Let me start by saying what an honor it is to have Gary Suter, Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk, Ed Snider and Mike Emrick join me in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. All five are truly legends not just in the American hockey world, but the entire hockey world.
It is an annual tradition at the time of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductions to debate the best American-born players. But what about the next generation of U.S. Hockey Hall of Famers? More appropriately, what about this generation of American hockey stars?
Instead of looking back on the former greats, this blog is about looking at the greats we have right now. If I were starting an American hockey team today, this is what my starting six would look like:
Goalie: Tim Thomas
This guy is simply all-world. He would be in net even if it wasn't just limited to Americans. At his age he just seems to get better and better. It's amazing how he seems to be able to play at such a high level. A true champion.
Defense: Jack Johnson
Johnson is a great guy on the point for your power play and he has the ability to go coast-to-coast. As a defenseman, the ability to go up and back is a very strong talent to have. I really enjoy his tenacity. He's a mean player as well as a graceful and smart player. He may not be the best defensively, but he has very good instincts and you have to like that about Johnson.
Defense: Brooks Orpik
You have to have a little bit of grit back there, and that's where Orpik fits in. I thought about Ryan Suter here, but I want to go for more toughness, somebody that is just mean in front of the net. I need a guy that plays with that edge, that anger, so when a player goes in front of the net he's going to get a beating. Orpik is a big guy, covers a lot of space, and he's a very smart hockey player, especially with his first pass.
Center: Ryan Kesler
He is so good. He's the whole package. When you look at a defensive-style forward that can do it all, Kesler is your guy. He's physical. He's extremely fast. He's got good hands around the net. He kills penalties. And, he's good on the power play. Kesler is the all-around package you need to have a good up-front guy.
Right wing: Patrick Kane
Kane is kind of like your quarterback. He possesses so much raw talent, and he makes stickhandling, passing and the puck control game look so easy. He's also an extremely smart player. He's a great reader of the play, a true anticipator. He knows where everybody on the ice is and then he makes intelligent plays with the puck.
Left wing: Zach Parise
SOG: 103 | +/-: -9
So that's my starting lineup, but what if we needed a goalie change? What happens when Orpik, Johnson, Kesler, Kane and Parise get tired and need to come off the ice?
You get my honorable mention crew:
G: Ryan Miller -- When he's on his game, he's one of the tougher goalies in the League to beat. He's struggling with his game this year, but the thing about Miller is he's a confident goalie and he wants the heat on his shoulders. He wants the pressure and he plays better under pressure.
D: Ryan Suter -- He reminds me a lot of his uncle, Gary. He's methodical, smart, and an extremely well-positioned defenseman. He's always in the right place at the right time and always has his stick in the right place at the right time. He does all roles and he also likes to play tough.
D: Kevin Shattenkirk -- I called him Peter Brady one time and he didn't know who Peter Brady was. That's when I was like, 'Oh my, I am old.' I can see this guy being one of the better offensive-minded NHL defensemen in the next couple of years. He has very good instincts and a great presence on the power play.
C: Joe Pavelski -- This guy is the all-purpose forward. He's the guy you can rely on in every situation. I see him as a future captain in the NHL. For a little guy, there are no places he's afraid of.
RW: Phil Kessel -- He has such raw talent and speed. If anything, it's defense that keeps Phil from maybe getting to the next level. But he's extremely talented and so much fun to watch.
LW: T.J. Oshie -- He's a right-handed shot, so he'd be on his off-wing, but especially when he's healthy and in good shape this kid is gritty and quicker than people give him credit for. When he's moving, he's very tough to stop. He's also tenacious and has very good hands.