Monday, August 8, 2011

Scouting the Ivan Hlinka Tournament

While the World Junior Championship summer camp gets underway in Lake Placid (with no RPI representation this year as Jerry D'Amigo has aged out of the tournament), Seth Appert and the Team USA U-18 selects are underway in the annual Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, which takes place in the Czech Republic and Slovakia every season.

This year, Team USA highlights some of the best players born in 1994 - some, not all, since defenseman Seth Jones is in Lake Placid looking to potentially earn a slot on the WJC roster. Traditionally, USA Hockey uses the Hlinka as an opportunity for younger standouts to get international tournament experience.

RPI defenseman recruit Chris Bradley, who is expected to join the Engineers in 2012, was a member of last year's silver medal winning team, so there's some recent history - he committed to RPI about six weeks after that tournament ended.

There's no doubt that Coach Appert's number one priority in this tournament is a gold medal for his country - as well it should be. But, of course, if he happens to make a good impression on a young, talented, uncommitted young hockey player... all the better.

First off, most of the roster is already accounted for. Three are already playing major junior, so they can be scratched off the list. Another 12 have already committed to schools, although only one school (BC) has two recruits on the roster (Ted Doherty and Brendan Silk).

RPI, in the past, was linked to at least one player on the roster - Cristoval "Boo" Nieves, who hails from near Syracuse. We'll likely never know exactly how close we came to landing him, he chose Michigan way back in September 2009 (at the age of 15).

So with that said... these players listed below are not inherently linked to RPI. Just because a player is good doesn't mean he's the type of guy who's going to make it in Troy - there are a number of elements, including academics and personality, that go into an Engineer and that's something we just aren't privy to. This is more just an examination of who's out there.

G Cal Petersen (Waterloo, USHL)
6'2", 179
Petersen does have the basic size that Appert looks for in a goaltender, but even if he's the right fit, the goaltender position can depend much more upon who's already on the roster, and in this case, there are already a pair of young goalies who will be coming in soon in Scott Diebold and Jason Kasdorf. It's possible Petersen (or another '94) could replace Merriam in 2013, but there'll already be two solid goaltenders on the roster.

D Justin Wade (Fargo, USHL)
6'2", 210
Of all of the uncommitted players on the roster, Wade might just be the one that would fit into Appert's system in Troy the best. Frame-wise, a bigger version of Bradley, and scout Dan Sallows calls him a "prototypical shut-down defenseman." That kind of play, plus his size, make him just the type of defenseman Appert has been trying to stock the blueline with. Sounds like Wisconsin is pretty big into him.

F Luke Johnson (Central HS, North Dakota)
5'11", 165
Johnson may or may not return to Central for his junior season, as he may choose instead to join the Lincoln Stars of the USHL, but it's worth noting that Central is in Grand Forks, and his father was a standout for the Sioux. Basically, they get the right of first refusal here.

F Sam Kurker (St. John's Prep, Massachusetts)
6'2", 200
Kurker is almost certainly on RPI's radar at the very least - he told the Boston Globe in March that academics are very important to him and that he was stressing the SAT because of Ivy League concerns. Throw in the fact that his father played for Union in Division III in the 1980s, and he's got local connections. As a big, physical scoring threat, he'd be a great addition in Troy if the stars align correctly (and a nice tit-for-tat since Union's got a player in Josh Jooris whose father played at RPI), but he does seem destined for the ECAC at any rate.

F Tim Lappin (Tri-City, USHL)
6'0, 175
Lappin has impressed in the Tier I Elites with the Chicago Mission, and was slated to be teammates with Scott Diebold this year in Tri-City before Diebold diverted to Troy instead. Lappin has been on scouts' radar for some time (going back as far as 2008), though there's not an awful lot of information out there on the Internet about him, other than that he does seem to prefer college over the major junior route according to the Tri-City press release about his selection.

F Jordan Masters (Muskegon, USHL)
5'11", 160
There could potentially be some interest here as well, since Masters is from the Rochester area, and as with D'Amigo, Bradley, and Nieves, Appert clearly isn't afraid to go for top talent from within the state. He's certainly got room to fill out since he's a bit of a stick figure (unless USA Hockey is just using his vitals from a year ago), but this is definitely a kid with scoring talent.

F Louie Nanne (Edina HS, Minnesota)
5'10", 170
Name look familiar? It should. His grandfather is Lou Nanne, one of the biggest stars of the 1960s for the Golden Gophers, captain of the 1968 US Olympic team, hero of the Minnesota North Stars for 10 years, followed by 10 years as North Stars GM, and he was one of the architects of the Miracle on Ice. In other words, don't worry, he's got Gophers written all over him.

Team USA has an exhibition game against the Czech Republic and a tournament game against Finland already under their belts. Tomorrow they face Russia, and Wednesday they face the hosts Slovakia. If they advance, the semifinal game is on Friday, with the gold and bronze medal games on Saturday, so it's a bit of a whirlwind tournament.

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