The Canada-USA game exceeded expectations.
Team USA showed me a lot tonight with the way they were aggressive all night and didn't play it conservatively. They played to win and almost pulled it off.
Cam Fowler is a legitimate NHL prospect after the job he did on Taylor Hall tonight in completely shutting him down in the third period especially, and playing a very good two-way game overall. That loping stride of his doesn't make him look all that fast, but his pivots and turns are gorgeous. He could probably stand to work on his shot's velocity a bit, but he has no problem moving laterally along the point to uncork it, and he does have a good release. His first-pass ability is excellent as well. He needs to improve his assertiveness, but that will come with time and maturity, and I did see him stepping up and making his presence known at crunch time late.
Jack Campbell had some very nice moments, but he'd obviously like that tying goal to Alex Pietrangelo back. His glove is a strength, and the shorthanded shot beat him high to the glove side. He made a huge stop in OT on Eberle who broke in alone with about 25 seconds left. Unfortunately, he never recovered from the Eberle shootout shot that he initially got a piece of, but that hit the post, bounced down onto his back and into the net on Canada's first attempt. He gave up a multi-deke to Nazem Kadri and then was beaten cleanly by Brandon Kozun. So, on paper, Campbell didn't look so good, but he showed off his athleticism and poise for the most part and came up on the short end tonight. His future looks pretty good to me.
Jason Zucker, the youngest member of Team USA, who is just 1 week younger than Campbell, had a strong game even though he didn't show up on the scoresheet. The Nevadan is a fine skater who possesses good skills, but also seems to know what to do whenever he's out there. You don't see a lot of panic in him, and he plays with a maturity and confidence beyond his years. He's a strong candidate to go in the second round of the NHL draft in June if he continues to progress.
Tyler Johnson was named best U.S. forward and he deserved it. His pass sprang Jordan Schroeder on the first shorthanded goal, and then Johnson himself finished off Jerry D'Amigo's chance in the waning seconds of the middle frame. The Spokane, Wash. native who plays for his hometown Chiefs of the WHL and has not been drafted. Maybe the small (5-9, 165-pounds) forward is playing his way into getting his name called in June. He's still eligible.
Well, the end result was disappointing for Team America fans, but these guys gave the Canadian juggernaut a scare tonight. You can bet Canada's players have a healthy respect for this squad from south of the border. Let's hope there's a rematch, but first- USA has to get past Finland.
That's a wrap on 2009, folks. The next time I post, we'll be in 2010 and approaching the six-month mark until the draft.
So, I'll see you next year! Which, by the way, happens to be in about 10 minutes.Time to go watch the fiesta in Times Square.