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American Players Make History At NHL Entry Draft

by Joe Sager / Pittsburgh Penguins

While the NHL Entry Draft was successful for the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was a landmark one for the United States. 

A total of 63 U.S.-born players, representing a record 30 percent of the total, were selected in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft in Columbus. The previous high was 28.2%, set last year.

In addition, Patrick Kane and James vanRiemsdyk made history at the NHL Entry Draft. The two American-born players were chosen with the top two picks – the first time that feat has been accomplished – as the Blackhawks selected Buffalo native Kane with the No. 1 choice and the Flyers took Middleton, N.J., product vanRiemsdyk at No. 2. 

Patrick Kane and James vanRiemsdyk/Getty Images

“To see the first and second picks from the U.S., that was great,” said Penguins General Manager Ray Shero, who is part of the USA Hockey management advisory board. “I hope they are going to be great players and I think it’s good.”

In addition, Kane and Blues prospect Erik Johnson, last year’s top pick in the NHL Entry Draft, became the first ever American-born players to be chosen with the No. 1 pick in back-to-back years. 

Kane became the sixth American-born player to be selected with the first pick, joining Brian Lawton (1983/Minnesota North Stars), Mike Modano (1988/Minnesota North Stars), Brian Berard (1995/Ottawa Senators) and Rick DiPietro (2000/New York Islanders) and Johnson.

A total of 10 Americans were selected in the first round of the draft – tying the record set in 2006 – including Ryan McDonagh (Arden Hills, Minn.), who Montreal took with the 12th pick; Kevin Shattenkirk (Greenwich, Conn.), who was taken with the 14th pick by Colorado; Ian Cole (Ann Arbor, Mich.), who went to St. Louis with the 18th pick; Max Pacioretty (New Canaan, Conn.), who was chosen by Montreal with the 22nd pick; Jonathon Blum (Long Beach, Calif.), who went to Nashville with the 23rd choice; Patrick White (Grand Rapids, Minn.), who was selected by Vancouver with the 25th pick; Nicholas Petrecki (Schenectady, N.Y.), who was chosen by San Jose with the 28th choice; and James O’Brien (Maplewood, Minn.), who Ottawa used the 29th pick to acquire. 

Shero hopes the trend continues as the U.S. National Team Development Program continues to churn out top talent.

“I hope so. The National Team Developmental Program is excellent. I think it says a lot about where the hockey in the States has come,” he said. “From Texas, California and Phoenix and Georgia – youth hockey has received a real big push. I think we’re seeing some fruits of that labor now. 

“To me, without generalizing, I think of a good American player as one with a good character, very well-rounded and a good upbringing. Sometimes these kids have choices to go to college or to junior and they are well-rounded kids and well-rounded people. That’s what I am looking for when I see a U.S. kid or at least hoping for when I see any kid, especially a U.S. kid in particular.”

            Following is a breakdown of 2007 Entry Draft selections by birthplace:

Canada            102

United States  63        (highest percentage in Entry Draft history - 30%)

Sweden           17

Russia  9

Czech Republic           5

Finland            4

Germany         4

Slovakia          3

Switzerland     2

Denmark         1

Nigeria            1

Total    211

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