Last week I posted a mock Hlinka-Gretzky team for Canada, since the summer under-18 tournament will not take place this year due to Covid-19. Canada typically dominates that field, while Team USA is more of an enigma. See, the Americans don’t bring kids from the National Team Development Program to the Hlinka-Gretzky tournament. Instead, the braintrust uses the opportunity to let other players wear the Stars and Stripes for a change. This has obvious long-term scouting benefits, but hurts in the standings: Team USA hasn’t won gold since 2003 and that was the only title they’ve won at the tournament.
As a quick aside, there had been a rumor that Team USA was planning on bringing NTDP kids to this year’s tournament, but I have been told that was untrue.
Having said all that, you still get some interesting Americans making the Hlinka-Gretzky team, with alumni including Brock Boeser, Alex Galchenyuk and Kailer Yamamoto. And since the tournament is a great sneak peek at the coming year’s draft class, I had to ask my expert friends to help me put together a mock Team USA for the cancelled 2020 edition of the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. I surveyed scouts from across the nation to put this group together. All the scouts work for either NHL teams or junior teams, so they know their stuff. If you don’t see a name here, it’s because they didn’t get enough votes. Most of the team affiliations are under-16 programs unless otherwise indicated. Let’s get to it.
Hobie Hedquist (Sioux Falls Power), Owen Millward, (Fox Motors), Will Fox (Oakland Jr. Grizzlies)
Hedquist is the unquestioned starter here, garnering more votes than any other player on the entire roster. He’s a 6-foot-2 University of North Dakota commit who also made his USHL debut this season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. Millward is already 6-foot-3 and his USHL rights are owned by Tri-City.
Jack Peart (Grand Rapids HS), Luke Mittelstadt (Eden Prairie HS), Drew Tsakounis (Avon Old Farms prep), Carter Schade (Pittsburgh Penguins Elite), Ryan Ufko (USHL Chicago), Ty Dunbar (NOJHL Soo Thunderbirds), Dylan Gratton (USHL Muskegon)
The big names are right at the top here: Peart and Mittelstadt. Both are Minnesota high schoolers and they’ve even played on pairing together in the past. Peart had 13 goals in 25 games for Grand Rapids this season while Mittelstadt – Casey’s youngest brother – was a playmaking machine for Eden Prairie. Schade was the first overall pick in the 2019 USHL futures draft by Lincoln, while Dunbar is a 2021 NHL draft prospect due to a late birthday. I don’t have a lot of size on this back end, but there is a lot of skill.
Kenny Connors (Mount St. Charles Academy), Tyler Haskins (Chicago Mission), Bennett Schimek (Gentry Academy), Jackson Blake (Eden Prairie HS), Matthew Argentina (USHL Waterloo), Gleb Veremyev (New Jersey Rockets), JP Turner (Avon Old Farms prep), Davis Burnside (USHL Tri-City), Danny ‘Paul’ Minnehan (North Jersey Avalanche), Ty Voit (OHL Sarnia), Matt McGroarty (Brunswick Academy), Connor Kurth (Gentry Academy), Dom Rivelli (Chicago Mission)
Oh, we’ve got some skill here, folks. Connors got the most votes out of all the forwards and he even played a couple games with the NTDP this season. He’s a USHL Dubuque pick committed to UMass. Jackson Blake is the son of former NHLer Jason Blake, while Argentina was tendered (think ‘super first-rounder’) by Waterloo and thus spent all season with the Black Hawks. Voit is the only major junior player to make the cut while Veremyev brings excellent size alongside his skill. Burnside is another 2021 draft prospect due to a late birthday.
All in all, this is a pretty fun team. Lots of skill throughout though in general, it’s not a big squad. But we’ve got kids from all over the country and had the tournament actually taken place, it would have been a great platform for these draft hopefuls.