Team USA coach Mark Oslecki
It will be particularly difficult given the credentials of the 10 defensemen who are in training camp this week at Boston University’s Walter Brown Arena.
Although Boston College blue liner Steve Santini has a cast on one wrist after having surgery, it is due to come off soon and he is hoping to be ready to go.
He isn’t the only Eagle competing for a spot. Of the five BC players in camp, three are defensemen.
Ian McCoshen and Noah Hanifin are hoping to stick as training camp moves to Kingston, Ontario, in preparation for the tournament in Montreal and Toronto Dec. 26-Jan. 5.
BC forward Alex Tuch, who rooms with fellow freshman Hanifin at BC and is hoping to make the cut on Team USA, said he thinks Hanifin has been a standout in the early going.
“I’ve been really impressed,” said Tuch. “I got to play with him a little bit at the Under-18 World Championships last year and I was impressed there. He was one of our best defensemen. Coming into the season [at BC], I was sure that he could handle the higher tempo and the higher physicality. He impressed me even more there so he has taken really big steps this year and he is getting better and better every day. He loves to get up in the rush and he’s also solid defensively as well.”
After three seasons at St. Sebastian’s, Hanifin went to play with US Development Program. He said it helped him make the next step to the college game. Tuch said even though Hanifin is only 17, he seems quite a bit older.
“He’s a mature kid as is,” said Tuch. “He is bigger physically and he is really mature off the ice. I’m his roommate at college and his maturity could be even higher than mine at times.”
The 6-foot-3-inch, 205-pound Hanifin said he is having a great time with his teammates, many of whom he knew from last year’s Under-18 team.
“It’s been going great,” said Hanifin, a native of Norwood. “It’s the second day of practice and I think we’re starting to jell a lot more. We’re starting to bond a little bit more. The experience has been great so far, really competitive and intense and the hockey has unbelievable, obviously.”
Hanifin, who is expected to be one of the top defensemen taken in next June’s NHL draft, said he has taken his game up several notches since arriving at BC.
“The preparation and playing at a higher level has helped me a ton,” said Hanifin. “The speed of the college game and the physicality of it makes me feel a lot more comfortable when I’m playing with guys [on Team USA] who are a little bit younger than kids in college so I think it helped me tremendously.”
Hanifin said he has benefited from the structure at BC, where he has had to learn to budget his time around practice, workouts, and classwork.
“Obviously, you’ve got to stay disciplined,” said Hanifin. “Just taking care of my school work and learning how to live on your own, I think I’ve matured a lot in the first semester. [BC associate head coach Greg] Brown has helped me a ton. He has helped me learn every day. I’m on the ice with him all the time and he gives me so many little tips. Watching film with him twice a week, he has really helped me settle in and get a lot more comfortable out there.”
St. Sebastian’s helped him progress through high school and the US development program pushed him to make even more strides.
“I can’t even describe how much [it helped], just the little things I learned out there especially from coach [Don] Granato, and going to battle every day with those guys,” said Hanifin. “It’s like a different world out there. It’s very, very competitive every single day. When you step into college, you feel really confident with yourself. I think that year helped me extremely to be able to step in and play college hockey.”
The BC players are rooting for each other to make the team and both Tuch and Hanifin are pulling for Santini to be well enough to represent his country.
“He’s always getting guys going and getting in guys’ faces,” said Tuch. “He is always skating hard, delivering big hits and making the simple plays. His wrist injury hasn’t held him back from any of that really. You see him buzzing around the ice here. He just loves the game.”
Hanifin said during Santini’s rehabilitation, he served as an interim assistant coach at BC, giving his teammates observation from the stands and keeping everyone light.
“I can’t wait. It’s nice to see he is almost back and recovered,” said Hanifin. “He rehabbed really hard. He is pretty anxious. At the same time, he has been really patient and positive throughout the whole time. It’s very impressive to see. He’s a great role model.”