All three Rangers prospects currently attending the USA Hockey National Junior Invitation Camp dressed for Team USA's 5-2 victory over Finalnd late Wednesday afternoon in Lake Placid. Forward JT Miller (pictured) recorded four penalty minutes in the contest, but neither Miller, defenseman Brady Skjei nor forward Steven Fogarty figured in any of the five goals scored by the United States.
Nonetheless, Rangers assistant general manager Jeff Gorton is thrilled that the three key Blueshirt prospects survived cuts earlier in the week are among the 34 players still remaining in Team USA's evaluation camp.
"We want our players picked for teams because it kind of validates your thoughts on them, number one" explained Gorton. "And number two, they are getting to play at the highest level they can possibly play for their age group. That's the best place to get better, and for us it's the best place to evaluate them. If you want to be better you have to play against the best players, and something like this where, if they get picked and play against a higher level, it's just a great experience."
This evaluation camp will go a long way to deciding which players will represent the United States at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia. There will be a pre-tournament camp in early December from which the final U.S. National Junior roster will be chosen.
"Listen it's always good news when your players are being selected to teams, or even getting through first cuts like this, and playing more games at a higher level," offered Gorton, who was up in Lake Placid earlier in the week to check on Miller, Skjei, and Fogarty. "This week is great for these kids, and it's great for us, too. Hopefully all three make the team because we love when the kids play at the highest possible level before we get 'em (in New York)."
Miller is seeking to make the U.S. team for the second year in a row. He recorded four points and scored twice in the 2012 World Junior Championships.
"JT is looking at a bigger role this year," Gorton said of the Rangers top pick from the 2011 NHL Draft. "And hopefully he continues to bring that two-way game, adds some offense to that group--which we saw the first couple of days in Lake Placid---and just continues to get better."
Skjei, the Rangers first round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, is one of eleven defensemen remaining at Team USA's evaluation camp. He is set to enter his Freshman year at The University of Minnesota.
"In Brady's case this is his first run at it, obviously just coming out of the draft," explained Gorton. "For him to make that team would be quite a story. He's played really well, and his skating has been really good."
Fogarty might be the least heralded of the three Rangers prospects vying for a spot on Team USA's roster simply because, unlike Miller and Skjei, he was not a first-round selection. Instead Fogarty, a smart and skilled forward, was chosen in the third round of the 2011 draft by the Blueshirts.
"He didn't get the invite (from Team USA) last year, so he's got to show what he can do (this year)," Gorton said of Fogarty. "He scored a highlight goal in one game up (in Lake Placid) and he's won his faceoffs. I think as he moves forward, he's a very skilled guy who is also responsible defensively beyond his age. We're really excited for him most of all to get this experience because he didn't get that chance last year. To play at this level is exactly what he needs."
Team USA will skate against Sweden on Thursday afternoon before wrapping up the week with a contest against Finlad, again, on Saturday.
Share your thoughts below on Jeff Gorton's comments and evaluations on JT Miller, Brady Skjei, and Steven Fogarty.