Team USA announced the first three cuts from this year's World Juniors team after Friday night's exhibition game against Boston University. Forwards Adam Erne and Michael McCarron and defenseman Jack Dougherty were all sent home, leaving the US roster with 15 forwards and 9 defensemen left. Two players from each position will still need to be cut before the start of the tournament.
The most surprising cut of the evening was likely Adam Erne, if only because he was on the team last year, and it is incredibly rare for a returning player to be cut from the squad. Not that I'm disappointed in the move. Way back at the beginning of the December, I basically said the only real argument for keeping Erne was that he was on last year's team. Erne didn't show much in the exhibition game Friday night either, so it was nice to see Team USA break tradition in favor of having a stronger team.
Michael McCarron was a bit of a surprise too, though again, not necessarily a bad thing. Just by his profile, a big, grinding, older player, with NTDP experience, McCarron seemed like the type of player USA Hockey always seems to pick. McCarron has shown a little more scoring touch this season with the London Knights. He's matched his point total from last year in about a third as many games. Then again, he should, he's playing against children. He was never expected to be much of a scorer for this team. It's nice to see Team USA, at least for the time being, opting for a smaller, but faster and more offense-oriented line-up for this tournament.
It wasn't as much of a surprise to see Jack Dougherty released. Dougherty is a fine player, but definitely in the category of many '96s that weren't quite ready for this year's tournament, but should be major factors for the US next season. I'm sure it was a group decision, but it had to be tough for US head coach Mark Osiecki to cut Dougherty. Osiecki recruited Dougherty to Ohio State, and Dougherty ended up at Wisconsin after Osiecki was fired by Ohio State.
Meanwhile, Canada made their final cuts tonight. The most interesting decision was draft-eligible 17-year-old winger Lawson Crouse making the team. Crouse has a big frame, and likely a bright future, but just isn't a player that scares you much offensively, compared to say, Michael Dal Colle, who was cut. Either way, Canada will have a very loaded squad.