MINNEAPOLIS -- Brady Skjei and and Hudson Fasching entered United States National Junior Team selection camp this week with different perspectives.
Skjei was one of the final players to be cut from last year's team that won a gold medal at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship in Ufa, Russia. Fasching, a power forward, is in the midst of his first collegiate season and taking his first crack at making the U.S. roster.
One thing they have in common: They play for U.S. coach Don Lucia at the University of Minnesota.
But if you think that gives them a leg up on the 27 other players hoping to make this year's U.S. team, you would be wrong. Lucia once coached his son, Tony, with the Gophers and said on several occasions his relationship with him made it more difficult to play him on scoring lines or the power play or penalty kill.
Though Skjei and Fasching aren't relatives, it's safe to say the same approach will apply when Lucia and U.S. general manager Jim Johannson sit down to try to come up with the final names that will compete for the United States next week in Malmo, Sweden.
"It's a combination of what guys did in Lake Placid (during summer evaluation camp), what guys have done over the first half with their team, so you have to use some of that," Lucia said. "It's their body of work as much as anything."
Fasching caught his coach's eye in Lake Placid, before he ever played a game for him at Minnesota. At 6-foor-2 and 207 pounds Fasching, a fourth-round pick (No. 118) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2013 NHL Draft, has the size to get to the front of the net and the skill to score from anywhere.
"I thought he had an outstanding camp," Lucia said. "He played at tremendous pace, he played physical on the puck, and he's continued to do that for us [with the Golden Gophers]. He's a point-a-game guy and they're all 5-on-5, so he's been able to have his success 5-on-5 and that's what he'll have to continue to do [with the U.S. team]."
For his part, Fasching said he's just trying to keep it simple and said he understands the opportunity he has to become a better hockey player. With many high-end players in camp, they will have to adapt to roles they don't play with their own teams. Fasching understands that.
"I'm just really excited to be here. I'm looking to try and make the team, find a role and have some fun," he said.
USA SELECTION CAMP ROSTER
GOALIES: *Jon Gillies, Providence College, HEA (Calgary); Anthony Stolarz, London, OHL (Philadelphia); Thatcher Demko, Boston College, HEA (2014 draft eligible)
DEFNSEMEN: Matthew Grzelcyk, Boston University, HEA (Boston); Brady Skjei, University of Minnesota, Big Ten (New York Rangers); Ian McCoshen, Boston College, HEA (Florida); Steven Santini, Boston College, HEA (New Jersey); Brett Pesce, University of New Hampshire, HEA (Carolina); Anthony DeAngelo, Sarnia, OHL (2014); Will Butcher, University of Denver, NCHC (Colorado); Connor Carrick, Plymouth, OHL (Washington); Jaccob Slavin, Colorado College, NCHC (Carolina).
FORWARDS: Nicolas Kerdiles, University of Wisconsin, Big Ten (Anaheim); Adam Erne, Quebec, QMJHL (Tampa Bay); Stefan Matteau, Rimouski, QMJHL (New Jersey); Thomas Di Pauli, University of Notre Dame, HEA (Washington); Tyler Motte, University of Michigan, Big Ten (Chicago); Daniel O'Regan, Boston University, HEA (San Jose); Jack Eichel, USA U-18, USHL (2015 draft eligible); Andrew Copp, University of Michigan, Big Ten (Winnipeg); J.T. Compher, University of Michigan, Big Ten (Buffalo); Quentin Shore, University of Denver, NCHC (Ottawa); *Ryan Hartman, Plymouth, OHL (Chicago); *Riley Barber, Miami University, NCHC (Washington); Hudson Fasching, University of Minnesota, Big Ten (Los Angeles); Henrik Samuelsson, Edmonton, WHL (Phoenix); Ryan Fitzgerald, Boston College, HEA (Boston); Vince Hinostroza, University of Notre Dame, HEA (Chicago); Zach Stepan, Minnesota State University, WCHA (Nashville).
*- Returning player
Skjei was in the same position last season.
A 6-foot-3, 206-pound defenseman from Lakeville, Minn., Skjei has international experience after playing for the United States in the 2012 Under-18 World Championships, helping that team win a gold medal. He won't score many points but he's elite in his own end (he was a tournament best plus-10 in six games in the U-18 tournament).
The 2012 first-round pick (No. 28) by the New York Rangers has approached this week with a business-like attitude in his final quest to make this team.
"I'm a lot more confident with the puck," Skjei said. "Keep it simple, make the smart play and use my skating to my advantage. All around, I think I'm a better player."
Skjei and Fasching may not have the easy-in some people would expect with Lucia as their coach, but they said they do have other built-in advantages.
Though several members of the U.S. team were delayed on the East Coast in an attempt to arrive at camp Sunday, the two Minnesota players were able to relax comfortably at home and on campus. Instead of packing a big bag and hitting the road, Skjei and Fasching simply moved their gear down the hall at Mariucci Arena. Those are just the off-ice bonuses.
"The first day was hectic," Fasching said. "We're putting drills together, guys are trying to get their legs going, and I'm familiar with all the drills. I know his coaching style and the kinds of things he wants to see out of us. It makes me feel more comfortable."
Skjei agreed, saying he was able to take charge a bit more from a leadership role.
"In practice I know the drills and can help communicate that with everybody," Skjei said. "I the know way [Lucia] likes to play; he likes to play hard and smart. So I think I can relay things to players and kind of be a messenger."
Perhaps the most important message Skjei had is one Fasching would be smart to heed. It's what's driven him to put his best effort forward this week while his Gophers teammates take some much-deserved time off.
"Last year was tough," Skjei said. "It really makes you realize how bad you want to be on this team. I'm going to do whatever it takes to make it this year."