Mark Osiecki has been an assistant coach with the United States at the World Junior Championship on three occasions. The U.S. has won a medal each time.
This year Osiecki is in charge, and he'll get his first look at some of the players he'll have on his roster at the 2015 WJC at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y. The camp will run Aug. 2-9, and feature practices and games against Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic.
Osiecki won gold medals working on the staff of Dean Blais in 2010 in Saskatoon and Phil Housley in 2013 in Russia, as well as a bronze as an assistant to Keith Allain in Buffalo in 2011. He told NHL.com that his team-building formula will blend what he learned from each of his former bosses.
"There's a lot of different ways and different personalities that can work," Osiecki said. "I was in Lake Placid a couple different times but not on the staff with Ron Rolston, saw how he handled things, then worked with Dean Blais, Keith Allain and Phil Housley, and they're all different in how they approached it. A lot of different ways worked well. That's what's going to be interesting about this team going into it. "
The 42 players at the camp include six who were part of the Americans' fifth-place finish at the 2014 WJC in Malmo, Sweden: defensemen Will Butcher, Ian McCoshen and Steven Santini; forwards Hudson Fasching and Jack Eichel; and goaltender Thatcher Demko (forward Adam Erne was invited to camp but will not attend due to injury).
Demko, a 2014 second-round pick (No. 36) of the Vancouver Canucks, could be the most important of the returnees. The 18-year-old was the third goaltender last year and didn't play any games, but will enter camp as the front-runner to be the starter.
"You want a guy to take the net," Jim Johansson, the assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey and the general manager of the 2015 WJC team, told NHL.com. "You want him to command the net and show that it's his net and exude that confidence in his game. Solid play and consistent play from a goaltender makes your team so much better. Your defense can play with more confidence, they're not afraid to give up a shot. ... Thatcher has a great track record with the national team and the [WJC] presents the next challenge. There'll be other guys challenging him for that spot but you have to look at his track record and hope he commands the net."
Another return player to watch is Eichel, a 17-year-old center expected to be one of the first players picked at the 2015 NHL Draft. He had one goal and four assists in five games at the 2014 WJC and will be expected to at least match that output at the 2015 tournament.
"Jack Eichel is an offensive player, and we have to hold him accountable offensively," Osiecki said. "He's a special player and we have to lean on him offensively to be that difference maker, be a player that can make everyone around him better; offensively for sure."
Eichel is one of three 2015 draft-eligible players at the camp, along with defenseman Brandon Carlo and forward Kyle Connor.
The most intriguing player could be 16-year-old right wing Auston Matthews, who is a top prospect for the 2016 draft. He had 12 goals and 17 points with the United States National Team Development Program under-18 team last season; those numbers would have been higher but he also played 24 games with the U-17 team. He also tied for the team lead with five goals in seven games to help the United States win the gold medal at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship.
"He's very mature," Osiecki said. "He does not seem like the age that he is; he seems older and he carries himself older. … He's got good size, he's a good skater, a special player. It's going to be interesting to see how he does.
"He's going to fit in I would assume just fine. It's going to be interesting to see how he stacks up when he's going in against 19- and 20-year-olds."
At 6-foot and 198 pounds Matthews brings size with his skill. That size/skill mix is something the U.S. will have with a few other forwards at camp, including Eichel (6-1, 191), Fasching (6-2, 213), Michael McCarron (6-5, 237) and Alex Tuch (6-3, 215).
"It is an advantage," Osiecki said. "If you can play big, it's a big man's game. If you have that ability and you're fortunate enough to have that skill level, and all of a sudden you can complement it with their size, that's a huge advantage. … A lot of these kids play very big, they play strong. They're not afraid to go in and win the battles in the corners and net fronts."
Osiecki will bring the sum total of his coaching experience with him to Lake Placid. However, he said he'll likely leave his two WJC championship rings at home; he said a chance to play in the 2015 tournament should be enough motivation to get the players through the week.
"We want to try to identify what our identity is going to be," Osiecki said. "I don't think we as coaches can go in there and dictate what that's going to be. I think it can evolve on what kind of personality we're going to have. … To go there and spend nine, 10 days and try to get to know these kids, get to know their personalities, that should be fun."
Follow Adam Kimelman on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
USA HOCKEY NATIONAL JUNIOR EVALUATION CAMP ROSTER
GOALTENDERS: Brendan Burke, Portland, WHL (Phoenix Coyotes); ^Evan Cowley, Denver, NCHC (Florida Panthers); Thatcher Demko, Boston College, H-EAST (Vancouver Canucks); Brandon Halverson, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL (New York Rangers); *Alex Nedeljkovic, Plymouth, OHL (Carolina Hurricanes).
DEFENSEMEN: Louis Belpedio, USNTDP, USHL (Minnesota Wild); Mike Brodzinski, Minnesota, BIG TEN (San Jose Sharks); Will Butcher, Denver, NCHC (Colorado Avalanche); Brandon Carlo, Tri-City, WHL (2015 draft eligible); Connor Clifton, Quinnipiac, ECAC (Arizona Coyotes); Ryan Collins, USNTDP, USHL (Columbus Blue Jackets); Jack Dougherty, USNTDP, USHL (Nashville Predators); Michael Downing, Michigan, BIG TEN (Florida Panthers); Anthony Florentino, Providence, Hockey East (Buffalo Sabres); Clint Lewis, Cornell, ECAC (2015 draft eligible); Ian McCoshen, Boston College, Hockey East (Florida Panthers); Steven Santini, Boston College, Hockey East (New Jersey Devils); Scott Savage, Boston College, Hockey East (2015 draft eligible); Thomas Vannelli, Medicine Hat, WHL (St. Louis Blues).
FORWARDS: Anders Bjork, USNTDP, USHL (Boston Bruins); Taylor Cammarata, Minnesota, BIG TEN (N.Y. Islanders); *Cole Cassels, Oshawa, OHL, (Vancouver Canucks); J.T. Compher, Michigan, BIG TEN (Buffalo Sabres); Kyle Connor, Youngstown, USHL (2015 draft eligible); Chase DeLeo, Portland, WHL (Winnipeg Jets); Jack Eichel, USNTDP, USHL (2015 draft eligible); *Adam Erne, Quebec, QMJHL (Tampa Bay Lightning); Hudson Fasching, Minnesota, BIG TEN (Buffalo Sabres); John Hayden, Yale, ECAC, (Chicago Blackhawks); ^Ryan Hitchcock, Yale, ECAC (2015 draft eligible); Connor Hurley, Green Bay, USHL (Buffalo Sabres); Keegan Iverson, Portland, WHL (New York Rangers); Dylan Larkin, USNTDP, USHL (Detroit Red Wings); Vinni Lettieri, Minnesota, BIG TEN (2014 draft eligible); Anthony Louis, Miami, ECAC (Chicago Blackhawks); Ryan MacInnis, Kitchener, OHL (Arizona Coyotes); Sean Malone, Harvard, ECAC (Buffalo Sabres); Auston Matthews, USNTDP, USHL (2016 draft eligible); Michael McCarron, London, OHL (Montreal Canadiens); Sonny Milano, USNTDP, USHL (Columbus Blue Jackets); Tyler Motte, Michigan, BIG TEN (Chicago Blackhawks); ^Austin Poganski, Tri-City, USHL (St. Louis Blues); Nick Schmaltz, Green Bay, USHL (Chicago Blackhawks); Alex Tuch, USNTDP, USHL (Minnesota Wild); Dominic Turgeon, Portland, WHL (Detroit Red Wings).
*- injured and unable to compete
^- injury replacement
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