The midseason break is upon college hockey. And while most of the Yale men’s team will be enjoying a brief respite before jumping into the second half of the season, one member of the Bulldogs will not.
Sophomore forward Ryan Hitchcock joins Harvard’s Ryan Donato as the two ECAC representatives at World Junior camp for the U.S. team. The camp, which runs in Massachusetts through Friday, will help determine the final roster for the 2016 World Junior Championship tournament in Helsinki, Finland.
Hitchcock is not the most gifted offensive player on the camp roster, with eight points in 12 games for the Bulldogs this year. But he has shown he has the ability to produce in greater quantities.
He recorded 15 points in 33 games last year as a rookie for Yale. In his final season with the National Team Development Program, he had 49 points in 53 games. Those totals were good for fifth on the team behind Jack Eichel, Alex Tuch, Sonny Milano and Dylan Larkin.
His decent offensive abilities are not the reason he was selected to attend the U.S. camp, however. He brings what many hockey pundits like to call the intangibles.
Hitchcock has plenty of international competition experience, representing his country at the WJC under-and-18 tournament in 2013, recording four points in seven games. He also won a bronze medal at the 2013 World Hockey Challenge, and played in the Four Nations tournament in Switzerland in 2014.
He is hardly the only player contending for a spot who has played in international tournaments for the United States. But he has an impressive resume nonetheless, and this prior experience would be crucial for the American squad.
Hitchcock does not just bring experience to the American team, however. He may not possess tremendous size, standing at just 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, or excellent offensive upside. But he is a gritty two-way forward who competes hard, and does have the ability to chip in in the offensive zone.
Assuming he makes the cut, Hitchcock will be an excellent depth forward for Team USA, and also provide strength down the middle. He should be slotted in at center, but regardless of his position in the lineup, he will be a crucial asset to the Americans as a penalty killer. He brings energy, and does have the ability to put the puck in the net when its needed. One of his five goals this year was a game winner, while two were power-play goals, showing his ability to score at key moments.
Since arriving in New Haven, Hitchcock has also recorded only five penalty minutes. The ability to play a hard-nosed style while also staying out of the penalty box is a testament to his control and poise on the ice.
While he does not bring the flashy statistics of Kyle Connor or Auston Matthews, Hitchcock provides experience, stability, depth and grit. All of that could make a valuable complement to a talented squad that is looking to win the program its first WJC medal since capturing gold in 2013.