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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo Native Patrick Kane

COLUMBUS -- National Hockey League history was made this evening when right wing Patrick Kane (Buffalo, New York) and left wing James vanRiemsdyk (Middletown, New Jersey) became the first U.S.-born players to be selected first and second overall in the NHL Entry Draft.

The Chicago Blackhawks also made Kane the highest selected Buffalo native in history by taking the young player with the first-overall pick.

The previous mark for two U.S.-born players selected in the top three was established in 1983 and equaled in 2005. In 1983, Brian Lawton (Minnesota North Stars) became the first-ever U.S. born player to be selected first overall while Pat LaFontaine (New York Islanders) was selected third that year. Bobby Ryan (Anaheim Ducks) and Jack Johnson (Carolina Hurricanes) were selected second and third overall in 2005.

“This is a day for everyone involved in our sport to feel awfully good about how far we’ve come,” said Ron DeGregorio, president of USA Hockey. ”I am especially proud of our National Team Development Program and our domestic junior leagues for their role in the success we are all enjoying."

"When I look at the top prospects in the Draft and I see that two U.S. players have gone one and two, it gives me a sense of pride in our  country and the development of its players,” said Dallas Stars' Mike Modano (Livonia, Michigan), who was the first overall selection in 1988.  “I know that in Texas and all over the country the development starts with a grassroots approach that has helped grow the game in some non-traditional U.S. markets as well as develop the talented hockey players in this country. I think this trend will only continue in the future and bodes well for the NHL and USA Hockey." Modano became the NHL’s all-time leading goal  scorer among U.S.-born players with his 503rd goal during the 2006-07 season.

The NHL Draft has seen an increase of U.S.-born players selected in the first round. A record 10 U.S.-born players were among the first 30 players selected in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, which surpassed the eight selected in 2005. A record 28.2% (60 of 213) of the players selected in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft were U.S.-born.

“The credit for the development of players in the U.S. belongs to many, including thousands of coaches across the country and the volunteers who administer the programs available to players at all levels,” said Dave Ogrean, executive director of USA Hockey. “As we see the number of American-born players competing in the NHL continue to rise, that is an indication that these programs are really paying off.”

Patrick Kane grew up in Buffalo, New York and now plays for the  London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. He captured both the OHL and the CHL scoring titles with 145 points (62 goals, 83 assists) in 58 games as a rookie in 2006-07.

“Patrick has shown that he can score at all levels of hockey, including on the international stage,” said Ron Rolston, head coach at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. “He has exceptional on-ice vision, and combined with his ability to control the play with the puck, he is a threat every time he is on the ice. He is also one of those few
players that truly have the ability to make others on the ice better.”

James vanRiemsdyk, a native of Middletown, New Jersey, led the U.S. National Under-18 Team this season with 63 points (33 goals, 30 assists) in 42 games. He will attend the University of New Hampshire next year.

“James has a great combination of size and speed that help him create offense,” said Rolston. “His development in the two years at the NTDP has been exponential and his best hockey is still in front of him as he continues to mature. James was able to elevate his game this season in pressure situations on some of the largest stages in amateur hockey.”
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