American Dreams Realized In Columbus

US Development Program and college hockey track score big early

By Elliot Olshansky

CSTV.com

 



ELLIOT OLSHANSKY

Elliot is CSTV.com's hockey editor and runs his Rink Rat hockey blog on CSTV.com.
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COLUMBUS, Ohio - Patrick Kane played in the U.S. National Team Development Program. Kyle Turris will play college hockey at the University of Wisconsin in 2007-08. James vanRiemsdyk is a NTDP product who'll play college hockey at New Hampshire this fall.

 

Together, they're the top three picks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, and that makes for a pretty nice day for hockey in the United States.


 

 

 

"It's certainly exciting for USA Hockey," said NTDP Under-18 head coach Ron Rolston about seeing the two Americans, Kane and vanRiemsdyk, go with the top two picks to the Chicago Blackhawks and Philadelphia Flyers, respectively, a first for the U.S. "This is an exciting day for us. We're still growing in hockey, but we feel we're producing better players. These are two young men that went one and two that took advantage of the resources at the program, and they took responsibility to develop themselves."

 

Add in Phoenix Coyotes draftee Turris, a British Columbia native, and it paints a very nice picture of the avenues for development available in the U.S.

 

"I think the depth of players in the U.S. is getting better," Rolston said, "and it certainly helps to have the National Team Development Program to get the kids together, and put them in an environment to develop over the course of two years, because it's a place where they can play a demanding schedule, work on themselves as a person off the ice and develop physically."

 

"If it wasn't for that, I'd probably be playing New Jersey high school hockey," vanRiemsdyk said of the NTDP. "But that was a big calling for me. If you want that dream, you've got to go for it, and that's the best way to go for it."

 

A total of five NTDP products - Kane, vanRiemsdyk, Boston University recruit Kevin Shattenkirk, Notre Dame recruit Ian Cole and Minnesota sophomore-to-be James O'Brien - were taken in the first round on Friday night at Nationwide Arena, half of the 10 Americans drafted among the first 30 players. In addition, 11 players drafted on Friday will play college hockey in 2007-08, as Canadians like Turris, Cornell recruit Riley Nash (Edmonton) and future Badger Brendan Smith (Detroit) are coming south to play in college. 

 

That's a pretty nice haul for the U.S., but in the end, it comes back to that top three: the two Americans and the Canadian who chose a road of development that will lead him across the border this fall.

 

"It just shows the job that we're doing at all levels in the United States in hockey," Rolston said, "from the minor levels and lowest grassroots levels, all the way through midgets and juniors and into the college programs."

 

Turris was fast to agree, but equally quick to pay the proper respect to his homeland.

 

"They have great hockey and they're really on the rise," Turris said of the U.S., still aglow from hearing his name called by Coyotes head coach and minority owner Wayne Gretzky. "Canada's still pretty good, though."

 

Indeed, fans of Canadian major junior hockey will be quick to point out that Kane made his run up the draft rankings this year playing for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, the traditional road for Canadiens, and the road favored by half of Friday's first-round picks, but a less traveled road for NTDP players. Still, while Kane chose the major junior route after fielding scholarship offers from the likes of BU and Michigan, he's an American player who came up largely through an American system.

 

"I think, certainly, we're proud that he came through the program," Rolston said. "He did a lot for USA Hockey so far, and I think in the future, he's going to do a lot for USA Hockey and the Chicago Blackhawks. But you know, every place up the line has had a role in his development. You can go back to the Buffalo Saints and all the way through. Every place has really had a hand in where he is today. London was a place to go and continue his development, and continue his confidence offensively, which put him in this situation today."

 

Meanwhile, both Turris and vanRiemsdyk are looking forward to continuing their development in the college ranks this season.

 

 

"Mike Eaves, Mark Osiecki and Kevin Patrick are great coaches," Turris said of the Badgers staff. "They have a very professional atmosphere and they make sure they get the best out of you. I think they're really going to prepare me well."

 

"I really love the campus there," vanRiemsdyk said of New Hampshire. "The coaching staff is first class, they're really great people there, and the game atmosphere is one of a kind. I'm sure there'll be some pretty big expectations on me, but I think I can handle that pretty well."

 

Of course, down the road, there will be expectations to fulfill in the NHL as well, as there will for all of Friday's first-round picks. For now, though, it's a day of pride, for the draftees and the teams that helped them get there.