PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero isn't surprised by the smooth transition that many young players have made to the National Hockey League in recent years.
He's looking forward to witnessing the next elite group of American-born players on Thursday during the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at Consol Energy Center.
"The training is so much different at a young age and players are more physically prepared to play at a young age in the NHL," Shero said. "It could be a byproduct of the CBA and the entry-level contract that gives young players more of an opportunity. These players are very serious about their off-ice training. The League has been very fortunate to have these players come in and play, and they are very exciting to watch."
Defenseman Seth Jones, who played at the 2012 All-American Prospects Game, was selected in the first round (No. 4) of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators. Predators coach Barry Trotz has already made public his decision to have Jones in the lineup on opening night. He also said the Texas native would be among his top seven blueliners to open the 2013-14 campaign.
There's no question any team fortunate enough to draft a prospect capable of filling a roster spot in his draft year is getting someone pretty special. Shero doesn't feel there is any more or less pressure on young hockey players hoping to reach that next level of their development.
"I think that's a judgement that must be made by the team," Shero said. "There's always a balancing act you have to have with younger players in terms of are they better off to continue to stay in Europe, college or major juniors, or could we give them a look for 10 games at NHL level.
"Some of these players are so good that if you have the openings in your lineup, it's a great thing because they're good additions and they're both physically and mentally prepared because the pressure is something they're used to. But you have to be a little careful and certainly don't want to rush them; if you do it properly, they will have a prosperous career."