GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- One interested observer for the afternoon session here at MSG Training Center was former New York Rangers goaltender Mike Richter.
"I'm used to coaching 12-year-olds," Richter told NHL.com. "It's pretty sweet to see the skill level and the size [of the players]."
Richter said he was impressed by all the players assembled for this week's 2013 World Junior Championship selection camp, but of course he was biased toward the goalies.
"The size is impressive with all these guys, it seems," Richter said. "There's a hell of a lot more to the story than that; there's plenty of big players in the League. These guys know their games so well. The position of goaltending has changed so much over the years. These guys are starting to get in good shape physically. They know the position very, very well. They're truly small professionals. They work on their weaknesses. Lots of them have goalie coaches. They don't go out there and hope the puck hits them. They have strategy and work to perfect it. You're looking at some pretty well-honed players when you look between the pipes. These guys they have out on the ice now are very, very impressive."
Richter also reminisced about his time playing in the WJC. He had an 8.37 goals-against average in three games in 1985 when he was a high school senior. A year later, as a freshman at Yale, he helped the U.S. win its first medal at the tournament, a bronze, as he posted a 2.60 GAA in four games.
"It was just a phenomenal experience," he said. "I was a backup my first year. I was in high school and just getting up to that level was amazing. Just in practice it was an eye-opener how good the players could be at that level. The same thing [the following year], even thought I was in college, you're getting the best of the best at that age group. Adjusting to the level of shots, how fast they came, how the decision-making of the forwards, how quickly you had to be set as a goaltender. It takes a couple days to adjust. And then once you do, you say I feel pretty good about this, you see patterns in the guys you're playing with in practice. Then you go out there and your first game is against Russia or the Czechs and you're like wow, another level up. The intensity is spectacular. These are great opportunities to grow and measure yourself against the world's best at a young age."
Watching the players in practice today gave Richter a positive feeling not just for the hopes of this WJC entry from the United States, but the future of the game.
"These guys are still developing and there's a lot of upside to what you see and they're great right now," he said. "Most of these guys on the team have been drafted, first-round picks, they're really impressive athletes. You're seeing the future of the NHL on the ice right now."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK