It’s not too often that NCAA rivals help each other out, but when country calls, battle lines temporarily fall. Team USA coach Bob Motzko’s day job is with the NCHC’s St. Cloud State Huskies, which gave him some insight on Denver sophomore Troy Terry. The Anaheim Ducks draft pick (148th overall in 2015) attended Team USA’s National Junior Evaluation Camp in the summer, but that’s not where he made a name for himself.
“He was quiet this summer in Michigan, but I knew him from the league,” Motzko said. “I said ‘don’t count this kid out.’ And he’s been fantastic for Denver this year.”
Motzko’s intuition is helping his own cause right now as Terry has been fantastic for Team USA at the world juniors. The talented center was player of the game for the Americans in their crucial 3-2 win over Russia and he’s been a pleasant surprise throughout the round robin, with four points in three games. Keep in mind, Terry has been doing that from the fourth line. Team USA took heat for leaving big-time scorer Alex DeBrincat at home, but offense hasn’t been a problem thanks to excellent depth up front.
“It’s really starting to show off,” Terry said. “We have incredibly talented players on our top two lines, but we have 12 forwards who can get up the ice and produce offensively.”
A Colorado native who now leads the Denver Pioneers in scoring, Terry cut his teeth with the U.S. National Team Development Program. He played on an insanely deep squad that included Auston Matthews, Matthew Tkachuk, Jack Roslovic, Colin White and Jeremy Bracco, so you’ll be excused if you didn’t know the Troy Terry Origin Story just yet. But playing a bottom-six role at the NTDP helped the pivot’s incubation.
“It was something I wasn’t used to and it really helped me a lot as a player,” Terry said. “It helped me round out my game as a two-way player; being a reliable player, playing on the penalty-kill. Now at college I have a top-line role, but I still have the ability to play defensively.”
Terry has been doing it all for Denver as a sophomore and the Pioneers are one of the top teams in the nation, despite losing two of their top three scorers from last season. He has shifted from center to wing when needed and his linemates have included Finland’s Henrik Borgstrom (the Florida first-rounder) and San Jose pick Dylan Gambrell. Though he was good as a freshman, Terry has really soared in his second year.
“A lot of it is physical strength, just working out in college and getting bigger,” he said. “And confidence with the puck. The success I’ve been having recently has really helped.”
And it’s not just Terry noticing. World junior captain Luke Kunin was an NTDP teammate (again; that squad was stacked) and has been impressed with how his old buddy’s game has evolved.
“He’s more confident with the puck,” Kunin said. “There’s a lot of skill in his game and now he’s starting to see that his shot is pretty good and that he can beat goalies with it. Just all-around, his game has gotten better.”
Against the Russians, that was evident. Terry scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal on a deft deflection, but also cycled like a demon in the Russian zone one shift later. No one could get the puck off him for what seemed live forever and that was bad news for a Russian defense corps that just couldn’t seem to get into gear. Overall, his line with Tanner Laczynski (PHI) and Erik Foley (WPG) was very effective.
Team USA’s final round-robin challenge is a huge one, as they draw Canada on New Year’s Eve. The game promises to be high-paced, venom-fuelled and impossible to predict. But if Troy Terry and his not-so-bottom-six buddies can continue to produce, the Americans can be confident they won’t be outgunned.