There was a lot of international talent in Plymouth, Michigan last week. Team USA hosted its summer National Junior Evaluation Camp (NJEC) in the town, with the dual purpose of seeing what the Americans have for the upcoming world juniors and facing great competition from Canada, Sweden and Finland.
In the end, Canada lost all three of its games, while the other nations went 2-1. Is that a concern for the Canucks, who host the world juniors in Toronto and Montreal this winter? Not so much. As coach Dominique Ducharme pointed out, it was August. There’s still a lot of hockey to be played and his charges hadn’t seen meaningful competition in months.
On the other hand, what do you say about players who had great performances in Michigan? Surely that says something about those teens’ preparation.
Here’s a look at the top 40 players that I saw in Michigan – with a caveat. I saw each team play twice and in the case of Canada and the U.S., sometimes I saw a player once or not at all. So I’m not going to rank those kids, as it wouldn’t be fair. That means players such as Pierre-Luc Dubois, Travis Konecny and Anthony Beauvillier aren’t eligible.
Others, such as Carl Grundstrom and Lucas Carlsson, got injured either before I got there or within the first few shifts.
So if you don’t see your favorite prospect here, that could be the reason. Or, they just didn’t distinguish themselves to me. Doesn’t mean they’re a bust, doesn’t mean I hate them. With that out of the way, let’s get to the list:
PLYMOUTH, MICH. – With the Americans down by a goal with more than a minute to play, Erik Foley took to the ice and stayed there until the final buzzer sounded. Ultimately, Team USA couldn’t get the equalizer in a 2-1 world junior camp loss to Finland, but Foley’s usage was notable.
PLYMOUTH, MICH. – It was a desultory loss for Canada, dropping their second-last contest of the summer world junior camp tournament 5-1 to Sweden. And to be fair, only some of Canada’s best players were in the game. Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner and Tyson Jost made up the marquee top line, but big performers such as Lawson Crouse, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Travis Konecny sat out.
But if Canada is going to win the real thing this winter, it’s players such as Strome and Marner who must lead the way.
PLYMOUTH, MICH. – Kailer Yamamoto hasn’t made the U.S. world junior team yet, but if history is any indicator, he’ll bring a ton of offense if he does make the squad. Though he is only 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, Yamamoto has been lightning every time he has donned the Stars and Stripes.
To hear Toronto Maple Leafs GM Lou Lamoriello tell it, Auston Matthews was always going to get signed, always going to get the bonuses that were coming to him. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
Yes, it took a little longer than usual, but an entry-level contract with Matthews was announced Tuesday, 27 days after he was selected first overall. There had been an enormous amount of consternation about whether or not the Leafs and Matthews were at loggerheads about entry-level bonus money. During his many days with the New Jersey Devils, Lamoriello had a policy of not giving them to anyone. He also had a policy of no beards for anyone in the organization and everyone in the office had to wear a tie even in the summer, but it looks like Lamoriello is changing with the times.
One of the great battles for talent this year has been between the Boston University Terriers and the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. The prize? Arizona Coyotes first-rounder Clayton Keller. And it really looks like BU has a stranglehold on the St. Louis native’s services.
It certainly doesn’t look as though either Bill Foley or George McPhee has the patience to slowly build their expansion team into a contender. Everything both of them said when McPhee was named GM of the team pointed to transforming this franchise into a contender sooner rather than later.
McPhee will certainly have a better chance at doing that than his predecessors. The expansion draft rules will give the team a chance to ice a competitive roster in the short term. By being able to protect only seven forwards, three defensemen and one goalie or eight skaters and one goalie, some of the other 30 teams in the league will be forced to expose some legitimate NHL talent. But when you’re looking at, in a best-case scenario, the No. 8 forward, the No. 4 defenseman and the No. 2 goalie on each team’s depth chart who are third-year pros, the pickings might not be quite as spectacular as you might think.
It may not happen immediately, but at some point Anaheim fans will want to remember this news: Travis Green, who has been pegged as the next in line for an NHL coaching job for a couple years now, could have been the Ducks’ bench boss for 2016-17.