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McLennan impressed with crop of U.S. goaltenders

by Adam Kimelman

NHL Network analyst Jamie McLennan spent parts of 11 seasons playing goalie in the NHL with five teams from 1993 to 2007. And at 6-foot and 207 pounds, he said he considered himself "a big guy."

But while watching the goaltenders USA Hockey invited to Lake Placid, N.Y., last week for a summer evaluation camp geared toward picking the players that will play for the United States at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, he didn't feel so big.

"Being a 6-foot goaltender I thought I was a big guy," McLennan said. "Today I'd be a shrimp. Everyone is 6-2 and up and that's what teams draft."

All four goaltenders at the camp each stood 6-foot-3 or taller, but it was Thatcher Demko, the biggest of the four at 6-4 and 192 pounds, who stood out the most to McLennan.

Demko, selected by the Vancouver Canucks in the second round (No. 36) of the 2014 NHL Draft, arrived to camp as the expected No. 1 goalie for the 2015 WJC, and by the end of the camp those feelings hadn't changed. In between, however, he hit a few bumps, allowing eight goals on 27 shots in parts of three games. But his best effort came in his first full game when he stopped 23 of 24 shots in a 7-1 win against Sweden. He also stopped all nine shots he faced in one period against the Czech Republic on the final day of camp.

More than the skill set Demko displayed, it was the way he carried himself that impressed McLennan.

"He's a big guy and he's confident," McLennan said. "When you watch a goaltender, sometimes the way they carry themselves … it's impressive. He looked like a seasoned vet. You're going to allow goals; you're going to allow bad goals in your progression. You'll learn a lot. His mechanics are really good, he's got good feet, his positioning is strong. But for me it's the way he carries himself, the poise in the net. I saw Carey Price at a young age, that type of poise. I don't want to compare anybody, but if you have that type of confidence and that aura around you, there's a few starting goaltenders that I've watched at a young age and the way they carry themselves, and Thatcher has that."

Brandon Halverson (6-4, 176) allowed five goals on 51 shots in parts of four games in Lake Placid. His best performance came against Finland in the Americans' second-to-last game, stopping 16 of 17 shots in a 9-1 win.

Though Halverson wasn't tested much, what impressed McLennan was the New York Rangers prospect's ability to stay focused during long stretches of inactivity.

"When play was coming down to his end, even though he wasn't facing shots, he was set in the net," McLennan said. "You could see him set his position; he was very locked in and focused. That's tough to do when you're blowing out a team. It's 5-0 and you're not facing high-quality chances and you come down and there's a broken play and he makes a save."

Brendan Burke (6-3, 176), a 2013 sixth-round pick (No. 163) of the Arizona Coyotes, was also solid, allowing four goals on 40 shots in parts of four games, and capped the camp with nine saves on nine shots in the final two periods of the Americans' 3-0 win against the Czech Republic on the final day of camp.

He also is the son of former NHL goalie and current Coyotes goaltending coach and assistant to the general manager Sean Burke; McLennan said he could see some of the father's play in the younger Burke.

"Burke has raw talent," McLennan said. "When you talk about the skill set, that's what's been impressive for me. Sean definitely works with him. Sean is great with goaltenders that get to know their bodies. One of the strengths of Sean Burke's teaching is he's good with working with big guys, getting them to be efficient with their frame, and Brendan has that. … When you're competitive like Sean was and you have that and you have the skill set to back it up, [Brendan] has got a bright future."


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