2006 USA Junior camp wrap up (Part 1)

By Simon Richard

The USA 2006 National Junior Evaluation Camp took place Aug. 5-12 in Lake Placid, NY. USA Blue and USA White split-squad teams won seven of the eight games played against the Finnish and the Swedish teams.

On the last day of the tournament, Team Sweden finally got their first victory (4-3) in this tour, with a shootout win over the USA Blue team.

Overall, USA teams combined for 38 goals in the eight games, versus only 18 for their international opponents. It is not surprising in these conditions that the top nine scorers of these exhibition games were U.S. team members.

Phil Kessel (BOS) and Rhett Rakhshani (NYI) led the group with seven points each in four games. Matt Butcher (VAN), the son of former NHL defenseman Garth, and Jack Skille (CHI) followed with six points apiece. Pat Kane (2007) led in goal scoring with four.

Several other players had also a very good tournament for the U.S. teams. Forwards Mike Carman (COL) and Blake Geoffrion (NAS) shined with their physical presence and their continuous efforts on both side of the ice while they also contributed offensively with three and four points respectively.

On the blue line, Kyle Lawson (CAR) helped the offensive with five points while David Fischer (MTL) distinguished himself playing a remarkably solid defensive game.

Recall that of the 46 invitees, four didn’t play the tournament against Finland and Sweden. Erik Johnson (STL) and Jack Johnson (CAR) couldn’t attend the camp while Brian Lee (OTT) travelled to Lake Placid but couldn’t skate at all due to a minor injury. Finally, Peter Mueller (PHO) participated to the practices at the beginning of the camp but was kept off the exhibition games due to an injury. All of these players are high-quality NHL first rounders.

USA coach satisfied

Overall, the Americans dominated most of the games. Team USA Head Coach Ron Rolston was very satisfied of the camp. “Still, the players have to adjust to the international rules, [the referees] are calling the game very tight like in the NHL,” commented Rolston to Hockey’s Future.

Despite the fact that USA didn’t have much difficulty beating the European teams, Rolston was pleased with the exhibition format of the camp. “The Swedish team is very competitive and very skilled while the Finnish team competes really hard. It is good to have both teams here because they offer a little different play and different style from game to game. So, it is good for our players.

“There is a lot of depth out there, it is just now picking the right players and putting them in the right spot,” stated Rolston.

Speaking of depth, the NHL first-rounders Bob Sanguinetti (NYR) and Joe Finley (WAS) were not invited to the camp.

“There is no specific reason, I just think there is a lot of depth now in USA. There are a lot of good hockey players now and we are in a position now where, you know, there are many more players to choose from compared the way it was 10 years ago.”

The 46 will now have to be narrowed down to just twenty-something.

“We are just getting to the point now where we have to make some of those tough decisions,” Rolston commented about the eventual formal invitations for the 2007 U.S. Junior Team roster.

The USA Head Coach has not decided yet when he will make the invitations.

“I don’t know, we normally like to watch the players through the first half of the season to make sure they are playing with confidence, especially the goaltenders.

“We want to make sure the goalies are seeing enough action on their respective team in the first half of the season. At that point, we will probably be in a position to maybe announce the whole team at one time. It will just depend of how the guys play and how many spots we still need to fill in,” added Rolston.

Decision has yet to come for Kane

Pat Kane, 2007 NHL Entry Draft eligible, stated to Hockey’s Future after the camp’s final game that he has not yet decided where he is going to play this season.

“I change my mind every day,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll make a decision right after this camp. I have a few options, including staying in the USA Program and then going to a college and accelerate my studies, probably to either Boston University or Michigan University or going to the OHL for the London Knights.”

Kane, who was the 2006 IIHF U-18 World Championship leading scorer with 12 points, was very pleased just to be at this camp. “It’s a great feeling, a dream to be here,” he said. “There are so many good players out there.”

He was satisfied about his overall performance. “I scored in every game, that is my role, scoring and helping the team to win.”

“He has got excellent skills level,” commented Rolston on Kane. “He has a great vision, he offers a lot of offense, he is very smart.

“You put him with real good hockey players and he makes those players looking better,” added the 2007 U.S. Junior Team Head Coach who indeed coached Kane with the U-17 U.S. Team in 2004-05.

And so it is for Kessel

The Boston Bruins General Manager, Peter Chiarelli, was one of the NHL GMs attending the camp in Lake Placid. Hockey’s Future asked him how things were developing concerning the discussions with the 2006 Bruins overall fifth selection.

“We are in communication with Phil,” stated Chiarelli. “Phil has to decide if he wants to leave the university, he is still making that decision. It is his decision.”

Asked if he was confident that Kessel would play for the Bruins this season, the Boston GM had this to say, “First, we would have to sign him and then he would have to make the team.”

At the post-game interview that same night, Kessel clearly wasn’t very pleased to meet the press. If it is possible to conceive, his answers were shorter than usual. Asked if he had talked to Chiarelli, Kessel said that he “[hasn’t] talked to him at all.”

While he was asked where he would play next season, he said “I have no idea yet,” before leaving the place to speak discreetly with a couple of hockey businessmen.

It seems that the first choice of Kessel would be to sign right now with the Bruins and play right now in the big league. But the Bruins may have another point of view on that matter. As Chiarelli said, “He would have to make the team.”

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.