The prospects hit the ice today for pre-game skates at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York.
Coaches Jeremy Roenick and Derek Plante have released their line charts and starting goaltenders for tonight's game, which starts at 7 p.m. EDT and will be aired live on NHL Network.
With about 150 scouts and general managers present, the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game could be a nerve-wracking experience for players, but some participants are finding comfort in familiarity.
Of the 42 invitees, 19 have ties to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program, and 15 are on the roster of the U.S. National Under-18 Team for the 2015-16 season.
Although the players are split between Team Roenick and Team Plante, many mentioned that simply having teammates present calms some nerves heading into the game.
“We were all very excited on the bus, talking about the game and all the festivities that are going on,” said Keenan Suthers, a member of the U.S. National Under-18 Team. “To have your teammates here and be able to play with them, just to have a very calm environment where everyone’s supportive of you and you know where they play, you know their strengths and weaknesses, it’s going to help in a game like this.”
Suthers pointed out the positives of having his teammates at the event, and also mentioned the presence of Danton Cole, head coach of the U.S. National Under-18 Team, who will be an assistant coach for Team Plante.
Chad Krys, a U.S. National Under-18 Team player, agreed that it will help to have players he’s comfortable with on the ice, but joked about the other side of having so many NTDP players present: playing against them.
“I’m a little bit worried about the other team. They have (Clayton) Keller and Kieffer (Bellows) on the same line; they’re pretty good together,” said Krys, a member of Team Roenick. “I might have to defend them if I’m out there with them, so I’m not too happy about that. But, no, I think it’ll really help. Especially with d-partners and stuff like that, you have familiarity with how the guy plays and where they’re going to be on the ice, so I think that’s a big advantage for us.”
Though they will be coaching against each other tonight, Jeremy Roenick and Derek Plante had similar messages for their teams: take advantage of the opportunity and play your game.
For many of the participants, tonight’s CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospect’s Game will be one of — if not the — biggest stages they’ve played at so far.
Each team practiced for half an hour this morning, during which the head coaches gave some pieces of advice from their combined 28 seasons of National Hockey League experience. The coaches chatted with media after their ice time and shared the messages they sent to their respective teams.
Roenick: “For me, it’s all about seizing the opportunity and seizing moments and bringing yourself to be noticed and recognized in moments like this. You want to be the one that gets noticed and you want to be the one that gets on the radar. Take advantage of the situation.
Plante: “Do your thing. Play good. It’s not all said and done tonight. Your career’s not done tonight, or it’s not going to be made tonight. So it’s a matter of just going out and playing well.”