May 17, 2000
For many years, the National Hockey League has had numerous American standouts. In 1990, Jeremy Roenick made his debut. In 1991, Doug Weight and Tony Amonte, and a year later, Keith Tkachuk was added to an NHL roster. Now, many seasons past, a new harvest of American stars is creating a wave
in the National Hockey League.
With New Jersey Devils' Scott Gomez and Colorado Avalanche's Chris Drury leading the way, this elite group of young and gifted superstars seems to ensure that the tradition will continue.
Chris Drury, the Little League baseball hero in the 1989 Little League World Series and Boston University superstar from Trumbull, Connecticut, captured Rookie of the Year honors in 1999. Leading NHL rookies in power play goals and finishing fourth among NHL rookies in assists that season, Drury only missed two games with a hip pointer injury. After two full NHL seasons, he has played in 161 regular season games and has accumulated 40 goals, 13 on the power play and 71 assists with 104 penalty minutes. Drury possesses superb leadership skills and has the capabilities of becoming a future captain in Colorado.
Scott Gomez, a member of the 1996 Alaska All-Stars National Championship team, will probably replace Drury as the winner of the Calder Trophy. Gomez was the first ever Hispanic player to be drafted in the first round and only the 18th Alaskan player to be drafted by a NHL organization. He played the entire 1999-00 regular season with the Devils totaling 19 goals and 51 assists with 78 penalty minutes.
Tom Poti, Edmonton Oilers second year defensemen and onetime Chris Drury teammate is succeeding at one of the hardest transformations. Following two seasons at Boston University, Poti joined the Oilers as a rookie defensemen in 1998-99. While developing skills and learning his job on the team, he finished with five goals and 16 assists. Contributing with offensive play in his second season, he is thought of as one of the top young players in the league. His development seems more inspiring considering what he had to deal with growing up. Poti battled severe childhood health problems and continues with extreme food allergies and asthma attacks, which require him to carry a ventilator and adrenaline kit. In light of all that, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound NHL defensemen has his hands full as he turns the corner into his third professional hockey season.
Among the NHL's top young players, there is a lot more American-born talent. Predators rookie center David Legwand, 19, born in Detroit, Mich., was selected No. 2 overall in the 1998 NHL Draft and has been receiving an abundance of ice time in Nashville. Rookie center Tim Connolly, 19, native to Baldwinsville, NY., was the New York Islanders prime choice in 1999. Similar to Legwand, he was given a lot of playing time during his first NHL season. Both players are capable of reaching 15 goals, a majestic figure for any rookie.
Rookie Philadelphia Flyers goalie Brian Boucher, 23, who was discovered in a high school program at Mount Saint Charles Academy in his native born Woonsocket, R.I. and has recently been playing above his colleague, U.S. Olympian John Vanbiesbrouck. Rangers' rookie Michael York, a Hobey Baker finalist at Michigan State is among the leading scorers on a prominent New York team. Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Paul Mara, born and raised in New Jersey and Carolina Hurricanes David Tanabe, native to Minnesota, played one season in a University of Wisconsin uniform before joining the NHL ranks.
With more than one way to reach the NHL, whether the route be taken through the U.S. college game or through juniors, American-born hockey players are finding that they don't have to wander far from home to fulfill their NHL dreams.
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