Team USA Cuts Compher, Fitzgerald
by Nathan Wells/CHN Reporter
MINNEAPOLIS The United States released three players from the World Junior roster Wednesday morning as the team broke camp in Minneapolis. Sarnia Sting (OHL) defenseman Anthony DeAngelo, Michigan freshman J.T. Compher and Boston College freshman Ryan Fitzgerald were those cut after the team’s first exhibition game, a 3-2 win over Minnesota State on Tuesday.
“It’s hard,” Team USA general manager Jim Johannson said. “The compliment to the players is that they’re here and at this stage of the World Juniors process, but on a day like that I know it’s pretty hollow to the guys that you let go.”
In Compher’s case, injury precluded him from the roster. The freshman injured his foot blocking a shot in practice Monday and was unable to continue with the team.
It’s a minor blow for Team USA. Compher is tied with sophomore Andrew Copp for the Wolverines scoring lead with 14 points. However, what United States head coach Don Lucia will miss more is the versatility Compher, who can play center or wing, brings.
“(Compher) plays with great energy and passion to his game, and that’s the way this team is going to have to play this year,” he said. "He will be missed because he’s a guy who could play higher if we needed him to. He’s done that at Michigan.
“He’s a good player and I’d like him on my team any day.”
Fitzgerald, meanwhile, ended up on the outside due to position. On this team the coaching staff didn’t see him as a top-six player, nor did he fit in a bottom-six role. The end result was letting go the Boston College freshman, who is 7-8—15 in 16 games — in his last year eligibility.
“Part of the comment to him, and I hate saying this to kids, but I wish he was a ’95 (born) for the experience that he has because he’s going to be a great hockey player," Johansson said. "He’s a very good hockey player and the guys that are sophomore this year are where he’s going to be at or beyond next year. That’s just the way it falls.”
DeAngelo, who leads the OHL in points and assists for defensemen, is a 2014 draft eligible who Johannson said is a name that will come up again in the future. He can play for the 2015 US World Juniors team. Lucia felt there were bigger, stronger guys who could play the same role.
The 2014 World Juniors run from December 26-January 5 in Malmo, Sweden.
The United States will play a pair of exhibition games against Sweden and Finland before cutting down two forwards and a defenseman from the present 26 players on Dec. 23. They must be at 23 players when the tournament begins.
Currently 20 NCAA players and 1 recruit (17 year-old Jack Eichel – Boston University) are still on the roster.