Pittsburgh area hockey players are making their mark with the U.S. National Development Team in Ann Arbor, Mich. – and at least one of them is going to make an impact on the 2010 Draft.
Stephen Johns, 17, a defenseman from Wampum, Pa. is rated as a first-round pick and the No. 15 prospect overall for the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the independent scouting service, Red Line Report.
The 6-foot-3. 215-pound Johns is one of four Pittsburgh area products playing for the U.S. national development program in Ann Arbor. The others are too young to be eligible for the 2010 draft.
They include Brandon Saad, a 6-foot-1, 196-pound forward from Gibsonia, Pa., who is playing for the U.S. National Development Under-18 team, and forward J. T. Miller (East Palestine, Ohio), defenseman Barrett Kaib (Upper St. Clair, Pa.) and goaltender John Gibson (Pittsburgh, Pa), who are skating for the USNDT Under-17 team.
All but Kaib spent time with the Pittsburgh Hornets program which produced former Penguins winger Ryan Malone and Columbus Blue Jackets center R.J. Umberger, currently the only Pittsburgh native selected in the first round of the NHL Draft, prior to suiting up for the national team.
“The exciting thing to see is that Pittsburgh has become a hotbed for (the national team),” Umberger said. “They are looking there every year now and it is not just a here-and-there thing.
“That says a lot from where (Pittsburgh) has come. From one person making it to this is tremendous. It has to do with what the hockey in Pittsburgh is providing.”
This latest wave of talent Pittsburgh has provided to the national team has done more than just fill out the roster. Saad is tied for the team-lead on the Under-18 squad with 18 points (7G-11A). Kyle Woodlief, editor of “Red Line Report,” believes Saad “has the potential to be a top-10 pick next year.”
Woodlief also stated that Miller and Kaib are “two of the best players on the Under-17 team.” Miller has shined internationally with a team-leading five points (2G-3A) in three games, while Kaib is regarded as one of the team’s top defensive-minded defenseman.
According to Woodlief impact players such as Johns, Saad, and the others are not an aberration. As the top athletes in western Pennsylvania choose hockey as their main sport we will continue to see more and more local products making a splash on the national scene.
“I think the junior program has really been elevated there in the past five years,” Woodlief said. “Good coaching is taking place there that you weren’t seeing 10 years ago.”
Visit pittsburghpenguins.com throughout the year as we offer individual profiles of each national team player.