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International Tourney Season

This is one of the busiest weeks of the year for USA Hockey, with teams competing at the U20, U18, and U17 levels.

We'll start with the U20s. The US holding their summer World Juniors evaluation camp in Lake Placid. The camp is a very exciting chance for people to evaluate the best young talent in the United States, though its relevance to the actual World Junior tournament is debatable. So much of that tournament is about catching lightning in a bottle at the right time in the short tournament format, that it's more important to pick the players playing well in November and December rather than in August.

For reference, here was the full camp roster, and then the final camp roster after a few cuts were made. Each of the split squads won a game against Sweden and Finland respectively. The final team will now play a game against Sweden and against Finland. No matter which way they go, the US will end up with a World Juniors roster capable of winning a gold medal. Whether they'll be able to put that talent together for another gold medal will be the real question.

At the U18 level, the Ivan Hlinka Tournament is going on in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Ivan Hlinka serves as a a doppelganger to the World U-18 championships. The US traditionally sends their best team to the Worlds, while Canada is limited in their options due to the CHL playoffs. While Canada sends their best to the Hlinka, and the US traditionally sends a weaker roster by not inviting NTDP players.

A lot of people have asked why the US doesn't invited NTDP players--except in rare circumstances--to the Hlinka tournament. The logic behind it is that USA Hockey doesn't want to limit the number of players with experience playing overseas for Team USA to just 20 or so players per birth year. The Ivan Hlinka is perfect for that because it is over the summer, meaning players aren't being taken away from their teams, and it is not an IIHF-sanctioned event, so the stakes aren't quite as high.

This year's team is a little light on star power, outside of Alex Galchenyuk, who should be a very high draft pick next summer. Galchenyuk suiting up for the US instead of Russia is a positive sign, but because this isn't an IIHF-sanctioned event, he's not necessarily locked in to playing for the Americans in the future.

Results so far have been a mixed bag, with a loss to Finland in the opening game, before coming back with an overtime win over Russia in the second game. They'll take on Slovakia on Wednesday morning. It's kind of hit or miss for these teams to be in medal contention, so any success here is a nice bonus for USA Hockey.

Finally, the U17s are hosting a Five Nations tournament with the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, and Switzerland participating. The US cruised to a 5-1 victory over the Czechs to open the tournament. The US has a pretty nice depth advantage over those countries in general, but add in that they all lost a couple of their very best '95s to their respective nations' Ivan Hlinka teams, and the US should be pretty heavy favorites. I'm in Ann Arbor for the week, so I should be able to get a couple chances to watch this team play and give my thoughts and what is looking like a really good group so far.