The World Jr. A Challenge got underway last night, and the US team got off to a flying start with an easy 6-1 win over Canada East, while the hometown team, Canada West lost 5-4 to Switzerland in overtime. The background on the Hockey Canada website is two guys dressed in a red version of the Green Man suit, so those losses were pretty deserved. Sweet Dee was right; there's only room for one person running around in a skin-tight costume making an asshole of himself.
Meanwhile, Team USA's head coach P.K. Handley gave one of the best, most confusing quotes I've heard in a while when asked to compare his World Jr. A experience against coaching in the World Juinors:
"I'm not sure there's a difference other than age and profile. You look at the World Junior and the execution may be a little better and they're a little more pro ready,"
Right. That other tournament may have older, more talented players, and the entire hockey world cares a hundred times more, but both tournaments are played on ice, with each attempting to place a rubber disk inside the net of the opposing team, so yeah, it's pretty much the same thing.
International Scouting Services listed the top prospects from each team at the Jr. Challenge. Seth Ambroz, Cason Hohmann, Jordan Schmaltz, Colten St. Clair, and Sam Windle are mentioned for the US.
Windle, a graduate of Osseo HS in Minnesota, and a Bemidji State recruit is the most interesting to me. After being passed over entirely in last year's draft, ISS lists him as a top prospect for this summer's NHL Draft. He was also an accomplished baseball player--he had committed to play baseball at North Dakota State before opting to give hockey a try-- so he's very athletic, but seems to have taken some huge steps forward in his development now that he has dedicated himself to hockey, especially in terms of his skating, which was one of the areas really holding him back last year.
The NTDP U17 team is getting their first taste of international play this week in Chicago with the Four Nations tournament. Russia, Switzerland, and Slovakia are the other opponents, so it's a good chance to see where this team stacks up against some decent international competition.
It took 16 tries and dozens of roster moves, but the Port Huron Fighting Falcons of the NAHL finally won their first ever game last Sunday, taking the final game of a three0game series against Springfield last week. The Falcons were a very late addition to the NAHL last summer and struggled to put together an NAHL-caliber roster. It's still going to be a rough season for Port Huron, but they seem to have improved through some trades and free agent acquisitions, so hopefully this season doesn't end up a total disaster.
Last week, the QMJHL hired Marc Fortier to help sell the QMJHL, similar to what Paul Kelly is doing for College Hockey Inc. I, for one, was unaware that they still played hockey in Quebec until reading about Fortier's hiring, so I guess he's doing his job already.
One person that certainly isn't playing hockey in Quebec is former Shattuck attendee and North Dakota recruit Garrett Clarke, who was removed from his team's roster due to a consistent pattern of douchebaggery. In a style befitting that personality, Clarke released a statement, after he had been kicked off the team mind you, that said after giving it a lot of thought, he had decided to move on from the team. It's a shame to see a kid with legitimate NHL-caliber talent waste it by being a complete tool.