We wrote about this back in the pre-Suter/Parise Days (remember those?) but this week sees 2011 Minnesota Wild second round pick Mario Lucia at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, New York. Lucia is one of 44 players there fighting for a spot on the team which will represent the US at the 2013 World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia.
The camp, which began yesterday and runs until August 11th, gives USA Hockey and head coach Phil Housley a chance to see the elite under-20 players play against one another and in an international setting. It consists of nine games, including two intra-squad scrimmages and a series of games against Sweden and Finland. While there are always one or two players who raise their stock with their college or junior play - Kyle Rau is one such example of a player who wasn't invited to this camp last year yet made the team out of the final December camp - most of this year's team will consist of the players at Lake Placid.
Lucia, who spent last season winning a Canadian Junior "A" championship with the Penticton Vees, is on Team Blue along with fellow Minnesotans Stephen Fogarty and Brady Skjei (both New York Rangers draft picks). Four others, Logan Nelson, Andrew Welinski and Gophers Travis Boyd (Washington Capitals) and Mike Reilly (Columbus Blue Jackets) are on Team White.
It should be interesting to see how Lucia does as the incoming Notre Dame freshman is fighting for a WJC roster spot. There are no guarantees the Wild will have another player representing Team USA (both Jason Zucker and Charlie Coyle are too old for the tournament) although from talking with experts Mario should be in the mix.
There are positive signs that USA sees something in the reigning BCHL leading goal scorer. He spent yesterday's intra-squad scrimmage - a 5-2 loss - playing with Fogarty but was on Blue's top line with 2012 third overall pick Alex Galchenyuk (Montreal Canadiens) and Boston College sophomore Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary Flames) in a 4-3 win today. However, Lucia did go pointless in both scrimmages.
(Also of note, Brady Skjei did not play in Sunday's game.)
We'll see more of Mario as the two USA squads begin facing international teams (including a Jonas Brodin-less Sweden squad) this week and with the Fighting Irish. The NJEC games are available to watch them online at FASTHockey.com for a fee.
Photo Credit: Fraser Rodgers/Penticton Vees