Americans not surprised by their presence in the 2010 draft

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Campbell2.jpgFor a draft that was mostly void of big trades and heavy on rumors, the
story of the draft began to focus on the American players that were
being selected with greater frequency as the weekend progressed. After
the first round concluded, there was some confusion as to whether a
record was tied or broken for Americans drafted in the first round,
before USA Hockey sent out a release stating that yes, a record 11
American players were drafted in the first round.

According to
their release, USA Hockey does not use birthplace criteria for
considering a player American, but instead uses his developmental roots.
The sticking point in this case was Cam Fowler, a Canadian-born player
claiming dual citizenship who grew up playing in America. With that
official statement, 2010 became a banner year for hockey in the United
States.

It was fitting, coming just months after the United States
stunned the Canadians in the World Juniors, putting an exclamation
point on the rise of American hockey over the past 20 years. When the
NHL started expanding south, placing teams in San Jose, Los Angeles,
Anaheim, Dallas, Florida, Atlanta and Nashville — this was going to be
the eventual outcome.

Young kids, growing up with hockey in their
area and never knowing that “hockey isn’t supposed to be played in the
south” develop their talents and an early age and then move up the ranks
to the US Development Program which has started to produce some of the
best players in hockey in recent years.

Toronto GM Brian Burke
says it’s not just those NHL teams that are making an impact on these
young players, but
the emergence of minor league teams as well.

“We put teams in these little towns and little cities in Louisiana
and Texas,” Burke said.

“Youth hockey springs up around them. I think that’s been just as
important in getting kids to play as the NTDP team has been.”

In all, the United States finished with 60 players drafted in 2010,
just 30 behind Canada. Of course, the ratio of players drafted to a
country’s population will always favor Canada, but it’s a great sign for
a sport in which American players have always been a strong minority.

Now, not only are Americans being drafted but some of the top players
in draft hail from the United States. Players are coming from
California, Texas and other areas generally not considered “hotbeds of
hockey development” as these youth programs gain more strength and more
talent over the years. These players being drafted now grew up with
hockey in their area, and they find nothing unusual about so many
Americans being taken in the draft now.

They also had nothing but praise for USA Hockey and the NTDP, the
program that has done so much to develop these young players into some
of the best talent in the draft. These American players that have been
together for the past few years and are now going their separate ways
formed a bond during their time with the NTDP, which was on full display
while the team won the IIHF World Juniors. Colorado Avalache
third-round pick Michael Bournival says that’s a bond that will never be
broken.

“I’ll talk to those guys the rest of my life,” Bournival said. “Every
single one of those players is like a brother to me, and that will stay
like that for the rest of my life. I have no doubt about that.”

“Being a part of this last year, where the United States really broke
out in the world, from 2009 under-18’s all the way up to this last
under-18, USA hockey is really getting on the map. It’s an honor to have
been a part of that and this draft year is great as well, and I’m
excited just to be a part of it.”

Every American player we talked with spoke with obvious pride of how
the sport has grown in the United States, and none were surprised at the
amount of Americans drafted this year.

As the game of hockey continues to grow in areas such as Texas,
Florida and California we’ll continue to see more and more Americans
taken high in the draft. This past year was a record year for USA
Hockey, and you can expect coming years to be just the same.

Devils unveil ‘The Salute’ statue in honor of Martin Brodeur

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The New Jersey Devils on Monday unveiled ‘The Salute’ — a statue paying homage to one of the greatest goalies in NHL history, Martin Brodeur, who will have his No. 30 uniform retired Tuesday at Prudential Center.

“Looking at the pictures of my career and some of the events that meant a lot to me, I always saluted the fans,” Brodeur, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Devils, told the Fire and Ice blog.

“That picture, at different times, in different jerseys, actually, like with Team Canada, it all came to that same pose.”

More on the statue from the Devils:

The 900-pound bronze statue was created by renowned sculpture and artist Jon Krawczyk, who worked with Brodeur on the design. Krawczyk, a Boonton Township, N.J. native and lifelong Devils fan, who also created the hockey statue on Championship Plaza outside of Prudential Center, personally drove “The Salute” from his Malibu, Cali. studio to the arena late last week.

Video: Panthers furious after Abdelkader ‘cheap shot’ hit on Barkov

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The Florida Panthers are fuming after their skilled 20-year-old forward Aleksander Barkov left Monday’s game against the Detroit Red Wings following a hit from Justin Abdelkader.

Abdelkader caught Barkov with a hard hit near the goal line as the Panthers player tried to move the puck up ice early in the second period.

The only call on the play was to Panthers’ blue liner Alex Petrovic for the retaliatory cross check on Abdelkader. Barkov left the game and didn’t return with an upper-body injury.

Members of the Panthers irate with the hit, and the fact there was no call.

“It was a cheap hit, I don’t know how the ref didn’t call it,” Nick Bjugstad told the Miami Herald. “It was frustrating, the whole bench felt that way. We’re not happy with it. It turned the game around. Barkov has tough shoes to fill. It looked pretty serious. We’ll see how the league handles it and I think they will. I just don’t know how it wasn’t handled on the ice.”

“You hate to lose your top player, but that’s part of the game,” added Panthers’ head coach Gerard Gallant.

“We’re disappointed to lose him. I thought it was a cheap shot but the referees didn’t see it that way and explained to me it was a clean check. It’s tough. It happens quick and we get to see the replay. I think it’ll be looked at. [Abdelkader] left his feet a little and got him in the jaw.”

The Panthers gave up three goals in the third period in a 3-0 loss to the Red Wings.

Penguins thump the Ducks as Crosby’s hot streak continues

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In a meeting between two clubs enjoying hot streaks and their own subsequent climbs through the standings, the Pittsburgh Penguins bested the Anaheim Ducks courtesy another dominant Sidney Crosby performance on Monday.

After that slow start, Crosby has put together a growing number of dominant performances of late.

The latest, a four-point night, helped the Penguins to a 6-2 final over the Ducks, stopping Anaheim’s winning streak at six games.

— He extended his scoring streak to a career best seven games, and did so with two beauty goals versus the Ducks.

— From Dec. 18 to Feb. 8, he’s appeared in 21 games. In that span, he’s recorded 34 points.

— Crosby is now into the top five among NHL players in points, with 53 in 51 games this season.

He wasn’t the only Pittsburgh player to have a big night. Keep in mind, Evgeni Malkin wasn’t even in the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

Ten different Penguins players recorded points. In addition to Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang had multi-point efforts, and four players — Kunitz, Crosby, Olli Maatta and Patric Hornqvist — were plus-four.

The Penguins now move into third in the Metropolitan Division, while the New York Islanders slip into the first Wild Card spot in the East. Pittsburgh’s lead over the Islanders, however, is only one point.

The Islanders also have a game in hand.

Panthers’ Barkov (upper-body injury) leaves game versus Red Wings

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The Florida Panthers will be without Aleksander Barkov for the remainder of their game versus the Detroit Red Wings on Monday.

As per multiple reports, Barkov will not return due to an upper-body injury suffered after a hit from Justin Abdelkader early in the second period.

Abdelkader wasn’t given a penalty on the play. Barkov didn’t play another shift after that hit.

In 42 games this season, the 20-year-old Barkov has 16 goals and 35 points.