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.

The Buzzer: Mac attack, Barrie impressive

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Players of the Night:

  • Click here for details regarding a clutch night from Jakub Voracek, who played a huge role with two goals (including the OT game-winner) and an assist for the Flyers in beating the Habs.
  • Frederik Andersen was stellar for the Maple Leafs, pitching a 40-save shutout against the Florida Panthers. Toronto only won 1-0, so they needed every save from their franchise goalie. Andersen tends to face a lot of shots on goal, and he’s put out some stellar performances in the process:

  • Two Avalanche players take the cake for players of the night, overall.

Nathan MacKinnon didn’t return to action, technically, on Tuesday. This was actually his second game back.

That said, it felt like Mac was truly back here, scoring the overtime game-winner and collecting three assists to help Colorado scrap its way to an OT win against the Canucks. With this output, MacKinnon has set a new career-high for points, and he has plenty of time to add to his already impressive point total of 65 points (25 goals, 40 assists).

Tyson Barrie was outstanding in his own right, arguably more impressive than MacKinnon. Quite ridiculously, the Avalanche scored all five of its goals on the power play, and Barrie collected a point in all five. He scored a goal and generated four assists, with three of those helpers being primary assists.

Injuries make Barrie’s fantastic work in 2017-18 slip under the radar a bit. With these five points in mind, Barrie now has 36 points in just 45 games. Over an 82-game season, that would translate to almost 66 points.

Highlight of the Night: Another fantastic Nikita Kucherov goal.

Kucherov already has 32 goals and 78 points this season. He edges Taylor Hall, whose fantastic coast-to-coast goal was good enough for a post, but couldn’t quite get it done for the Devils, who fell to Columbus in regulation.

Factoids

You have to love the neat-and-tidiness of Anze Kopitar scoring his 800th point in his 900th regular-season game:

Where do you think Alex Ovechkin will end up once he hangs up his skates, hopefully a long time from now?

So far, pretty good for Dion Phaneuf in Los Angeles:

Scores

Maple Leafs 1, Panthers 0
Blue Jackets 2, Devils 1
Flyers 3, Canadiens 2 (OT)
Lightning 4, Capitals 2
Predators 3, Red Wings 2
Sharks 3, Blues 2
Kings 4, Jets 3
Bruins 3, Oilers 2
Avalanche 5, Canucks 4 (OT)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

U.S. men’s Olympic medal dreams fade in shootout

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The U.S. men’s Olympic team will look back at missed opportunities as they recall going without a medal in the 2018 Winter Olympics.

They rode nice play from some NCAA talent and KHL goalie Ryan Zapolski on their way to the quarterfinals, but that’s where the ride will end, as the Czech Republic prevailed 3-2 via a shootout. Petr Koukal was the only player from either team to score during that shootout, even with Troy Terry generating enough T.J. Oshie comparisons to get some encouragement from Oshie himself:

The shootout wasn’t the only area where the U.S. might experience some regrets. Both teams weren’t exactly potent on the power play, with the United States going 0-for-5 while the Czech Republic went 0-for-4. Still, the U.S. enjoyed a man advantage that spilled over from the end of regulation and into overtime, yet they barely created any chances.

From the coaching staff to players, there might be some lost sleep regarding that special teams work.

With this loss, the chase for a medal is over for the United States. Tuesday’s missed opportunities will sting, but many take some good things out of this team’s scrappy run to the quarterfinal round. There are rumors that the likes of Brian Gionta might see some NHL interest after the tournament, too.

The Czech Republic advances to face the winner between the OAR (Olympic Athletes of Russia) and Norway.

It’s not all lost for USA Hockey, by the way. The women’s team advanced to the gold-medal round after beating Finland 5-0.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Flyers keep finding ways to win

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A wave of injuries may eventually capsize the Philadelphia Flyers, but not yet.

With both Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth sidelined – not to mention bad news for power forward Wayne Simmonds – the Flyers are likely to be tested down the stretch. It’s key, then, to grind out wins while they can, and they managed a tough one tonight.

In this specific case, it came down to getting goals from a sniper who’s become far more of a playmaker this season. Jakub Voracek sent the game into overtime and then scored the game-winner in a 3-2 OT win for the Flyers against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. Those two tallies pushed him to 13 on the season, a rare bit of puck luck this season for a player who brought a 6.4 shooting percentage into tonight’s action.

Voracek also grabbed an assist, beefing up his league-leading total to 55. The Czech winger’s dynamic performance helped the Flyers win their third game in a row, extending a point streak that covers most of their February games (7-0-2 in their last nine contests).

Taylor Hall‘s fantastic goal was all the Devils could muster in their game tonight, falling in regulation to the Columbus Blue Jackets. With those decisions in mind, Philly is firmly planted at third in the Metropolitan Division with 72 standings points. They’re even in the running for a round of home-ice advantage, if they can catch the just-as-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.

Heck, they even gained on the Metro’s top team, as the Capitals fell to the Lightning 4-2 tonight:

1. Capitals: 75 points in 60 games played (31 ROW)
2. Penguins: 74 points in 61 GP (33 ROW)
3. Flyers: 72 points in 60 GP (30 ROW)
4. Devils: 70 points in 60 GP (27 ROW)
5. Blue Jackets: 65 points in 60 GP (24 ROW)
6. Hurricanes: 64 points in 60 GP (24 ROW)
7. Islanders: 64 points in 61 GP (26 ROW)
8. Rangers: 59 points in 60 GP (24 ROW)

If nothing else, the Flyers are separating from the wild-card pack, as they have a nice edge over the Blue Jackets, Hurricanes, and Islanders.

Such strong play could empower GM Ron Hextall to add some firepower. Such moves could help ease the loss of Simmonds, and ideally give Philly solid depth when everyone is closer to full strength.

They’ve already taken that step by adding goalie insurance in Petr Mrazek, who should be as hungry as the team he’s joined. It’s truly remarkable how far this team has come since a 10-game losing streak that ended on Dec. 2. No doubt about it, players like Voracek have played a big role in this strong work:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Video: Taylor Hall’s splendid coast-to-coast goal

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You’re not supposed to be able to do this. Not against NHL defensemen, and certainly not against a goalie like Sergei Bobrovsky.

New Jersey Devils star Taylor Hall continues to impose his will with dynamic play, beefing up his Hart Trophy resume as he keeps adding games to his point streak. On Tuesday, he extended it to a whopping 19 games.

Hall did it in style, grabbing the puck near his own red line, then traveling the length of the ice before beating “Bob” on his short side:

That’s the 25th goal of 2017-18 for Hall, who now has 63 points (possibly and counting) in 55 regular-season games.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.