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.

Halak practices fully, hoping to be back soon

Jaroslav Halak
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Jaroslav Halak took a major step in his return from a groin injury on Monday, participating in a full practice with his Islander teammates ahead of tomorrow’s Game 3 against the Lightning.

“He’s progressing,” head coach Jack Capuano said, per the Isles’ website. “I don’t know how far or where he is or when he could play, but I know that having him on the ice going through a full practice, but again it’s about conditioning and timing with goaltenders and their movement, but he’s progressing and it’s great to see.

“I don’t have a timetable yet though.”

Halak hasn’t played in nearly two months — he suffered his groin injury on Mar. 8. His initial timetable for return was 6-8 weeks, and Tuesday will mark his eighth week out of action.

It seems highly unlikely Halak will be an option — at least in terms of starting — anytime soon. He told the Isles’ site the lengthy layoff means it now feels “like the beginning of the season for me,” and Thomas Greiss has performed well through the playoffs thus far, posting a .937 save percentage and 2.06 GAA.

If anything, Halak’s goal could be to get in good enough shape to serve as Greiss’ backup at some point. J.F. Berube has filled that role during the postseason, but has yet to see any action.

Prior to getting hurt, Halak was New York’s No. 1 netminder and played reasonably well, posting a .919 save percentage and 2.30 GAA in 36 starts.

Martin Jones is making Doug Wilson look pretty smart

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 01:  Martin Jones #31 and Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks blocks the shot of Colton Sissons #10 of the Nashville Predators in Game Two of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. at SAP Center on May 1, 2016 in San Jose, California. The Sharks won the game 3-2. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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The thing about rolling the dice on an unproven goalie is that you can look really foolish if it doesn’t work out.

That’s the risk Doug Wilson took when he bet on Martin Jones. Fortunately for the Sharks’ general manager, it’s looking like a great wager these days.

Seven games into the playoffs and Jones is 6-1 with a .923 save percentage. The 26-year-old has been especially good against the Predators. He was named first star in Game 2, a 3-2 San Jose victory that gave the Sharks a 2-0 series lead.

Jones, you’ll recall, was acquired in an offseason trade with the Bruins. The Sharks gave up a first-round draft pick and a prospect to get their man, whom they immediately signed to a three-year, $9 million contract.

At the time, Jones had only started 29 games in the NHL. He was slated to battle Alex Stalock — another relatively inexperienced guy — for the starting job in San Jose.

“I think I’m ready to definitely take that step and play more hockey games,” Jones said. “I had a great two years in L.A. learning from Jonathan Quick. It’s been a big couple of years in my development and I’m looking forward to the new challenge.”

Make no mistake, it was a big risk for Wilson to bet on such an inexperienced tandem. If the Sharks had missed the playoffs again this year, who knows what would’ve happened in San Jose?

But while goaltending remains arguably the most important position in hockey, recent history shows it doesn’t take an experienced, big-money netminder to win. Quick had a $1.8 million cap hit when he won his first Stanley Cup with the Kings. Corey Crawford‘s cap hit was just under $3 million when he won his first Cup with the Blackhawks, who had Antti Niemi and his sub-$1 million salary in goal when they won in 2010.

Quick and Crawford have both signed big deals since. But the temptation for frugality remains, thanks to a seemingly endless supply of quality netminders. After all, the more cap space a team can save on its goalies, the more it can spend on its skaters.

The key, obviously, is picking the right horse. Choose poorly and it can be a disaster. That’s why some GMs will opt to pay a premium for experience. Track records can be comforting. Youngsters, on the other hand, can buckle under the weight of expectations.

So far, Jones has handled the postseason pressure like a veteran, and he’s a big reason why the Sharks are two wins from reaching the Western Conference Final.

Seguin resumes skating in Dallas, Ruff notes ‘they have flights into St. Louis every day’

Dallas Stars' Tyler Seguin makes a pass during the first period of a preseason NHL hockey game against the St. Louis Blues Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
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The latest on Tyler Seguin (and fellow injured Stars forward Patrick Eaves), per the Dallas Morning-News:

Q: On the statuses of Patrick Eaves (leg) and Tyler Seguin (Achilles)

Lindy Ruff: “Both skated today, both progressing.”

Q: On if Seguin and Eaves will travel with the team to St. Louis for Game 3

LR: “No, but they have flights into St. Louis every day.”

Seguin, as you’ve probably heard, hasn’t played since a Game 2 win over Minnesota in the opening round.

That was on Apr. 16.

Dallas’ All-Star center returned from a partially lacerated Achilles to participate in said Game 2, a nasty injury that cost him the final 10 games of the regular season and the series opener against the Wild.

The Stars say this latest injury has nothing to do with the previous one, but reporters haven’t been privy to much information beyond that.

In speaking last week, Ruff didn’t even want to put a timetable on Seguin’s return, for fear of what an inaccurate timetable might cause.

“I really can’t,” Ruff said. “I don’t even have a guesstimate on it. I don’t even think it’d be fair. If I guessed and if I’m off, everybody else will be wondering why did he guess that?”

GM Jim Nill did say the club expected Seguin to miss the first two games of the Blues series and, as of last Thursday, confirmed Seguin wasn’t skating.

“He’s day-to-day,” Nill explained. “Once he gets on the ice, it’s probably four to five days from there.”

This series, currently tied 1-1, will resume on Tuesday from the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

Trotz ‘disappointed’ in length of Orpik suspension, suggests NHL favors Penguins

Washington Capitals head coach Barry Trotz, top center, shouts to his players during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils Friday, March 25, 2016, in Newark, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
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Barry Trotz thinks the NHL is biased in favor of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

That’s the only way to take Trotz’s remarks following Brooks Orpik‘s three-game suspension for hitting Olli Maatta late.

“I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised based on who we’re playing and all that,” the Capitals’ head coach told reporters today.

When asked what he meant by that, Trotz replied, “Take it for whatever you want.”

Orpik, meanwhile, called the NHL’s decision “fair.”

“Bad hit,” he said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Split-second decision you make. You’ve just got to live with it.”

But let’s get back to Trotz, because he was also upset that Orpik was labelled a “predator” by NBC Sports commentator Mike Milbury.

“A predator is a guy that’s trying to hurt people,” said Trotz, per the Washington Post. “And I think it’d be very unfair to paint him that way. If you know anything about Brooks, he’s one of the classiest guys, one of the true pros in the league. And so I just think that’s really unfair.”

Regardless of Orpik’s intentions, Maatta will miss tonight’s Game 3 with an “upper-body injury.” The speculation is that the young defenseman suffered a concussion on the hit. The Penguins are hopeful that he’ll be able to play again in this series, but aren’t certain.

As for Orpik’s spot in the lineup, that’s expected to be filled by Dmitri Orlov, a healthy scratch in Game 2.