We're eight days away from the start of the World Juniors tournament. Teams are skating together, and we're starting to get a better idea of what rosters will look like.
Here's a few notes on the upcoming tourney.
Actual Reporting First off, Josh Kummins has been doing an excellent job covering Team USA's practices. If you haven't read them,, here's his update from Tuesday, and his update from Wednesday.
The US team will play a big exhibition game against Boston University on Friday night, which will help them make their final roster decisions. We'll have coverage from that game.
Same ol' same ol' The big theme of Mark Osiecki's media session from Wednesday was talking about chemistry. Some of it is that he has to answer the questions he's asked. Some of it is that is just the generic type of coachspeak he has to say in that type of situation. Still, every time I hear 'chemistry,' I can't help but hear "Thanks for wasting your time flying out again, Tony DeAngelo". Maybe I'm reading too much into that. We'll see how it plays out.
Next on the list of cliches was the classic cliches was the one about being tough to play against. You know who is really tough to play against? Someone that you're afraid to play your third defensive pairing against because you think the puck might end up in your net.
Blue Line The US is desperately hoping to get Steve Santini back from wrist surgery in time for the tournament as he figures to be one of their key defensemen. Meanwhile, Canada has already sent home Chris Bigras, a returning player, and a 2nd round NHL Draft pick scoring a point-per-game in the OHL this year. That's not a pretty comparison for the United States.
The good news is that the U20 age group is one of the rare hockey levels where skaters are more advanced developmentally and you can really score yourself out of trouble. And it seems like the US might need to score a lot in this tournament.
NHL Decisions We're getting close enough to the tournament that NHL teams are having to make decisions on which players they'll release to the tournament and which players they want to keep. For Canada, Anthony Duclair and Curtis Lazar have been made available. Players that won't be made available include: Nathan MacKinnon(duh), Aaron Ekblad, Jonathan Drouin, and Bo Horvat. Overall, not terrible for the US. I'd rather see whoever the last player cut is rather than Lazar on the roster, but I still think the US matches up well at forward.
Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals won't be sending forward Andre Burakovsky to play for the Swedish team. That's good news for Minnesota forward Leon Bristedt, since Burakovsky is a somewhat similar player. Bad news for Sweden though. Scoring could be a concern for this team, and losing a top-level forward can't help.
Also, the Edmonton Oilers won't be releasing Leon Draisaitl to go lose a bunch of games for Germany. He gets enough of that in Edmonton.