Discipline has been established as a storyline for teams Canada and USA ahead of the first world junior championship outside North America in five seasons. Now it appears to have played into USA Hockey's final cuts, with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada's Stefan Matteau being pared from the Yanks' almost-finalized roster.
The rugged Matteau, whom the New Jersey Devils drafted No. 29 overall in June, has had two one-game suspensions with the QMJHL's Armada. Team USA, much like its North American neighbour, had a penalty party in its two pre-competition games in Finland, taking eight minors during Saturday's loss to Finland. That means Matteau might have been too high-risk while not being high-reward.
From Chris Peters (@chrismpeters)
Seeing Matteau and Skjei sent home comes as little surprise after today. It appeared Skjei was on the outs after the Sweden game and Matteau may have played himself out of consideration over the two exhibition games. The good news for both is that they are eligible for next year’s tournament. Still, getting cut is a bitter pill to swallow this close to the tournament.
... Jimmy Vesey is likely the beneficiary at forward. After getting scratched against Finland Saturday, it appeared he’d be the odd man out. Matteau took a check to the head penalty (which really looked like a poor call) and got a 10-minute misconduct. He plays on the edge, so perhaps that penalty, while appearing soft, was enough of an indicator of a risk the U.S. wasn’t willing to take. (United States of Hockey)
The U.S. has handled the two-stage evaluation process — play some exhibition games to get somewhat accustomed to the time zone change, then jet to Ufa — differently than Canada. Team Canada, of course, went overseas with the team selected. Team USA is down to 21 skaters (plus three goalies) and is awaiting a medical update on Sarnia Sting defenceman Connor Murphy, the 19-year-old Phoenix Coyotes prospect who has an extensive injury history.
USA release Brady Skjei (NYR), Stefan Matteau (NJD), waiting on condition of Connor Murphy, who took puck to neck, before cutting 1 more D.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) December 23, 2012
Eighteen-year-old NHL first-rounders are never a lock to make a world junior squad for one of the stronger countries, so it's not a setback for either Matteau or Skjei. Matteau being cut might highlight how draft picks projected to be power wingers in the NHL be in the wrong place at the wrong time when it comes to wearing either the Maple Leaf or the Stars and Stripes in Ufa or in Malmo in 2014. The physical edge is needed, but thickly built types who can bounce opponents off the boards also have to walk a fine line. It's much, much easier said than done when the IIHF standard of officiating is different than North America's.
It's the second time in eight months Matteau will miss out on playing for Team USA. At least it came down to merit this time instead of the IIHF deciding from on high that he wasn't American enough, like it did before the world under-18 championship last spring.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.