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World Juniors

U.S top line at junior camp features plenty of size

Each forward 6-foot-5 or taller; Sweden wing Alexander Nylander stays home

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

PLYMOUTH, Mich. -- One of the top lines for the United States heading into its three games at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp could be its biggest.

During practice Tuesday, the first with a trimmed roster, coach Bob Motkzo had a line that featured 6-foot-6 Logan Brown (Ottawa Senators) at center, 6-6 Jordan Greenway (Minnesota Wild) at left wing and 6-5 Tage Thompson (St. Louis Blues) at right wing.

"You couldn't help but notice how effective they were in controlling the play and being offensive," Motzko said. "They produced. … They took time and space away. They are a physical presence. You gotta look at it."

Brown said he liked how the line looked during the hour and 15 minute practice at USA Hockey Arena.

"It was a pretty big, heavy line," he said. "They harped on being big and there's some skill on the line too. We're all pretty skilled. We made some plays out there but also were able to grind guys out."

Another line that Motzko liked was Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes) centering left wing Kieffer Bellows (New York Islanders) and right wing Kailer Yamamoto, a top prospect for the 2017 NHL Draft. They had been a line at the 2016 IIHF World Under-18 Championship and were reunited with USA White in its 8-2 defeat of Finland on Monday.

"Bellows and Keller have had great chemistry and it continued here," Motzko said. "… Yamamoto got moved in there halfway through the game and was very noticeable because of his speed and his tenacity. There's intrigue there."

Keller said having Yamamoto on his line allows him to be more than just a set-up center.

"Just being with him I've always got to be ready," Keller said. "With Kieffer sometimes he likes to shoot a lot but he scores most of the time so I'm OK with it. Just being more ready because I know [Yamamoto] can give me the puck whenever I give it to him. That's a good feeling. Really special to play with him."

Motzko said he also was looking forward to working with the 11 remaining defenseman. He said the decision to keep that many was a testament to how equal the talent level is.

"Probably the most wide open of the spots and the positions that we have," he said. "And it's the shortest discussion we had about how we've got to keep extra guys around. We've got to be around these guys. We've got to look under the hood more and see what's there."

Motzko said no decision had been made on who would play in goal Wednesday against Sweden (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN), but said whoever it was would play the entire game.

Gauthier questionable -- Canada forward Julien Gauthier (Carolina Hurricanes) did not practice Tuesday and coach Dominique Ducharme said his status is unknown for the remainder of this camp

.

"We'll see," Ducharme said. "Nothing major. We just want to be … it's a precaution. Want to make sure he's going to be OK. We'll evaluate day-to-day. But we can't say right now if he's going to be playing or not. … It's summer hockey. We don't want to jeopardize anything. We're going to be patient. Everything we know right now, it's nothing major."

Canada had its first practice at USA Hockey Arena on Tuesday after three days of work at MasterCard Centre in Toronto. They worked in two sessions, with Team White and Team Red looking a bit different than the previous sessions in Toronto.

"I really like the way they engage," Ducharme said. "They're really tuned in. I like the intensity. I like how they handle themselves. I like that they want to get better every day. We're challenging ourselves on that. They really do a good job at jumping in and doing that and applying what we're trying to do."

Here's how the two teams skated Tuesday:

TEAM WHITE

Pierre-Luc Dubois - Tyson Jost - Zach Senyshyn

Anthony Beauvillier - Brett Howden - Tyler Soy

Lawson Crouse - Nicolas Roy - Mathieu Joseph

Jakob Chychrun - Connor Hobbs

Thomas Chabot - Noah Juulsen

Samuel Girard - Jeremy Roy

Connor Ingram

Evan Cormier

TEAM RED

Graham Knott - Dylan Strome - Mitchell Marner

Dillon Dube - Mitchell Stevens - Travis Konecny

Michael McLeod - Anthony Cirelli - Keegan Kolesar

Deven Sideroff

Mitchell Vande Sompel - Callan Foote

Jake Bean - Dante Fabbro

Jeremy Lauzon - Matthew Spencer

Guillaume Brisebois

Carter Hart

Zachary Sawchenko

Canada plays its first game Wednesday against Finland (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).

School, rest come first for Nylander -- Alexander Nylander was on Sweden's initial camp roster but opted to stay home in Sweden.

"Alex had a really long summer," Sweden coach Tomas Monten said. "Was a lot of traveling before the draft. He had the combine, he went to the Stanley Cup Final. He just felt like he hasn't been practicing the last month. He just got back home, he had to do a couple things in school before he could leave Toronto and go back to Sweden. He landed in Sweden six days before we were going to go over [to Michigan]. He just felt that he was not in shape to be able to come here and compete."

Monten compared Nylander's situation to United States forward Matthew Tkachuk's. Nylander and Tkachuk starred at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship and were 2016 first-round draft picks; Tkachuk selected with pick No. 6 by the Calgary Flames and Nylander with pick No. 8 by the Buffalo Sabres. And like Motzko with Tkachuk, Monten knows what Nylander can bring if he's available for the 2017 WJC.

"I got to see him at the [2016 World] Under-18s, I got to see him at the World Juniors," Monten said. "He's one of the guys that I know where I have him. That's not an issue for us. We had an opportunity to bring someone else to look at, another forward."

Sweden upping its battle level -- Monten believes his team can produce offense, so he shifted focus at practice Tuesday to goal prevention.

The hour and 15 minutes on the ice were spent mostly on improved play and competitiveness in the defensive zone.

"I think we have to improve our defensive part of the game," Monten said. "That's our main focus. Our feeling is we can play with speed and we can create, but we can't give up as many scoring chances as we have the first two games against these type of teams. We won't be able to beat them in the end."

Sweden split its first two games, defeating USA White 6-3 on Sunday and losing 6-4 to USA Blue on Monday.

"We talked about our defensive-zone play, talked about that and especially the areas around the net and what we can do to try to improve our defensive side of the game," Monten said. "I think we gave up way too many shots, way too many scoring chances the first two games. That's a big area of improvement."

Monten said Filip Gustavsson (Pittsburgh Penguins) will start in goal against the U.S. on Wednesday (4 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN). Gustavsson did not play Sunday and was the backup to Adam Werner (Colorado Avalanche) Monday.

Finland finding some energy -- Finland coach Jukka Rautakorpi thought his players looked like they had a bit more energy at practice Tuesday. He hopes that carries over into games, starting Wednesday against Canada (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, TSN).

Finland scored the first goal in both its games but was outscored by a total of 16-3. It lost 8-1 to USA Blue on Sunday and 8-2 to USA White on Monday.

"We need more effort," Rautakorpi said. "Like [Monday], whole first period, second period around 10 minutes, we had a good effort and we played together. It was working. Then we got tired."

Rautakorpi said one of the standouts to him has been Kasper Bjorkqvist (Pittsburgh Penguins), who was the captain Monday.

"I think Kasper is a natural leader on the team," Rautakorpi said. "He's a character player. He looks more like a power forward, playing strong in front of the net. … If you ask the whole team he's a good leader."

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