Penguins Prospect Update
Four participate in USA Junior Evaluation Camp
By Jen Dobias
The IIHF World Junior Championship may be five months away, but four countries have a clearer picture of who will be wearing their colors at the prestigious under-20 tournament in Sweden this winter.
The United States, Finland, Sweden and Canada took part in the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., from Aug. 3-10.
Looking at the rosters, one could find a Pittsburgh Penguins prospect on every team in attendance, as defensemen Olli Määttä and Derrick Pouliot and forwards Oskar Sundqvist and Jake Guentzel had the chance to audition for a coveted spot on their countries’ national junior teams.
In Finland’s first game of the camp on Aug. 4, Määttä notched four assists to help his team to a 6-5 win over USA Blue. He appeared in two more games—a 5-2 loss to USA White on Aug. 5 and a 3-2 win over Sweden on Aug. 10—and finished tied for fourth among all skaters with four points.
The 22nd overall pick of the 2012 NHL draft and a two-time OHL champion with the London Knights, Määttä will vie for a spot on Pittsburgh’s blueline this season at the Penguins’ training camp in September.
Sweden had the best record of the camp, going 3-2 over five games. Sundqvist registered a power play goal during his team’s opening game, a 4-2 win over USA White on Aug. 4. A 2012 third rounder, he also skated in Sweden’s 4-3 win over USA Blue on Aug. 5 and 3-2 loss to Finland.
Like Määttä, Sundqvist will go to Pittsburgh’s training camp. Having spent his career playing in Sweden at various levels in the Skellefteå AIK organization, he will look to make the transition to North American hockey.
To begin the National Junior Evaluation Camp, USA Hockey split its 44-man roster into two teams, USA White and USA Blue. The 18-year-old Guentzel was placed on USA White and tallied an assist in his team’s loss to Sweden.
When USA Hockey trimmed its roster to 31 players on Aug. 6, Guentzel made the cut. The 2013 third round pick played in one of Team USA’s three games, a 4-3 shootout win over Finland on Aug. 8. He skated on the top line and also logged time on the first power play unit.
The 2013 USHL Rookie of the Year, Guentzel is set to begin his collegiate career at the University of Nebraska-Omaha this fall.
Head coach Brent Sutter implemented dramatic changes in the format of Canada’s National Junior Team summer development camp. Instead of holding intrasquad scrimmages, the Canadians traveled to the Lake Placid camp for the first time and played exhibition games against Finland (Aug. 7), Sweden (Aug. 8) and the United States (Aug. 10).
On a team stacked with formidable talent on the blueline, Pouliot wore the maple leaf in Canada’s 7-3 win over Sweden and its 5-1 loss to Team USA.
Pittsburgh’s first pick of the 2012 draft at eighth overall, Pouliot made his professional debut with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals last season after coming within one game of a Memorial Cup title with the Portland Winter Hawks. Pouliot will likely return to Portland for his fourth, and final, season in the major juniors.
The 2014 World Juniors will be held Dec. 26 to Jan. 5, 2014 in Malmo, Sweden. There will be additional evaluation camps closer to the tournament as the countries work to finalize their rosters.
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