USA Hockey has filled 17 spots for its National Team Development Program Under-17 team, including six defensemen. CollegeHockey247.com spoke to USA Director of Player Personnel Ryan Rezmierski for his thoughts on the blue liners
A 5-10, 175-pound defender out of Oak Lawn, Ill., Connor Carrick has already picked Michigan, over an offer from Notre Dame.
"Connor is a perfect Michigan defenseman because he's a kid that likes to get up and down the ice and contribute offensively," Rezmierski said. "He's 100 percent offense when he takes control of the puck and has cleared the defensive zone. He has an elite offensive skill set and can run the power play some day.
"Off the ice, he's very mature, very competitive. He's a kid that won't get pushed around. At our camp, he got into a few scrums. We don't look for fighters because that's not really our game here or in college but he showed some toughness. For a smaller defenseman to throw down he took a hit, got a cut under his eye but he didn't miss an interview. He proved to me he's a hockey player."
U-M and Notre Dame are also squaring off for Jacob Trouba, a 6-2, 185-pounder from Rochester, Mich., with Trouba likely to announce before his junior season begins.
"Trouba reminds me of a young Erik Johnson [from the St. Louis Blues]," Rezmierski said. "Eric was more polished with the puck, but Jacob is more physical. Jacob is just mean. He can skate and he has an unreal one-timer, but what stands out is just how much he wants to punish you.
"He needs to work on his gaps and lateral movement, but his raw skill is elite and is body is underdeveloped. His dad is 6-9 and his uncle is 6-5, so at worst, he should be about 6-4, and we project him to play at around 220 pounds [when he's 22-23]. He's a moose and when he imposes his will, there is no one better."
While Trouba could grow into an intimidating presence, there might not be the right word to describe the look Seth Jones might elicit before he's done growing. The son of former NBA standout Jerome "Popeye" Jones, Seth is already 6-4, 175 pounds. He doesn't have an early favorite, but includes Denver, North Dakota and Miami among the programs interested.
"Seth is an elite thinker of the game offensively," Rezmierski said. "He can think a play out offensively like an NHLer would and he's just dynamic from the offensive blue line getting pucks through, making the right pass, stick-handling. He needs to learn the defensive game more but his upside his huge.
"He can skate and he can move, and he could be 6-6 before he's done growing. He's another kid that wants to get better too and you just love that always-willing-to-learn attitude."
A native of Ann Arbor, Patrick Sieloff will not be a slamdunk get for the Wolverines. He has yet to talk to CollegeHockey247.com about his future, but we will continue to try reaching him.
"I love Patrick as a kid; he's the kind of kid I would let my daughter date," Rezmierski said. "He wears his heart on his sleeve. He's ultra competitive and very tough to play against. He won't be on the score sheet a ton but he'll have a huge impact on the game.
"I think he'll be a two-way defenseman with a priority on shutting down an opposing top line. He really wanted to make this team and was willing to do every drill even though he had an injury and was out there with a cast on his arm. But that showed me how badly he wants this. He's just a heart-and-soul leader."
Alton, Ill., defender Dakota Mermis committed to Denver in early March, jumping at the chance to play two seasons with older brother Jarrod.
"Dakota is a very impressive young man," Rezmierski said. "He's a little under the radar and strength will be his biggest issue -- he's only 5-10, 165 pounds right now -- but he's another offensive-minded, puck-moving defenseman. He'll be just as good on the penalty kill as the power play because he is willing to play both ends of the rink.
"He has a big frame, and we project that he'll eventually carry 195 pounds, so he has some growth coming.
"Everybody just loves this kid. He's a leader and one of the things we noticed at our Evaluation Camp was when we put these kids through some adversity, they asked Dakota to lead. He commands that respect very quickly and his intangibles, as well as his on-ice skill, will provide him a great chance to succeed here and down the road."
The final defensive roster spot when to Brady Skjei, whom we've been trying to reach this week. Skjei spent his first two seasons of high school with Lakeville North, in Lakeville, Minn. In 30 games this past year, he notched 11 goals and 18 assists.
"He's a big-timer in the making," Rezmierski said. "He comes from a little bit of an unknown program in Minnesota, but he's a big-time offensive two-way player a kid that compares to [2010 recruit] Derek Forbort. He's big, has huge hands and huge feet and is an elite skater and an elite mover of the puck; he will create some offense.
"He's just as good without the puck as with it. His stick details are outstanding. The kid was a stud football player too so he's an athlete, and the family really pushed for this because they understand Brady needs the NTDP to really reach that next level. I fully expect that he will blossom into a top pick [in the NHL Draft] before he's done with us."
On Monday, we will take a look at the 10 forwards USA hockey chose.