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.

WATCH LIVE: Stanley Cup Final Game 1 – Sharks at Penguins

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 30:  Pittsburgh Penguins fans sit outside of Consol Energy Center prior to Game One of the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the San Jose Sharks on May 30, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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The wait is finally over. The 2016 Stanley Cup Final is about to begin.

Both the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Jose Sharks received some time to lick their wounds after three grueling playoff rounds, so expect Game 1 to be fun, even if there might be a subtle bit of rust here or there.

The star power is considerable. The beards are burly (at least on the Sharks’ side). It’s time to get cracking.

Game 1 airs on NBC. You can also stream it via the link below and enjoy some “NHL Live” coverage leading in.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Vlasic on the unenviable task of matching up against Crosby

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21:  Marc-Edouard Vlasic #44 and Sidney Crosby #87 of Canada look on during the Men's Ice Hockey Semifinal Playoff against the United States on Day 14 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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Plenty of people believe that the San Jose Sharks’ defense is superior to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ personnel, but it’s one thing to be better on paper. When you’re on the ice, against a speedy and talented team, can you really stop the Penguins?

All signs point to sorely underrated Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic drawing the difficult assignment of trying to slow down Sidney Crosby.

Vlasic, a former Team Canada teammate of Crosby (as you can see from this post’s main image), realizes that he’ll have his hands full. In fact, he seems to believe that this will be an even tougher challenge than trying to solve St. Louis Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko.

The fantastic all-around defender isn’t exactly expecting to reinvent the wheel in his strategy against Crosby.

“It will be the same as in the first three series,” Vlasic said, via The Hockey News. “We’re playing against the top players on every time – Sid, (Evgeni) Malkin and those types of guys for Pittsburgh. Me and (Justin Braun) will just keep doing what we did, taking away time and space and hopefully it works out.”

The two players have had glowing things to say about each other for some time, but don’t be surprised if this high-level competition turns those happy thoughts into hard feelings.

It stands as one of the matchups to watch in what could be a fresh and fascinating Stanley Cup Final.

Red Wings look to future in net … a future possibly without Howard

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on April 7, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.

One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”

It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.

Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?

The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.

“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”

In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.