NCAA Hockey 101: Will they make the World Junior team?

Ryan Lambert
December 4, 2009

NCAA Hockey 101 is a weekly feature on U.S. Division I college hockey. Stick around and you just might learn a thing or two.

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Earlier this week, both USA Hockey and Hockey Canada released their preliminary rosters for the World Junior tournaments which start in about two weeks. And to the surprise of no one, college hockey players are heavily featured in the US's roster and has three kids in camp for Team Canada.

With 15 current college players in camp for the US, it's very likely that you'll see at least a few guys you recognize from your league.

The WCHA leads the way with seven invitees (of course) including three from Wisconsin. Hockey East is next with four, three of which are from BU. The CCHA has three, two from Michigan. And the ECAC has just one, RPI's Jerry D'Amigo. Canada, meanwhile, invited two players from the WCHA and one from the ECAC.

So let's have a look and see who's going to make the teams.

Name/school/position: Chris Brown, Michigan, forward
Notes: If the US wants a power play specialist, then this might be their guy. Three of his four goals this season came on the man advantage. Also, he is from Flower Mound, Texas and that's a funny-sounding place to come from.
Will he make it: They only have to cut three forwards, and I think it's unlikely Brown would be one of them.

Name/school/position: Jerry D'Amigo, RPI, forward
Notes: It's hard to argue with numbers. He's close to a point a game in the ECAC, with four multi-point games under his belt, and as you'll see in a minute, he's got the RPI fans in Troy, N.Y. abuzz.
Will he make it: Yes, yes he will.

Name/school/position: Matt Donovan, Denver, defense
Notes: He hasn't been offensively dazzling in college like he was in the USHL, but the numbers are respectable for a freshman and, despite breaking his finger last month, has added a strong physical component to his game.
Will he make it: I'd say so. He can bully a lot of these undersized Eastern European kids.

Name/school/position: Jake Gardiner, Wisconsin, defense
Notes: He's been able to play through an injury but he hasn't been great offensively this season after scoring 21 points as a freshman.
Will he make it: He's pretty much going to make the team, I think, but if anyone gets muscled out by a strong and unexpected performance at camp, then it'll be him.

Name/school/position: Chris Kreider, BC, forward
Notes: He's fast, skilled, big and strong. Those are four things that are going to take you places in hockey. It will take Kreider to Regina for sure. This kid has game-breaking talent.
Will he make it: He sure will.

Name/school/position: Danny Kristo, North Dakota, forward
Notes: He was on the roster last year when he was still just playing juniors and leads the Sioux in scoring so far this year.
Will he make it: There's only one or two surer locks on the team.

Name/school/position: Mike Lee, St. Cloud, goaltender
Notes: He's one of two goalies invited, the other being US National Team Development Program netminder Jack Campbell, who will head to the OHL next season.
Will he make it: He's one of only two goalies to get invited so I'd say he's got a pretty good shot.

Name/school/position: Max Nicastro, BU, defense
Notes: I've seen BU four or five times this year and while I haven't been overly impressed with Nicastro at the college level, he could squeeze himself in if he has a good camp.
Will he make it: I'd say he has an outside shot at best.

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Name/school/position: Kyle Palmieri, Notre Dame, forward
Notes: Granted I've seen Notre Dame play live once this season but I liked what I saw out of Palmieri. I don't know that that's enough to get you on a World Junior team, but that's all I've got. Nothing really stands out but he's perfectly good.
Will he make it: I'd say he's got a 50/50 shot, but I'm leaning toward no.

Name/school/position: John Ramage, Wisconsin, defense
Notes: A bit of a surprise invite here. He wasn't even really counted on to be a regular for the Badgers but he's played all 14 games this season, doing well in both ends. Wisconsin has to be thrilled with his start to the season, but I'm not sure why he's getting the call to camp.
Will he make it: Let's just say it's nice to be nominated.

Name/school/position: Vinny Saponari, BU, forward
Notes: I was never too enamored of Saponari but it seems like every time I see BU play he's doing something well. Very skills-y. Scores highlight reel goals. Not so sure about the rest of his game.
Will he make it: I wouldn't bet a lot of money on it.

Name/school/position: Jordan Schroeder, Minnesota, forward
Notes: Hmm let's see. He's been on the World Junior teams the last two years already and has 55 points in 49 career college games. He's already the USA's all-time leader in WJC assists. This is the surest thing possible.
Will he make it: It would take some sort of silo explosion to keep him off the team. And even then it'd have to be a bad silo explosion.
Name/school/position: Derek Stepan, Wisconsin, forward
Notes: When you're scoring better than a point a game in the WCHA, you're doing pretty well for yourself. Real strong player here, especially offensively and on the forecheck.
Will he make it: Lock it up.

Name/school/position: David Warsofsky, BU, defense
Notes: I must confess that I'm a bit of a Warsofsky fanboy but at least that's based on my seeing his game and being very impressed with it. He's very smart, quick and has great control of the puck. He's got all the tools to be an excellent player at the World Junior level.
Will he make it: He'll make it no problem.

Name/school/position: David Wohlberg, Michigan, forward
Notes: He's fourth on the Wolverines in scoring but that's not saying much this year. Nine points from 14 games isn't anything to write home about, but he was a defensive player for pretty much all of his junior career so any offense he contributes is a bit of an added bonus.
Will he make it: I'd say he probably does.

Oh, and for those Canadian fans wondering: Harvard's Louis Leblanc will be the only college player on your team.

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Pop quiz

In which I ask a blogger five questions about the team they follow. I realized that this feature has been criminally lacking in the ECAC talk so here is Tom Reale of my favorite ECAC blog, "Without a Peer," which covers RPI.

Are you surprised at the overall strength of the ECAC this year?

Not too much. I think coming in most observers thought that Princeton and Harvard would be better than they have been so far, and I think Colgate, RPI, Union, and especially Quinnipiac have taken a lot of people by surprise. Personally, I'm not terribly surprised by the first three, but Quinnipiac has been far, far better than even I expected. Easily the biggest surprise of the league.

The ECAC has certainly been up and down since the Hockey East split in the mid-80s, and has been down more often than not in the last ten years, but things seem to be picking back up. That's good for the whole league.

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How are you liking Seth Appert behind the bench?

Seth has been a revelation, but it hasn't been without a certain amount of agita among some of the RPI faithful. The first three years of his reign were difficult, to be sure, but it's always going to be tough when you're just coming on board and instituting a new system. Some people have been upset that it's taken a while to get up out of the basement. As he's gotten more of his own recruits onto the team, the excitement has been building.

You don't have to look far to see similar things happening -- when George Roll took over at Clarkson, he had a rough first three years, but in his fourth year, finally working almost entirely with his own recruits, he had the team back in the NCAA tournament, and in year five they were on the doorstep of the Frozen Four. We think Seth has the potential to do the same, on a similar timetable.

Is having two freshmen, Brandon Pirri and Jerry D'Amigo, scoring almost a point a game a function of their linemates or what?

We were very, very excited when we first heard that Brandon and Jerry were coming to Troy. The news came down just days apart in the summer of 2008, and knowing that they were on their way made last year's tribulations easier to swallow. They're the real deal. Pirri was selected in the second round of this year's Entry Draft by Chicago, and D'Amigo was chosen in the sixth round by Toronto. They were even semi well-known before they even got to RPI -- Pirri got a standing ovation from the student section when he made an appearance at RPI's last home game last season.

They've featured on an all freshman line with Marty O'Grady known as "The People's Line," so to some extent they've definitely fed off each other. They're electric out there on the ice - fast, with excellent puckhandling and passing skills. Only 15 games into their freshman year and they're already crowd favorites.

Hence, "the People's Line."

Starting out 3-1 in conference isn't bad for such a young team. Think it can do damage come ECAC tourney time?

We're being cautiously optimistic right now. The team played very well in the early league games, and the next three league games (in the next six days) will tell us a lot about what this team is capable of within the ECAC. We tend to think this team has what it takes to be among the best in the league, and at this point I think we have to be shooting for a first-round bye. We've got some extra motivation this year, since we've never been to the tournament semifinals since they moved just nine miles down Interstate 787 to Albany, and this is our last chance to do so before they move again to Atlantic City.

As optimistic as we are, though, we really can't wait until next season...

Finally, what's with you hating Cornell?

There are both historic and contemporary reasons for RPI fans to have a bit of a sneering attitude toward Cornell. It dates back to the 1960s, when legendary coach Ned Harkness left RPI, where he'd won a national title, for Cornell, where he won two more.

More recently, Cornell has been, by and large, the most consistently good team in the league, and that's going to put a target on your back anyway. There have been more than a few events in recent RPI-Cornell games that have only stoked the fire even more. Overall, more than a few Engineer partisans are grumpy about Cornell's success through what we perceive to be a clutch-and-grab strategy that seems to have nabbed them a ton of wins but tends to create a boring hockey game. We've always preferred to lose to a straight-up talented hockey team than lose to a system.

Plus, since we've got them this week... well, it's their turn, isn't it?

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Extra credit

• One Islander/Cornell fan made a point to go see BU play the Big Red at Madison Square Garden last weekend where, "no riots followed the game ending in a tie." He also has a look at BU's Corey Trivino, who's an Islander draft pick. [Islanders Outsider]

• For North Dakota, no news on Chay Genoway is bad news. He's going to be out awhile it appears. [UND Hockey blog]

• This might be the start of BU's big run back to being a .500 hockey club. For the first time this season, everyone is healthy. Grant Rollheiser, Luke Popko, Nick Bonino, David Warsofsky, Chris Connolly and Alex Chiasson have all missed time with injury this year, and a couple more guys have missed time for other reasons. The Terriers will attempt to right the ship with home games against Vermont and BC this weekend. [Daily Free Press]

• With Denver being so good, two players, one of whom is a senior, aren't happy to be the odd men out. [All Things Colorado Sports]

• There are two big surprises on the national scene this year. The first is Dean Blais turning the Nebraska-Omaha program around. They were sub-.500 last season but are off to a 7-4-3 start and No. 18 in the country. [CHN]

• The second big surprise is the fourth-ranked(!) Quinnipiac Bobcats. After going 18-18-3 last year, they're already 12-1-0 including a positively wild overtime win over then-No. 10 UMass last weekend and they lead college hockey in offense. [NEHJ] (P.S. This article was written by Alan Ginsberg! Oh it's not the Allen Ginsberg? Rats.)

• You wanna see funny? Watch Don Lucia try to make his team's 5-8-1 record look anything besides terrible. "And we are 3-5 at home that's what has let us down more than anything else. If you even split the Denver and split the UMD series, then all of a sudden you are sitting in decent shape considering with the injuries and some of the things we have had to go through this season." I worry that this amount of spin will cause the Earth to go start rotating in the opposite direction like in Superman: The Movie. [Goal Gophers!]

• And finally, a night after thoroughly beating No. 3 Lowell on the road, Maine dropped a 10-spot on St. Lawrence last Saturday. Ten. [Bangor Daily News]

(Hey guys, I'm always looking for links here. If you have a college hockey post on your blog, please send it along to the address below.)

Ryan Lambert writes about college hockey weekly here at Puck Daddy. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter.