With Americans celebrating their Independence Day, it’s a perfect time to look at the next generation of stars from the United States. The kids who will be wearing the Red, White and Blue at the Ivan Hlinka Tournament in August have just been announced and it looks like a pretty solid crew. The defense will be huge, with only one player measuring in at less than 6-foot-2, 185 pounds. Jack Dougherty is one of those blueliners. A standout with St. Thomas Academy in Minnesota, he’ll play for either Sioux Falls in the United States League or Team USA’s National Team Development Program in 2013-14.
“I’d say I’m pretty smart, know my position, play defense pretty well,” Dougherty said. “I like to play physical, get into guys’ heads. I think I’m an OK skater…I get by.”
Originally committed to Ohio State, Dougherty re-opened his eligibility recently, as had several other players once coach Mark Osiecki was unexpectedly dismissed.
“That’s part of it,” Dougherty said. “I also think I was a little rushed into making a decision and I was uncomfortable with it in the end so I opened it back up.”
Up front, the Americans will have Boston College commit Joey Dudek on the attack. He’ll return to Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire as a team captain this season.
“I feel I see the ice very well,” Dudek said. “I have great hands and patience, that’s what I do best.”
In net, the battery will feature Plymouth Whalers phenom Alex Nedeljkovic and 6-foot-3 NTDP product Blake Weyrick, who already tasted international success as a backup for Team USA’s 2013 world under-18s squad.
“It was a phenomenal experience,” Weyrick said. “To see that tournament and how hard it is to win…getting that silver shows you how much more you want that gold next season.”
Those interviews came from the U.S. Select 17s development camp this week, where about 200 of the best American 1996 birthdays squared off. Other names to keep an eye on include Penn State recruit Kevin Kerr, an offensive defenseman with a great wrist shot; Los Angeles Jr. Kings left winger Nicholas Rivera, a speedy energy guy who threw one of the most devastating open-ice bodychecks I’ve seen in a while; and Jared Rosburg, a two-way defenseman with a nasty disposition who can really blow guys up physically. Rosburg, from the Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets, will also be at the Ivan Hlinka.
The CHL Import Draft took place Wednesday and one of the biggest names was Swedish center Jacob De La Rose. Taken 34th overall by the Montreal Canadiens at the NHL draft on the weekend, the crash-and-bang pivot was selected by Windsor 11th overall.
According to agent Craig Oster, the Spitfires and Habs are working with Leksand GM Tommy Salo to secure De La Rose’s release. The teen is still under contract for a year and Leksand will be competing in Sweden’s top league in 2013-14 after earning promotion. Salo has apparently been great to work with on the issue and De La Rose would like to come over. Another Swede taken by an OHL team is Adrian Kempe, a center with Modo who will be one of the youngest players available for the 2014 draft. The Barrie Colts tabbed him in the second round, but Kempe’s agent, J.P. Barry, told me there is no guarantee he will come over. According to the web site Hockey Sverige, Sweden’s governing hockey body has decreed that players who decamp for North America (or any other foreign league) will be ineligible for under-18 tournaments such as the Ivan Hlinka.
Two names to watch out west are Martin Bobos and Igor Leonenko. Bobos, a Slovakian defenseman who is nearly 6-foot-7 and 223 pounds, is bound for Prince George – just like Cougars alumnus Zdeno Chara. Bobos went undrafted in the NHL, but the fact he declared his intention to come over may have hurt him: as a European, his NHL team would have had four years to sign the raw prospect, versus two years if he plays over here. Leonenko is a Belarussian whose family moved to San Jose last season. Swift Current grabbed his rights, but the Broncos will have a decision to make, as they also selected Finnish defenseman Julius Honka and with two other Europeans already on the roster something’s got to give. Leonenko’s fallback will be the Saskatchewan Jr. League.
In a fun sign of the times, several Euros pledged their new allegiance through Twitter, including recent Maple Leafs pick Fabrice Herzog (Quebec) and towering right winger Jorgen Karterud (Sault Ste. Marie). Finally, here’s a quick and admittedly, incomplete look at other players expected to make the trek over to the CHL: Maxim Lazarev (Cape Breton), David Soltes (Prince George), Nikolaj Ehlers (Halifax), Rihards Bukarts (Brandon), Matej Paulovic (Peterborough; Dallas Stars), Juraj Siska (Saint John), Timo Meier (Halifax), Artem Rasulov (Mississauga), Jason Fuchs (Rouyn-Noranda), Vaclav Karabacek (Gatineau), Nikita Yazkov (Windsor), Timotej Sille (Val-d’Or), Vladislav Kodola (Sarnia), Jimi Kuronen (Oshawa), Georgs Golovkovs (Drummondville), Tomas Andrlik (Prince Albert), Damir Sharipzyanov (Owen Sound), Kris Schmidli (Kelowna), Adrian Sloboda (Ottawa), Tim Wieser (Sherbrooke), Vladimir Tkachev (Moncton) and Dmitry Osipov (Vancouver).