Each year, Team USA holds its Select 17s camp, where the best from that age group square off in a tournament, followed by an all-star game. Once again the camp was held in Amherst, NY near Buffalo and for early June, the hockey was pretty solid. The best of the best were chosen for the all-star game and the best from that group was also chosen to represent the Americans at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which takes place in August.
The Americans don't send the official National Team Development Program squad to the Ivan Hlinka, instead using the summer showdown to reward kids from the United States League, major junior and the high school ranks. Here are some of the players that impressed me at the all-star game, many of whom will be heading over to the Ivan Hlinka.
Denis Yan, LW – Born in Portland, Ore., Yan and his family moved back to Russia when he was seven.
"It's a really different culture," Yan said of Russia. "A little bit tough but I got used to it. Then my parents said we were going back and I was happy."
He returned to North America to play hockey as a teenager with stops in Sarnia and Detroit. He played for the NTDP last year, but was not expected to return. His globetrotting has led to some eligibility confusion and he was put into the CHL import draft instead of the OHL draft. Shawinigan of the Quebec League grabbed his rights, though he hasn't signed on the with Cataractes yet. A dynamic offensive player who doesn't mind physical play, Yan looked great on a top line with Tom Novak and Brock Boeser – and not surprisingly, all three will be headed to the Ivan Hlinka.
Tom Novak, C – A top name from the Minnesota high school ranks, Novak had a wicked wrister for a goal in the all-star game and showed a lot of offensive awareness. Playing for St. Thomas Academy this past season, Novak was pushed more, as the private school moved up to Minnesota's more challenging high school circuit after years dominating the smaller league.
“In years past we usually had a pretty easy road to the state tournament," he said. "We shut out our section last year. This year we had an overtime game and then lost in the final. It was a good step up and the program needed it.”
Novak and Boeser are both slated to play in the USHL for Waterloo in 2014-15 and the center will head to the University of Minnesota after that.
Adam Parsells, D – At nearly 6-foot-6 already, it's not surprising Parsells tries to emulate Zdeno Chara when he's on the ice, using his reach and big frame to protect the defensive zone. A Wisconsin high schooler who moves well for his size, Parsells was not chosen for the national team, but looked good in the all-star game. He's a University of Wisconsin commit and still deciding if he'll jump to Green Bay in the USHL or head back to Wasau West high school for 2014-15.
“It all comes with maturity," he said. "What I feel is best, what my parents think is best. Where I’m at with my development, I have to decide if I want to take that next step or if I want to wait and mature a bit more.”
Here are some other players that caught my eye in Amherst.
*Made the Ivan Hlinka squad
*Brock Boeser, RW – Like his linemates, Boeser was excellent when he had the puck, protecting it in the offensive zone and generally causing mayhem. The University of Wisconsin commit also scored in the shootout.
*Erik Foley, LW – The Providence College commit is a dangerous offensive weapon and he plays with jam. Early on in the game he masterfully tipped a point shot that just missed the net. Foley played for Tabor Academy and USHL Cedar Rapids last year.
*Grant Gabriele, D – A solid, all-around blueliner with size, the Western Michigan commit has a solid point shot that led to a goal and overall he showed great awareness with the puck. Gabriele will play for the NTDP again this season.
*Robby Jackson, C – The USHL's reigning rookie of the year, Jackson is a smaller pivot with quick hands and great offensive patience. You can tell defenders are scared he'll burn them, as he was given a lot of room when he had the puck. He will return to the Chicago Steel and attempt to build on his 28 goals as a 16-year-old, which set a league record.
*Zach Wilkie, D – Had a great set-up for a goal and makes a nice first pass overall. Wilkie will return to the OHL's Niagara IceDogs and take on a larger role as a sophomore, where his point shot will help.
Connor Moynihan, LW – Moynihan has great size and a year of major junior with Halifax under his belt already. He proved himself to be a responsible forward, getting back after a turnover and even blocking a shot later in the shift.
Keoni Teixeira, D – Already has a WHL final on his resume with the Portland Winterhawks. Teixeira is a thick defenseman who is clever with the puck and makes a strong outlet pass.
Denis Yan photo courtesy of USA Hockey/Steve DeMeo