Top two picks of ’07 Draft not impacting Stanley Cup very much

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The 2010 Stanley Cup Finals features a match-up between the #1 and #2 overall picks in the 2007 NHL Draft. The Chicago Blackhawks took Patrick Kane first overall that June; the Philadelphia Flyers followed up by taking James Van Riemsdyk second. This marked the first time in NHL history that two Americans were picked 1st and 2nd overall in the same draft.

Both of these young players have played crucial roles for their teams this season, but neither has made a big impact during the first two games of the Stanley Cup Finals.

By Paul M. Banks

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Van Riemsdyk, the 6-3, 205lb New Jersey product, had 20 assists and 15 goals during his ’09-’10 rookie season. In game one, he had 9 minutes of ice time and a -2. He did not play in game two. It’s a long series though, so expect him to make an impact sometime.

“When you play for the guy next to you, good things tend to happen,” Van Riemsdyk said.

“We’ve been playing for each other here, with a lot of sacrifice playing throughout the playoffs and some good things have been happening for us,” he said at media day.

But those good things don’t seem to be happening much in this series. The all-time record of home clubs sweeping Games 1 and 2 of the Stanley Cup Final is 31-2 (.939). In 1971, Chicago won the first two games at home but lost to Montreal in seven games. In 2009, Detroit won the first two games at home but lost to Pittsburgh in seven games.

Van Riemsdyk was named NHL Rookie of the Month last November, but he’s been rather MIA lately. The man drafted ahead of him, Patrick Kane, is also yet to score a point this series. He logged almost 19 minutes of ice time in game two.

But Kane has without a doubt had a much better career so far. He earned NHL third star of the month last December and the Calder Memorial Trophy (Rookie of the Year) in ’08. The Hawks were pretty certain (at least internally, even if they didn’t publicly express it) they were going to take Kaner once they won the ’07 NHL Draft Lottery.

But there was some debate at the time, as Van Riemsdyk was also considered a #1 overall worthy talent. Obviously, the statistics Kane has put up during his three year career speak for themselves (76 goals 154 assists, 230 points, +11) and prove he was the right decision. Today, he’s the face of both the franchise and Team USA hockey.

Kaner knows the Flyers will get physical with him at some point. “They are probably pretty mad at themselves.  They scored five goals on the road and don’t come up with the victory,” Kane said before game two.

“So I’m sure as the Series goes on, it will probably get a little more intense and the physicality will pick up a bit.  But it seems like they’re a pretty nasty team.  I guess you expect it from them,” Kane said.

Kaner is known for his speed, and sooner, rather than later that should land him in the score sheet. The Flyers have only been utilizing four defensemen, and the lack of depth should eventually wear down the guys who comprise the two blue-liner pairings.

“I think Pronger played over 30 minutes.  With a guy like that, you get down on their own end, they don’t want to play,”  Kane said.

“That’s a big thing.  Control the puck and make them chase you.  Especially a big guy like that who’s been around a while and playing lot of minutes. Hopefully you can tire him out,” he elaborated.

“With the other three, I think they’re all really good defensemen.  So at the same time they’re logging a lot of minutes.  Sometimes it’s tougher against guys like that.  If we can wear them down, get our big guys in and try to bang them as much as possible, that should be good for all the lines,” Kane said Monday.

On Memorial night, Chicago improved to 8-1 in the 2010 playoffs when they score first, 9-1 when leading after two periods and 5-1 when outshot by their opponent (Phi 33, Chi 26).

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