November 9, 2007

Who’s The Next American Hockey Idol

On Wednesday night, Mike Modano passed Phil Housley to become the highest scoring American NHL player in history. The two goals that Modano scored against the San Jose Sharks were points 1,232 and 1,233 on the list, which also put Modano at 35th overall on the NHL scoring sheet. With all the struggles Modano has had in the past few years, some wondered if this day would ever come. However, Modano has always been a gamer and came out every night to play his heart out.

What Modano has brought to the Dallas Stars organization and hockey in Dallas is really immeasureable, with participation in the sport having risen from 250 players to over 5,000 at the year’s end in 2006. Ice sheets in Dallas have gone up from one rink to about 22 sheets of ice in 2006, while High School hockey has hit a boom as well.

The growth of US born players has been on the rise as well, as a record 202 American-born players appeared in the NHL last season, a number sure to be broken this season. This past summer, Patrick Kane and James Van Riemsdyk became the first Americans to be drafted 1-2 in an Entry Draft. Kane was also the second straight American to be drafted first overall, with Erik Johnson being drafted by the Blues #1 overall in 2006.

With the influx of good young prospects on the NHL scene, the question will be—who will catch Mike Modano and become the king of US Hockey??

On the early onset, many believe that Patrick Kane is the heir-apparent to Modano’s throne and why not?? Kane has started his rookie season with a bang collected 17 points (5g, 12a) in his first 15 games as a pro and, along with Jonathan Toews, revitalizing the Blackhawks and making them a team to watch. Kane is also coming off a spectacular rookie year in the OHL, putting up 145 points in 58 games with the London Knights.

There were high hopes for Phil Kessel after he burst onto the scene during the 2005 World Junior Championship. However, due to some serious health issues and troubles finding his niche in the Bruins line-up, it has stalled his push. Kessel has started to his way into the top-6 of the Bruins and has been producing heavily, especially now with the absence of Patrice Bergeron.

Some non-rookies who could have a shot include Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, and Keith Tkachuk. While Tkachuk is up in years and almost 300 points behind Modano, the realism is that he probably won’t make it. With Drury and Gomez having their struggles and playing somewhat inconsistently, the hopes for them may be dimming. Also, with the decline of Jeremy Roenick, even though he’s 54 points behind, it doesn’t seem like good ol’ JR will be able to make the push to challenge Modano.

Whomever it is that will challenge Modano’s record, it seems that the future of USA Hockey is in very good hands. As the growth of the grassroots hockey steadily grows in the States, the chance for more young talented players to be chasing this mark is inevitable. It’s only a matter of time before the new big thing will be the one that is the hunted and not the hunter.

Ballhype: hype it up!

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