the Ranger staff will be there watching. If Miller has a strong performance it might go a long way in convincing the Rangers to let him play in the AHL instead of the OHL.

With the uncertainty of the NHL labor situation, Miller won't get what would have been his chance during the Traverse City Tournament. It might be a double edged sword for Team USA who could lose Miller to the AHL if he plays too well.

Steven Fogarty (NYR 2011 3rd) is the 3rd Ranger prospect to earn an invite to the camp. If Fogarty is going to make Team USA then expect it to be as a defensive specialist/penalty killer.

It is not as if Fogarty doesn't have any offense but what Team USA needs the most from Fogarty is his defensive zone play as well as his skills on faceoffs. Fogarty who is headed to Notre Dame this year was the player Penticton turned to when they needed a face off won or a defensive stop.

It doesn't hurt that Fogarty has a knack for scoring clutch goals (10 of his 33 regular season goals were game winners) either but it will be interesting to see how Fogarty handles the step up in competition. Fogarty gives the Rangers a legit chance to have 3 players on Team USA.

Speaking of Notre Dame, the lone New York Islander prospect in the camp is defenseman Robbie Russo (NYI 2011 4th). Russo is making his 2nd attempt to earn a spot on the Under-20 team after being cut last season.

Russo is going to have his work cut out as Team USA is going to have a very loaded defensive corp and if he doesn't make the team don't view it as a slight of Russo. Russo could make the team as a power play specialist quarterbacking the USA power play.

Russo is no stranger to big games as a member of the 2011 Under-18 Team USA gold medal team as well as his experience playing for Notre Dame last season. Russo opened a lot of eyes last season with his play and if he survives the cuts here I won't be at all surprised.

Russo is very good under pressure and has excellent passing skills so that might be his edge.

(Edmonton Oil Kings)
The last player on my "watch list" is the player who just might be the one who sets back US/Russian relations with his ability to get under people's skin. I am talking about Henrik (Son of Ulfie) Samuelsson (Pho 2012 1st) who just might totally redefine the role of a "pest" before his NHL career is over.

If you want to talk about a player who is like his father, Henrik goes one step better as when he is not pissing off the other team; Henrik does have size and skill to play the game. I can't see Samuelsson not making Team USA because whether it is as a pest or as a player, Samuelsson is a game changer with his presence on the ice.

As for the camp itself you can find information about it right here as the only issue I have with USA Hockey is charging people to watch the games during the camp. Unless you are seriously desperate for hockey 7.99 for exhibition games is way too much to watch on a computer.

Not a great way to increase interest in USA Hockey but if you have twitter there will be plenty of people tweeting about the game action.

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