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James Reeder is Focusing on What He Can Control Ahead of Chipotle All-American Game

By Sean Shapiro, 01/15/24, 8:00AM EST


The University of Denver commit is coming off a record-setting performance at the World Junior A Challenge

James Reeder looks intently on before a faceoff.

James Reeder is doing his best to not think about the 2024 NHL Draft. 

That isn’t easy with his growing resume. 

At the recent World Junior A Challenge, Reeder set a new American record for goals scored in the tournament with eight in six games. His play helped Team USA earn a bronze medal in the tournament, as he finished as the tournament’s leading goal scorer and was tied for fourth with 10 points. 

Reeder played in the tournament on a line with fellow potential draft prospects Mac Swanson and Trevor Connelly. 

It was an important showing for all three, and particularly for Reeder, who’s play at the World Junior A Challenge, combined with his USHL showing for the Dubuque Fighting Saints, earned him an invite to the Chipotle All-American Game on Monday. 

Reeder will be on Team Blue, once again playing with Swanson and Connelly. They could potentially dial back into that World Junior A chemistry in a showcase that features a mix of the top draft eligible prospects playing in the USHL and on the National Team Development Program. 

“It’s hard to put off the draft, because it really is such a big thing,” Reeder said. “I try my best to ignore it and play my game shift-by-shift, because I think that’s really all I can control right now. How do I do that best? How can I help my team win games? That’s kind of what I have to focus on.”

Along with his remarkable offensive poise around the net, which NHL scouts have certainly taken notice of, Reeder likes playing responsible defense and turning it into offense at the other end. 

In addition to his showing at the World Junior A Challenge, Reeder already has 31 points in 25 USHL games with the Fighting Saints. He has 12 goals and 19 assists and will soon pass his point totals from last season, when he had 34, in nearly half the time. 

So, what changed?

Reeder said it’s a combination of things, primarily confidence and comfort in a bigger role. In addition to producing offensively, he’s also an 18-year-old assistant captain in a league where those letters typically go to 19-year-olds. 

“I kind of showed last season I could play really with anyone up in the lineup, and that put me in a spot to start building on it this season,” Reeder said. “Our team has so many players that all play off each other well, and I think we are great because everyone works so well together.”

That quick versatility and ability to play with anyone could come in handy in an All-American game where lineups will be thrown together. 

While Reeder puts the NHL Draft into the back of his mind, or at least tries to, he knows that his hockey future will include a stop at the University of Denver after his USHL career. 

Reeder grew up in Glenview, Illinois, a northern suburb of Chicago, and wanted to go play college hockey at a school that had an urban feel. Denver fit the bill, while it also came with the added history and recent success —the Pioneers have won nine NCAA championships, including most recently in 2022. 

Denver coach David Carle also recently coached the U.S. National Junior Team to a gold medal at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship. 

Reeder will be one of three Denver commits in the All-American Game, joined by Brendan McMorrow and Finn McLaughlin. 

“I can’t remember the year, but I was a kid and I went and watched the Frozen Four in Chicago, and that really got me hooked on college hockey as an option,” Reeder said. “And I really loved what I learned from Denver and the coaching staff; they don’t punish guys for making plays.”

Reeder hopes to take that same approach into the All-American Game. He’ll focus on making plays and trying to help lead Team Blue to a win. Scouts will be watching, but when he’s on the ice, he’ll do his best to keep that in the back of his mind and focus on what he can control. 

Other Team Blue Notables:

Cole Eiserman: Almost every draft analyst is predicting Eiserman to be the first American taken at the 2024 NHL Draft in Las Vegas. The pure goal scorer is on a quest to break Cole Caufield’s USA Hockey National Team Development Program record for career goals — he’s sitting at 98, 28 behind the all-time mark — and already has 29 goals in 28 games this season. 

Mac Swanson: At the World Junior A Challenge, Swanson set a tournament record with nine assists, many of those going to Reeder. Swanson has 24 assists in 26 USHL games this season for the Fargo Force and is committed to North Dakota. 

Luke Osburn: A 17-year-old helping anchor the Youngstown Phantoms blue line, Osburn is a Plymouth, Michigan, native and will be playing in the All-American Game in his hometown. In his last game in Plymouth, against the NTDP, he scored in a 5-3 Phantoms victory. 

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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