LAKE PLACID, NY - AUGUST 10: Pathrik Vesterholm #29 of Team Sweden exchanges pushes with J.T. Miller #28 of Team USA at the Lake Placid Olympic Center on August 10, 2011 in Lake Placid, New York. Team Sweden defeated Team USA 4-1.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Before I get into my story, I want to give you all the rundown on what's going to happen over the next few weeks. Once again I want to give a tremendous thanks to the New York Rangers organization and their PR Department (especially John Rosasco) who helped me interview Gordie Clark about the upcoming Traverse City tournament and about some of the prospects within the Rangers organization. I would also like to thank Gordie, who gave a fantastic interview and took a significant amount of time out of his day to answer all of my questions.
Gordie and I talked for over 30 minutes, and he gave me too much good information to cram into one story. So I am going to break up our interview into separate stories. One of the first things Clark ran me through was how much stock the organization takes when it comes to the upcoming Traverse City tournament and the World Junior Developmental Camps that just finished.
Follow me after the jump for the full story.
August tends to be one of the calmest months of the year when it comes to the New York Rangers. June has the NHL draft and July starts the free agency period, with all the big names flying off the board before the month comes to a close; leaving August looking like a pond without any ripples.
And while everything seems calm on the surface, below the surface it's anything but. Top prospects are training for the upcoming Traverse City tournament, and the best of the best had stints in their respective World Junior Development Camps.
Gordie Clark, Director, Player Personnel for the New York Rangers, talked about the scenario the players attending the developmental camps walked into.
"All these kids that are going to their respective World Juniors camps clearly have trained hard because they know they're going to be invited to play for their country, so they're in top shape," he said. "They take a certain amount of guys but I would say two-thirds of the final camp teams will be the guys who will be there at the World Juniors."
While the teams have a round of cuts, leaving a "final team" for the last couple of scrimmages, Clark doesn't believe the players cut during the summer lost the chance of making the World Junior Roster.
"They still leave [the final roster] open, some kids might not have played well that summer and that's just how it goes," he said. "It's only a four or five day camp, and sometimes it just might not be clicking for some guys. So if they do think a player has some mobility they might keep an eye on them, and I hope the US does that with [Shane] McColgan."
McColgan, one of the Rangers two fifth-round selections in this year's NHL Entry Draft, was cut from the United States Developmental Camp. While that might seem like a crushing blow to his World Junior Championship chances, Clark thinks player like him might have a second shot at making the roster.
"He didn't make the final cut for that group, but I believe they will watch McClgan and other guys that they know have been pretty good in the past, and they will see how they start off in their respective leagues. And if they start off and get on fire they will go back and they will see them because it's not written in cement that the guys who were picked for these scrimmages are going to be the guys who [make the World Junior Teams.]"
It's generally a big deal when a player makes the World Junior roster. A perfect example would be Derek Stepan leading the tournament in scoring two years ago, prepping both the New York Rangers and himself for an opportunity to break in with the big club, something he did last season, finishing the year with 45 points.
Chris Kreider's performance the last two years has also opened eyes. It's another reason why we've kept such a close eye on both J.T. Miller and Christian Thomas' development in their respective camps. Clark also alluded to the magnitude of cracking a World Junior roster.
"When you go to see the World Juniors that's pretty much, within a few players, going to be the next group of kids to enter the NHL in the next year or two," he said. "Because they're mostly 19 and 20-years-old and nearing the end of their junior or college careers. So it's a pretty good measuring stick to see how they can step up and play at the World Junior level."
Currently, however, prospects are focusing on the upcoming Traverse City tournament. Clark talked about how the roster is compiled.
"Traverse City is an age limit of 21, and it's the best 22 kids that you can get together between your drafts and you can invite some junior kids that haven't been drafted," he said. "And when you're playing against seven other teams and the best 20 guys they can put together, it ends up being better hockey than each of their junior teams."
Clark also helped shed some light on the level of hockey he believes Traverse City provides for the prospects.
"It's a level above a junior or a college team but the hockey is not at the AHL level," he said. "It's better than the team they have been playing on. They've been good on their team but now they've taken the best players off teams and they put them on one team to play against another NHL team that has done that. So it is a step up, and it does give you a little bit of an idea maybe positively or negatively on how a guy handles the next level. Maybe they weren't passing the puck as well as you thought they were, maybe their skating was off. But certainly you don't bump anybody, but it is a measuring stick."
The Traverse City tournament is known for its intensity. It's something Christian Thomas alluded to when Blueshirt Banter interviewed him earlier in the month.
"The Traverse City tournament is really intense, it's really 18-21-year olds, so they're young kids, and they all want to go out there and show their brass that's watching that they made the right pick," Clark said.
So what does he think Miller and Thomas' chances are to crack their World Junior teams?
"I would think they would be very good," Clark said. "We had our scouts watching each one of them while I was over in Europe. And the reports, not only from our scouts but from other people who wanted to voice their opinion, were that both of them played very well in the camps they were in. So I would think there is a very strong chance that both of them might be on."
It's good to see Clark is so confident in Thomas and Miller. We can analyze their games all we want, but Clark knows prospects better than anyone in the business, and for him to think both have a shot at making the Word Junior teams is a good thing.
Obviously both impressed in their camp scrimmages, with Thomas scoring a goal in the red-white scrimmage and Miller scoring two in one of the USA's scrimmages.
Now it's time to see how both preform at Traverse City.
More from Clark on a whole bunch of other tops including Kreider, Miller's decision to join the OHL, Dylan McIlrath, the process of drafting a player and much more in the coming days.