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Thursday, February 10, 2011

2011 Five Nations Cup Day 2: The Rocco Watch- Rock on

USA's National Under-18 Team continued their eye-opening performance at the Five Nations Cup in Czech Republic with a 10-4 thrashing of Russia today, and Rocco Grimaldi continued his assault on the scoring chart with a two-goal, three-point performance, giving him 5 goals and 7 points in just two games.

In honor of Grimaldi, here's an old cheesy 80s remake, but not much else goes smoothly with Rocco, ya know?

Also getting it done offensively for the Americans is Michigander Reid Boucher, who is an undersized forward with speed and hands. Boucher tallied three assists in the opening win against Sweden, and came back with three more points today on the strength of two goals and a helper to push his point totals to six just behind Grimaldi.

Also playing well of note: J.T. Miller, Cole Bardreau and Adam Reid.

But Grimaldi is the focal point of the USA offense, and he's making it happen in dramatic fashion. These are the kinds of tournaments that will convince an NHL team to throw a little caution to the wind when making a decision on a diminutive but ultra-skilled player like him.

Against the Russians, Tyler Biggs stepped to the fore with a two-goal game as well. Biggs, because of his natural size and power forward game, has the most to gain from a tourney like this, because it could bounce him into the top-10 potentially. Even if it doesn't, he's looking like a solid top-15, top-20 at the worst.

Also looking to grab a positive bounce heading toward the stretch run for the draft are a pair of defensemen: Mike Paliotta and Robbie Russo. Russo has garnered a lot of positive attention coming into this season, but some of my sources just aren't feeling it with him. He's a good, solid player they say, but taking him in the early 2nd? Nope. Upside isn't there, nor does he have the size to be much of something of the offensive dimension to his game doesn't pan out. I've seen him twice and to be honest- he doesn't do much for me either, but there are scouts out there who like Russo. We'll see where he ends up at the draft.

Paliotta could drop a bit as well, but he at least has a bigger frame and the better than average shot of being a legit shutdown guy at the NHL level going for him. I thought he was a big fish in a small pond at the prep level two years ago when I saw him with Choate, but he admittedly had a rough transition last season with USA's Under-17 team.

Another nice-looking defense prospect for Team USA, Connor Murphy, is also back in action after missing much of the year with a back injury. This kid is an intriguing prospect, but he's been so damn fragile-- not sure how that will play come draft time. I expect that he'll drop lower than he should, and if he kicks the injury bug going forward, then the team who takes him will have a nice value pick on their hands. But that's a big if. He tallied an assist against the Russians.

Ryan Haggerty of Stamford, Conn. is a mucker and not really seen as much of a prospect for the 2011 NHL draft, but he had a nice day as well, tallying a goal and adding two assists.

Goalie John Gibson won the first game against Sweden, and he's a superb talent with the size and athleticism to be a pretty high pick, not to mention the calm composure. Unfortunately for him, with Big Jack Campbell only a year older, he's going to have it tough to get into the higher-profile tourneys where the real bread and butter is for the NHL scouts.

Matt McNeely was in net for USA today against the Russians and while he's not quite the prospect that Gibson is, he's got some raw potential, too. The University of Minnesota-Duluth recruit is flying under the radar a bit this season, but could become a factor in time.

Gotta give it to Rocco, though-- he's putting up the points and helping his team win games. That's what a player of his stature absolutely must do in order to stay on top of things.

Chris Peters is all over things at his United States of Hockey blog, so be sure to check out his own analysis of the players and who really could stand to shine in this tourney- here's the link.

USA faces the Czech Republic tomorrow...should be a good one!

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