MINNEAPOLIS -- Goalie Thatcher Demko and defenseman Anthony DeAngelo certainly weren't out of place this past week at U.S. National Junior Team selection camp here on the campus of the University of Minnesota.
Both are considered A-rated players on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft and were involved in a regular rotation during four practice sessions at the camp held at Mariucci Arena this week.
The only difference is Boston College freshman Demko will be traveling with the team when selection camp continues in Sweden beginning Thursday while DeAngelo will be returning to the Ontario Hockey League's Sarnia Sting. DeAngelo was informed of his release Wednesday morning as the U.S. managerial team pared its roster to 26 players.
It appears as though the United States will opt to keep all three goalies for the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden. Of the three, Jon Gillies (Providence College; Calgary Flames) would appear to be the frontrunner as the starter against the Czech Republic on Dec. 26. That would leave Demko and Anthony Stolarz (London Knights, OHL; Philadelphia Flyers) battling for the backup role.
"We're good friends but at the same time everyone wants to play so, at the end of the day, [all three goalies] have the same goal," Demko told NHL.com. "We don't care who's in net, so long as we're winning. But we all want to be in there, so it'll be a battle until the first game out in Malmo."
Demko is the youngest player participating in the NCAA ranks. He was the second-youngest (after 2015 draft-eligible center Jack Eichel) invited to USA Hockey's selection camp and is 4-1-1 with a 2.31 goals-against average and .911 save percentage for the Eagles in Hockey East.
"He has a history of playing up a level," U.S. assistant coach David Lassonde told NHL.com. "When he was midget age he was playing junior, and now he's a young freshman at BC so it doesn't surprise me with the success he's had. He's very competitive and a student of the game, and wants to get better. His preparation reflects that. He's not one of those kids that you have to remind, 'If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail,' since his preparation is good."
DeAngelo's situation was a little more tenuous, considering the Philadelphia native was one of nine defensemen invited to camp.
"Anthony has an opportunity next year as a 1995 [birth year]; he has a high skill level and can move the puck," U.S. coach Don Lucia said. "We just felt that we had some guys that could play that role right now with our team who were a bit bigger and stronger."
Demko believes DeAngelo has all the tools necessary to make the team in 2015.
"We've been friends for a while, playing together for maybe four years in the summers in various tournaments," Demko said. "I think he's very good and dynamic, brings a lot offensively and has always been working really hard on his defensive game. I noticed he's made strides this season, even from summer camp in that area of his game; he looks a lot better defensively, and even offensively."
DeAngelo earned an assist on a power-play goal by Ian McCoshen (Boston College; Florida Panthers) against Minnesota State University during a 3-2 overtime victory in the exhibition opener for the team in Mankato on Tuesday.
"He has a high skill level, but has to learn to move the puck a little bit quicker," Lucia said. "He's playing on a team [in Sarnia] where he probably has the puck a lot and has to make a lot of plays by himself. That's one of the things he'll learn and grow into as a player. I think he can take his game to another level."
Returning U.S. forward Riley Barber (Miami University; Washington Capitals) said DeAngelo will come back next year even more determined. The 5-foot-10.75, 175-pound right-handed shot leads all defensemen in the league with 37 assists and 46 points in 30 games. He's also notched five power-play goals and one shorthanded goal.
"Anthony's got tremendous offensive skills and is unbelievable on the power play; he's going to be great player and will be a big player in this tournament next year," Barber told NHL.com.
RISE OF THE VEE
Though the British Columbia Hockey League might not get the attention as some of the other major junior hockey leagues across the globe, defenseman Brett Beauvais is certainly gaining steam as a player to watch for the Penticton Vees.
Beauvais, a 5-foot-11.25, 181-pound left-handed shot, is committed to Bemidji State University in 2014-15. He's ranked fifth in the league with 46 points and ranks first with 37 assists. He also has six goals and 25 points on the power play and has one shorthanded goal.
"He's an interesting prospect," NHL director of Central Scouting Dan Marr told NHL.com. "He's a good puck moving D-man who likes to lead and join the rush. He's got good jump with skating to pounce on pucks and quick offensive instincts. He has a strong history of putting up numbers and has the tools with which to further development while at Bemidji State [next season]. He'd be a nice late consideration to put in the bank."
Beauvais was added as a C-rated player on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list.
BIG TEN EXPLOSION
There's a lot to get excited about when it comes to hockey in the Big Ten Conference.
Particularly in the state of Michigan where five players, including three from the University of Michigan, were given a C rating by NHL Central Scouting as a potential fourth-, fifth-, or sixth-round candidate for the 2014 draft.
For the Wolverines, forwards Evan Allen and Alex Kile and goalie Zachary Nagelvoort were listed. Meanwhile, forwards Thomas Ebbing and William Haag from Michigan State University were given identical honors.
"We've had some good contributions from our freshmen, from the goalies all the way to the forwards, so it's going well," Michigan freshman forward J.T. Compher (Buffalo Sabres) told NHL.com. "It's always nice to have freshmen helping the team."
Compher, recently released from the U.S. National Junior Team select camp roster after he sustained a broken left foot blocking a shot during practice, provided his own scouting report on Allen.
"The first thing you notice about Evan's game is he has a bomb of a shot and it shows on our power play when you get the puck to him at the left half wall; we try and get him the one-timer," Compher told said. "He's a hard-working kid. He's playing well this year and I know him from the National Team Development Program [in Ann Arbor] as well since we played on the same line.
"We actually have an all-freshman line with me, Tyler Motte and Evan. It was going pretty well too."
Allen has two goals and three points in 10 games this season. Kile has one goal and three points in 12 games.
Central Scouting's Al Jensen acknowledged Nagelvoort has relied heavily on his positional play. It's worked out well, too. Nagelvoort has a 1.67 goals-against average and .944 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Wolverines.
"He's got good size [6-foot-2, 190 pounds] and has a good blocking style," Jensen said. "He has a very good extended butterfly and is tough to beat down low. Technically, he moves well, has strong legs and a good stance. He did allow a lot of big rebounds with his pads, but I still like his presence. He's also got a good glove hand."
Haag, a native of Gothenburg, Sweden, has five goals, eight points and a plus-2 rating in 14 games and Ebbing has one goal, six points and 12 blocked shots in 15 games for the Spartans this season.
"Ebbing plays on a skill line and is quick and fast," Central Scouting's Greg Rajanen told NHL.com. "I like his compete and smarts. He has solid puck play; he might be a bit undersized [5-11, 170] but there's a good chance he'll be drafted if the points keep coming.
"Haag [6-1, 200] is a thick kid who moves pretty well. He's got quick hands and has some finish."
PROSPECTS ON THE RISE
1. Brett Lernout, Swift Current Broncos (WHL): The C-rated defenseman on NHL Central Scouting's December players to watch list is in his third full season in the Western Hockey League and second with the Broncos. In 38 games, the 6-foot-4, 206-pound right-handed shot has four goals, 12 points and 74 penalty minutes.
"He's a big kid, tough and nasty," Central Scouting's B.J. MacDonald told NHL.com. "He's hard to play against and a good physical presence. He just needs to keep his game simple and safe to be effective at this point. His puck movement is safe and adequate, and he's able to box out forwards well in front of his own goal. His mobility should improve over the course of the season with playing time. I think he has good upside and I can see someone possibly stepping up and taking him earlier than projected."
2. Matias Mattsson, Lukko Jr. (FIN): The 6-0, 178-pound defenseman has improved greatly this season and was recently added as a C-rated player on Central Scouting's international players to watch list from Finland. He's currently playing for Lukko Under-20.
"I especially like his aggressiveness and tough style of play," NHL director of European Scouting Goran Stubb said. "He can really hit and those hits are clean and in the open ice."
3. Kevin Spinozzi, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL): The recent C-rated defenseman to Central Scouting's players to watch list has picked up his play in his second OHL season. He has established career highs across the board with two goals, 10 points and a plus-13 rating in 34 games for the Greyhounds. Spinozzi was chosen in the second round (No. 34) by the Greyhounds in the 2012 OHL priority selection draft.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL
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