On Tuesday the U.S. Junior Evaluation Camp cut its roster down to 27 players, a list that included Minnesota Wild prospects and 2014 draft picks Alex Tuch and Louie Belpedio. The 27-player roster played the first of three remaining games last night, beating Sweden 7-1.
Tuch, the Wild’s first round draft pick (18th overall), netted a hat trick on the night.
His first tally came on the power play as he swatted in a rebound off a J.T. Compher shot. It was the team’s second power play marker of three they’d score on the night. That power play unit looked fantastic, with top 2015 draft prospect and incoming Boston University freshman Jack Eichel playing playmaker all over the ice on both goals. While he wasn’t the primary assist on the Tuch goal, it’s his move to the point and soft shot between the defender’s legs that gets the play to the far side for the Compher shot. Eichel would finish the night with three assists and a shot.
Both of those first two power play goals were partially the result of Tuch getting his 6-foot-3 frame in front of Swedish goaltender Jonas Johansson. The way he was set up in front of the net, making some heads up moves, maintaining position, and generally being difficult to get out of the goaltender’s line of vision is a little reminiscent of Charlie Coyle, when he’s at his best.
Tuch’s second goal came off a no-look feed from Eichel, who, in case you haven’t heard, is pretty good. Eichel, who played on the U.S. National Under-18 Team last season, scored 38 goals and 49 assists over just 53 games.
Tuch’s third tally came off a breakout feed from World Juniors vet (and the Avalanche’s 2013 fifth round draft pick) Will Butcher. Tuch teed up a slapshot from the boards off the break and completed the hat trick.
With a performance like that, it’s hard to imagine that Tuch won’t find himself on the U.S. team when the World Junior Tournament comes around in December. Fans of the U.S. team should probably hope that you see Eichel and Tuch together on the PP as well. With Eichel’s speed and puck-moving ability paired with Tuch’s size and head’s up play in front of the net, the team has a formidable top unit.
Watch highlights from the game, including Tuch’s hat trick and an interview with the power forward below. Also included is a brief interview with Bloomsfield, MN-native Ryan Collins, who scored two goals in the victory. Collins was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round of the 2014 draft.
The reel ends with a few great saves from Boston College’s Thatcher Demko. The one goal he allowed in the third was a bit reminiscent of this Ilya Bryzgalov classic, but his overall performance was impressive, with one brilliant diving save.
Demko, a 2014 Vancouver draft pick, will return to BC this year and will be playing with Tuch and fellow Wild prospect Adam Gilmour.
The U.S. team faces off against Finland today and the Czech Republic on Sunday. The World Junior tournament begins December 26 in Montreal and Toronto.