Think of Monday’s 4 p.m. Biosteel All-American Game at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth as a preview of NHL coming attractions. The annual game is only 11 years old and yet it already counts dozens of NHL players on its list of past participants.
Detroit Red Wings captain Dylan Larkin played in it. The Tkachuk brothers, Matthew and Brady, played in it. The Hughes brothers, Jack and Quinn, did as well. Jack Eichel. Tage Thompson. Charlie McAvoy. The game has known stars aplenty. The game’s alumni includes 58 first round picks.
“For me, a guy who puts together World Junior teams, this is the next best thing,” said John Vanbiesbrouck, USA Hockey assistant executive director of hockey operations.
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) December 28, 2022
Vanbiesbrouck expects a good crowd, but there were some tickets still available this week.
All 32 NHL teams will have scouts at the game. The Detroit Red Wings’ Director of Amateur Kris Draper will be there, probably with several other team personnel. Through the years, the Red Wings have drafted nine players who played in the game, including three (Shai Buium, Carter Mazur and Red Savage) in the 2021 draft. Mazur and Buium won an NCAA championship with Denver last season and Savage was one of the alternate captains on USA’s bronze-medal winning team at the recent World Junior Championships.
“The game has grown in its popularity,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “We have a good base of American-born players, and a great league in the the USHL and obviously our national development program and the players. It’s a great forum to showcase our American-born talent.”
Smith Should Land in Top 10
The game will include several potential first rounders, led by U.S. NTDP center Will Smith who projects to go in the top 10 of the draft this summer. Right wing Ryan Leonard and Center Oliver Moore, also of the U.S. NTDP, should also land in the first round.
“We have a great relationship with the National Hockey League and their interest is high,” said Vanbiesbrouck, a former NHL goalie.
Smith should follow the line of American centers that have gone early in the first round in recent years.
“I think the ceiling is really high for these guys,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “Everyone wants first line centers and right wings…Will Smith is a very cerebral center who can distribute the puck like the position calls for. Ryan Leonard is very physical, good corner man . Plays hard. ”
What Vanbiesbrouck appreciates is the depth of the American group. The Americans can showcase players who fit any role in the NHL.
“But we have guys like Cole Knuble, son of (former NHLer) Mike Knuble, is just a well-rounded 200-foot player,” Vanbiesbrouck said. “He plays to the USA Hockey brand, really hard-nosed and fast. He can make plays. We love that kind of player.”
Gabe Perreault, son of former NHLer Yanic Perreault, is another potential first rounder. Vanbiesbrouck said Perreault continues to emerge. “His speed, and the way he drives the net, is really what the NHL game is made of,” Vanbiesbrouck said.
The primary reason this game has grown is that Americans have continued to grow their impact in the NHL. Said Vanbiesbrouck: “It’s fair to say that some of the American-born players are the best players on their NHL teams.”