COLUMBUS – The pieces are beginning to come together for Team USA. Or at least the staff is enjoying moving the pieces they have around.
On Day 3 of the pre-tournament camp for the U.S. National Junior Team there's still plenty of competition for spots, and plenty of playing around with line combinations and positions as Team USA prepares for the IIHF World Junior Men's Championship which begins in Buffalo Dec. 26.
Sunday evening, the team held an intrasquad scrimmage at the OhioHealth Ice Haus. They played scoreless five-on-five while had a few goals netted during a three-on-three session.
And for the record, Casey Mittelstadt was playing center between Kieffer Bellows and Joey Anderson. It was the first look at center during this camp for Buffalo Sabres top draft pick. But U.S. coach Bob Motzko isn't sure where Mittelstadt will end up. It's all part of assembling the moving jigsaw puzzle.
"We had talked about Casey on the wing or Casey in the middle. So we put him in the middle tonight and we wanted to see how that looked," Motzko said after Sunday's scrimmage. "It's not how he's going to look. He's going to be fine. But how the rest of it falls underneath. Those are the puzzle pieces that we're putting together. I think that became a little more clear. I know you want me to be a little more specific and I can't."
But as for Mittelstadt, "he can go anywhere – the side or the middle," Motzko saidd. "I don't think he would care. And he's going to be effective. It's how everything falls around it."
So don't read too much into scrimmage line combinations, but for the curious, here's how Team USA forwards stacked up Sunday:
Brady Tkachuk-Logan Brown-Kailer Yamamoto
Kieffer Bellows-Casey Mittelstadt-Joey Anderson
Max Jones-Ryan Poehling-Patrick Harper
Riley Tufte-Josh Norris-Hugh McGing
Will Lockwood-Jack Badini-Trent Frederic
The U.S. will practice Monday and Tuesday in Nationwide Arena before heading to Jamestown for its scrimmage against Belarus on Wednesday in Northwest Arena.