American hockey is in good hands.
Despite our young Yankees’ disappointing 2-0 loss to Finland in the quarterfinals of the World Championships on Thursday in Germany, signs of promise abound. Mostly, that lies in the youth on the roster, a lot of it localized.
The Rangers sent Brady Skjei, 23, and Kevin Hayes, 25, both of whom arrived after the Blueshirts lost to the Senators in the second round of the playoffs last week. The Islanders, who missed the playoffs, sent Anders Lee, 26, who was second on the team with five goals in eight games, as well as 25-year-old Brock Nelson, who was an alternate captain.
Those coming from the Hub of Hockey in Boston were also big-time contributors. The never-ending stream of players out of Boston College to play for Team USA was led by the Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau, who was by far the team’s best player the whole tournament. In the final group-stage game, it was a Boston University kid, Sabres star Jack Eichel, making a play to Gaudreau, who found Lee in front for what would be the game-winning goal against Russia, giving the Americans first place in their group.
Of course, that play by Gaudreau had to make Hayes, a proud Golden Eagle himself, smile. And despite a natural rivalry with Boston University, there was no denying the bright future for three BU kids who have been together since the US Developmental Team and have played twice on the international stage in the past five months. That starts with defenseman Charlie McAvoy, who joined the Bruins during the playoffs and was immediately playing over 20 minutes per game (mostly due to injuries); and includes Clayton Keller, whom the Coyotes took with the No. 7 overall pick last June, and Jordan Greenway, a second-rounder for the Wild.
“Oh, man, it’s always such a blessing for myself every time that USA Hockey asks me to come and play,” McAvoy told NHL.com. “It’s always something that perks me up right away. Any time I get the opportunity to represent my country, I don’t think twice. It’s given me so many amazing things, wearing this jersey. I try to give back when I can.”
Speaking of Boston, anyone seen Chris Kreider, who hasn’t donned the Red, White and Blue since 2011? Yes, the Rangers have played a lot of playoff games in the interim, but at 26, is he over the hill? And it was much-needed rest for another Ranger, rookie Jimmy Vesey, the Harvard kid who is turning 24 on May 26 and just played almost as many hard-hitting NHL games in a eight-month span (92) as he had in the previous three years combined in college (101).
With the NHL’s incredibly short-sighted approach to not going to the 2018 Olympics — for now — this World Championships seemed quite a bit more important. Just ask Henrik Lundqvist.
And yes, the Americans lost to Finland, which meets Lundqvist and Sweden in the semifinals, while Russia takes on Canada. And there is no…