5 things learned from US World Junior selection camp

Saturday was the second day of USA Hockey select camp that will help determine the final 23-player roster for the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship to be held in Buffalo from Dec. 26-Jan. 5.

COLUMBUS — United States National Junior Team coach Bob Motzko has yet to have any discussion of player cuts with his assistants.

[RELATED: United States opens World Junior camp]

“We’re going to scrimmage [on Sunday], and I think after that we’ll talk about if we’re going to hold off until the first exhibition [against Belarus on Wednesday],” Motzko said. “One word we use with this team is ‘fast.’ It’s noticeable and it caught us a tad off-guard at the outset how quick and powerful we are throughout our lineup.”

After select camp ends Tuesday, training camp will begin at Northwest Arena in Jamestown, New York, on Wednesday when the U.S. has a scheduled exhibition against Belarus.

Motzko said he’d like to have his leadership group in place by the conclusion of the selection camp.

Here are five takeaways from camp Saturday:

Player spotlight

Western Michigan University center Hugh McGing (5-foot-8, 170 pounds), eligible for the 2018 NHL Draft after being passed over in 2016 and 2017, is grateful to have an opportunity to prove he belongs among many of the best teenage players in the United States. The left-handed shot had 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) in 39 games as a freshman at Western Michigan and has 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) in 19 games this season. Motzko had McGing on right wing with center Jack Badini (Anaheim Ducks) and left wing Max Jones (Ducks) on Saturday.

“I need to play with speed at all times, especially being a smaller forward,” McGing said “I can’t play that big-guy style. I need to be fast, need to move my feet. This is definitely an opportunity for me to showcase my skills and show what I’m able to do on the ice.

Highlight of the day

Motzko concluded practice for the second straight day with a shootout drill, allowing players to exhibit their best scoring move against each of the three goaltenders. The coaches also got involved, and Motzko even scored off a shot from between the circles that rang off the left post and into the net to the delight of the players.

“It was pretty cool when [Motzko] scored, but he was using my stick,” defenseman Reilly Walsh (New Jersey Devils) said. “He told me he put some luck into it, which was funny.”

Intriguing combinations

Forward Casey Mittelstadt (Buffalo Sabres) was alongside left wing Joseph Anderson (New Jersey Devils) and right wing Kieffer Bellows (New York Islanders). It marked the second straight practice in which Motzko put his top-line center with different players.

“The coaches are trying to change it up every single day; they want to see who works with who,” Bellows said. “The lines were changing during the tournament for me last year. I moved from being with Jack Roslovic and Tage Thompson, to Roslovic and Troy Terry, to Terry and Erik Foley. You just have to be adaptable to every situation that you’re put in; we have the guys to do that.”

World Junior Championship memory

“I know I didn’t play a minute of any game as the third goalie, but being a part of the team that won a gold medal at the 2017 WJC will always be something special. To see everyone step up in the big moments and get rewarded for all the hard work they did was really fun to be a part of. I’m still very good friends with both goalies (Joseph Woll and Tyler Parsons), and to see them have success in a tournament like that was really fun.” — goalie Jake Oettinger (Dallas Stars)

Quote of the day

“The biggest thing I look for during the shootout drill is who is not nervous. Who is kind of calm and cool. And then we discuss it as a staff.” — U.S. coach Bob Motzko

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