Hello everyone. I'm here with another update from the last two days of practice. In that time, the 29 players vying for spots on Team USA have been on the ice three additional times. Much of Monday afternoon was spent split up into two sides (blue and white) and working on special teams.
Tuesday morning saw the goalies shot on for a while, some passing drills. USA head coach Don Lucia and his assistants also worked on special teams and penalty kill positioning, but also focused on certain lines playing together. So guys like Adam Erne, Jack Eichel and Ryan Hartman had more time to play one another on forward/power play and Connor Carrick and Will Butcher on defense (they looked good).
Which brings us to the lines for tonight's game against Minnesota State.
United States World Junior Team
Stefan Matteau (#23) - Vince Hinostroza (#13) - Henrik Samuelsson (#18)
Adam Erne (#19) - Jack Eichel (#15) - Ryan Hartman (#21)
Tyler Motte (#8) -Quentin Shore (#25) - Hudson Fasching (#22)
Ryan Fitzgerald (#20) - Zach Stepan (#26) - Tommy DiPauli (#14)
Will Butcher (#4) - Connor Carrick (#28)
Brady Skjei (#2) - Brett Pesce (#27)
Ian McCoshen (#3) - Anthony DeAngelo (#24)
Jaccob Slavin (#6) - Steve Santini (#16)
Jon Gillies (#32)
Anthony Stolarz (#29)
Nic Kerdiles (#17), Dan O'Regan (#10), Andrew Copp (#9), Riley Barber (#11), J.T. Compher (#37), Mat Grzelcyk (#7), Thatcher Demko (#35)
The good news for all those sitting out, with the possible exception of Compher (who sat out practice Tuesday AM) is that they are all likely to make the team. Lucia wouldn't guarantee it, but with the names left off - many of whom were skating together - it's safe to assume that's the case.
"The first priority is an evaluation," Lucia said while adding that he wants the team to be forging an identity. "We are putting some people in roles that if they are going to be on the team that we see them in."
For example, 17 year-old Jack Eichel is playing on a scoring line because that's the role he would be on for Team USA and Hudson Fasching would likely be on the 3rd or 4th line. (He was on the PK side of the drills Monday afternoon.)
The bad news is for the players on the bubble that Lucia intends on cutting three players after tonight's game and before the US heads over to Sweden for the December 26-January 5 tournament. It's a last evaluation, but part of the process that includes the practices and even going back to the August camp in Lake Placid, NY.
"They have to show that they are deserving of a spot," Lucia said. "We have some thoughts on guys, but until you actually drop the puck and see that type of environment where they are competing against somebody else.
As far as goaltending goes, Gillies will play the first half while Stolarz will play the second. Whether or not Thatcher Demko plays in the two exhibition games overseas or in the tournament is going to depend on how the other two perform.
For his part, Demko, who was out for Boston College with an injury earlier this season, was okay with the news, telling me, "Everywhere I've been, I've been trying to pick up things from the goalies I've been playing with. Even in Omaha (in 2011-12) with Alex Lyon, I learned more from him than actually playing that year. It's definitely something going into this tournament that I'm looking forward to.
"I know right now guys are saying that Gillies is going to be playing all the games, but I'm going to just go in there and learn from him and see what experience he has from me."
-One of the stranger things to come from World Juniors training camp for some players was that there was still schoolwork. Both Minnesota players at camp, Brady Skjei and Fasching, had to mix finals with practicing on their home ice. Compher, meanwhile, had to take a calculus exam for a class he was in at Michigan at 7:45 AM this morning.
-Being able to watch, the speed and skill on the Mariucci Arena ice from Team USA is apparent. This is going to be a fast team. That should be helpful given the tournament will be played on a larger sheet, which benefits speedy teams.
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation and College Hockey News. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate