NHL Draft: A Look Back at Americans in the First Round (Part II)

Previously on United States of Hockey… We took a look back at how Americans have fared in the NHL Entry Draft from 2003 to 2006. Today, we conclude that series as we review the Draft from 2007 to 2010.

Two of these Drafts proved historic for American players, while the other two were a little less exciting. Regardless, some future stars came out of the last four Drafts.

So here it is… a look back at the last four NHL Entry Drafts…

2007 (10 Americans selected in first round)

Perhaps one of the most exciting drafts for American-born players on record, 2007 was a historic affair.

Patrick Kane went first overall to the Chicago Blackhawks, which marked the first time Americans went first overall in back-to-back years (Erik Johnson went No. 1 to St. Louis in 2006). Immediately following Kane was New Jersey-native James van Riemsdyk to the Flyers at No. 2. That also made history, as the pair of NTDP alumni became the first Americans to go 1-2 in the Draft.

Both have gone on to pretty solid careers. Kane won the Calder Memorial Award as the league’s best rookie in his first campaign and scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal for Chicago last season. Kane also was a key player on the 2010 Olympic team. van Riemsdyk finally had his breakout season last year and is proving the hype was warranted.

Ryan McDonagh got picked up by Montreal at No. 12. He was later traded to the Rangers for which he made his NHL debut this season. Kevin Shattenkirk was selected by the Colorado Avalanche at No. 14. He was also traded, though his transaction came in the middle of his rookie season. Shattenkirk was part of a shocking swap for Erik Johnson, landing the former Colorado draft pick in St. Louis. In his rookie campaign, Shattenkirk performed admirably and was one of the rookies invited to the NHL All-Star festivities.

St. Louis grabbed Ian Cole at 17. He was a common D partner for Shattenkirk at the NTDP and now the two are reunited in St. Louis. Cole appeared in 26 games with the Blues in his first NHL stint this season.

Montreal held on to the guy they drafted at No. 22, Max Pacioretty. He’s played parts of the last three seasons with the Habs and recently signed an extension with the club.

Jonathon Blum earned a selection from the Nashville Predators at No. 23. He also made his NHL debut this season and skated in 12 playoff games with the Preds.

Vancouver took Patrick White with the 25th pick, and he hasn’t really panned out as they’d had hoped and was dealt to San Jose last season. White finished a less-than-exciting career at the University of Minnesota last season.

The San Jose Sharks tabbed Nick Petrecki at No. 28. He spent the last two seasons with the Worcester Sharks in the AHL after a two-year stint at Boston College.

Lastly, Ottawa selected Jimmy O’Brien with the 29th overall pick. O’Brien made his NHL debut this season, but spent most of his time with the AHL Binghamton Senators. He helped the B-Sens win the AHL’s Calder Cup just a few short weeks ago.

2008 (5)

Following such a tremendous year was a less exciting one for the U.S. With half the number of players selected in 2008, it might not look the best on paper.

However, Zach Bogosian was selected third overall by the Atlanta Thrashers. He stepped right into Atlanta’s lineup and is still developing. He’ll ply his trade with the Winnipeg Whosamawhatchits next season and looks poised to be a very solid rearguard.

The Nashville Predators stuck with an American in the first round for the second straight year by grabbing Colin Wilson at No. 7. After splitting his rookie season between the AHL and NHL, Wilson appeared in all 82 games for the Preds this season. He was a healthy scratch for much of the playoffs, but did see time in three postseason games. He’s another guy with room to grow as a player.

Jake Gardiner was drafted by Anaheim at No. 17. Just last season he was traded to Toronto. Gardiner signed with the Leafs upon the completion of his junior season at the University of Wisconsin and appeared in 10 games with the AHL Marlies. The defenseman was also part of the 2010 U.S. National Junior Team that won gold.

The Washington Capitals made a solid selection at No. 27 when they picked up John Carlson. After appearing in 32 games with the Caps in 2009-10 and earning a Calder Cup with the Hershey Bears, Carlson earned full-time status in the NHL this season and didn’t disappoint. Carlson also scored the game-winning goal in OT for that 2010 U.S. National Junior Team, earning him hero-like status among American hockey fans.

The last American drafted was Thomas McCollum at No. 30 by Detroit. The Red Wings don’t miss often, but surprised many with their selection of McCollum. He made a brief appearance (15 mins) with the Wings last season, but spent most of the year between ECHL Toledo and AHL Grand Rapids. Goalies often have a longer development curve, so he’s got a while before anyone worries too much.

2009 (5)

Similar to 2008, a mere five Americans were selected in the first round in 2009.

Nick Leddy was the first American picked up, when the Minnesota Wild took him at No. 16. Before making it to the NHL, Leddy was traded to and soon signed by the Chicago Blackhawks. Last season, Leddy kind of lucked into a job when Brian Campbell got hurt, but performed well enough to stick for most of the season and played in 46 regular-season games and all seven postseason contests with the Hawks. He’s expected to have a bigger role on the team next season.

Chris Kreider was picked up by the New York Rangers at No. 19, and has spent the last two seasons lighting up Hockey East with Boston College. Though he won’t sign this year, he’s almost a lock to do so for 2012-13 and should make the Rangers immediately. He’s played on the last two U.S. National Junior Teams and U.S. Men’s National Teams, winning gold at the 2010 World Juniors. Kreider just might be a budding American star.

John Moore was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets just two picks later. Moore spent most of last season, his first as a pro, in the AHL. He did get in two games with the big club, however.

Vancouver tabbed Jordan Schroeder at No. 22. Schroeder skated for two years at the University of Minnesota before signing with Vancouver. He spent all of last season in the AHL with the Manitoba Moose. Schroeder was also a member of the 2010 U.S. National Junior Team that won gold and also became the highest-scoring American (24 points) in the history of the tournament, as a three-time participant.

The Anaheim Ducks made Kyle Palmieri the last American selected at No. 26. He appeared in 10 regular-season games with the Ducks and one postseason contest last year. He even scored a goal in his NHL debut. Palmieri spent most of the year with AHL Portland and had a solid output with 51 points. He was also a member of the 2010 World Junior Championship gold medal team.

2010 (11)

Now back to the good part.

2010 was another historic draft year for Americans in the first round. A record 11 American-born players were selected. Now, for most of these players, the jury is still out as most are still a few years away. Only one player skated in the NHL last season, but early indications are showing 2010 to be a real solid draft for all of the Americans involved.

One of the big surprises of the draft was Jack Campbell being the first American selected. He was taken 11th overall by Dallas. Goalies tend to have longer development curves, but Campbell looks like he may be a stud. Having played in the World Juniors as an under-age player, he helped the U.S. win the gold in 2010. He was also stellar in 2011, as the U.S. went on to take bronze. He might not be terribly far away from pro hockey right now.

The biggest surprise of the 2010 Draft was the tumble of Cam Fowler to 12th overall. However, it was Fowler who had the last laugh as he immediately stepped into the Anaheim lineup as a full-time player. He posted 40 points in the regular season as the Ducks earned a playoff berth. There might be a few GMs who are kicking themselves right now having passed on the supremely talented Fowler. He’s also a 2010 World Junior Championship gold medalist.

Derek Forbort was the next American selection at No. 15 by the L.A. Kings. Forbort currently skates for the University of North Dakota and appears to be a high-upside defenseman that the Kings can bring along slowly. Forbort was a key defenseman for the 2011 U.S. National Junior Team that won bronze in Buffalo.

Austin Watson was taken by the Nashville Predators at No. 18 and signed his pro contract last season. Skating for the Peterborough Petes in the OHL last year, Watson closed out 2010-11 with the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL.

The Florida Panthers nabbed Nick Bjugstad with the very next pick. Another high-upside guy, with great size, Bjugstad had a successful freshman campaign with the University of Minnesota last year and was part of the bronze-medal winning U.S. National Junior Team.

Beau Bennett was the third consecutive American selected when Pittsburgh took him at No. 20. Bennett came off of a spectacular season in the BCHL in his draft year and skated for the University of Denver. An injury hampered his freshman campaign, but there’s a lot of people very high on Bennett as a potential pro.

The Montreal Canadiens have never shied away from American defensemen and they took a big one with 6-7 Jarred Tinordi at No. 22. Tinordi spent last season with the London Knights of the OHL. He probably has a little ways to go development-wise, but you have to love a guy with that size and toughness.

Kevin Hayes was taken at 24 by the Chicago Blackhawks. He skated at Boston College last season and was part of one of college hockey’s finest teams. He didn’t really shine in his first year, but appears to have some great potential.

San Jose got themselves a heck of a pick up with Charlie Coyle at No. 28. The Boston University product turned a ton of heads at the World Junior Championship, causing some to believe he might be NHL-ready right now. He’ll stay for another year at BU, but that might be it.

Emerson Etem got a big cheer when he was taken by the Anaheim Ducks. The California native has been lighting up the WHL over the past two seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers. He signed with the Ducks at the end of this past season and could be a threat to make Anaheim’s roster next year. He helped Team USA win bronze at the 2011 World Juniors.

Brock Nelson was the last pick of the first round in 2010, earning a selection from the New York Islanders. Nelson also played at the University of North Dakota last season and was part of the U.S. National Junior Team that won bronze at the World Juniors. He’s strictly an upside guy, so he’s probably got a few years to go before he’s making an NHL roster, but he’s got time.

So there it is… that concludes the look back. Over the last eight drafts there have been nine U.S. Olympians, a Calder Memorial Award winner, a Frank J. Selke Award winner, two 40-plus goal scorers, six 30-plus goal scorers, 11 20-plus goal scorers, six World Junior championship gold medalists, nine World Junior bronze medalists. Not a bad record right there.

The biggest plus in examining all of this info is that there have been far more hits than there have been misses when drafting American players. Some teams have done better than others. It doesn’t really matter what country a player is from as long as the team has done their homework and feels comfortable with a kid. Over the last eight drafts, plenty of teams have felt comfortable with American players.

We don’t even flinch now when American players are drafted, however 40 years ago, it was almost unheard of. The country has come a long way in its development of elite players capable of playing in the NHL and it’s only getting better.

There will be peaks and valleys, as there are with most things, but the peaks are becoming more and more frequent these days. That’s tremendous news for USA Hockey, American players and the NHL as well.

If you missed the link on Part I, make sure to check out this USA Hockey document highlighting the history of American players at the NHL Entry Draft.

The 2011 NHL Entry Draft is rapidly approaching… so coming up later today, I’ll have my guide on how to keep up with the draft and who to follow for all of the best content. If you aren’t ready just yet, hopefully that post can help you catch up.

As always, you can keep track of the United States of Hockey by following me on Twitter or Liking the United States of Hockey on Facebook. Don’t forget, you can also take a look at all of my previous NHL Draft-related posts by clicking the “NHL Draft” tag at the bottom of this post.

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About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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