Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Talented Young Americans Making Their Mark in NHL

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Talented Young Americans Making Their Mark in NHL

Article excerpt

Byline: Fred Goodall Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. | Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, P.K. Subban, Connor McDavid, John Tavares, Henrik Lundquist, MarcAndre Fleury.

Most of the biggest names in hockey will be centerstage today in the NHL AllStar game. So will Auston Matthews and a wave of other young Americanborn players energizing a league benefiting from an infusion of speed and skill.

Matthews, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft, is just 20 years old and already a twotime AllStar.

Jack Eichel, the second pick in 2015, is a firsttime AllStar at age 21. Noah Hanifin, 21, and Conner Hellebuyck, 24, are making their debuts as well, while 20yearold Brock Boeser is the lone rookie joining the party at Amalie Arena.

"It's crazy. ... This is my 10th year, I'll be 28 in the next couple of weeks, and I feel like an old guy," Stamkos, a fivetime AllStar voted captain of the Atlantic Division team vying for $1 million in a winnertakeall, threegame tournament played in a threeonthree format.

"It's pretty amazing to see how young the league has become, but even more amazing to see how good these kids are coming up," Stamkos added. "It just goes to show you the skill, and just how ready these 18, 19yearold kids are right away to step into this league, where 10, 15 years ago it was unheard of to do that."

Two other young Americans - Seth Jones, 23, and Johnny Gaudreau, a four time AllStar who's 24 - also were also selections in a year when NHL has chosen to not sent its players to the Olympics. The decision has left some potential firsttime Olympians wondering what might have been.

Matthews, of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was the first U.S.born player drafted No. 1 overall since Patrick Kane in 2007.

Boeser leads all rookies 24 goals and 43 points for the Vancouver Canucks, while Eichel has 20 goals and 49 points for the Buffalo Sabres.

"Really impressive. The quality of USA hockey, we have a lot of young players that are developing fast, coming into the league and having a ton of success. It's pretty cool to see," said Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler, a first time AllStar at 31. …

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