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International Competition

I got the chance to watch USA play Canada on New Year's Eve, and it turned out to be a great game.

The game was essentially a 2-2 tie, with Canada scoring an empty-netter. The US was supposed to be the favorite coming into the tournament, and I was interested to see how they'd handle that role. Canada was probably a little deeper than the US, but just the fact that the US could play Canada so evenly says a lot about how far US hockey has come.

That said, this year might be the US's best chance for a while to get past Canada. While Canada has some exciting players coming up through the ranks that could be superstars like Angelo Esposito and John Tavares, the US doesn't really have any superstar-caliber prospects for the foreseeable future. The USA U18 and U17 teams are solid, but don't have anybody that is going to be a top draft pick.

The one piece of good news for the US is the way that they've handled their goaltending situation. Cory Schneider played pretty well against Canada while Jeff Frazee is apprenticing under him.. Next year, Jeff Frazee should take over while either Billy Sauer or Joe Palmer is the back-up, and then they can take over the following year.

The Ducks GM Brian Burke supposedly said that if he had the first pick in the draft, he'd take Jonathan Toews or Erik Johnson over Phil Kessel. I personally think Kessel has stood out a little more this year than Toews so far this season. I was very impressed with Erik Johnson and think he'd be a good pick. One of the knocks on Kessel is that he doesn't get his teammates involved enough. Gopher fans like to point to his high assist totals, but where are those assists coming from? Kessel is leading the World Juniors in assists, but most of them came in a blowout win over Norway. Kessel's college stats look a little more pedestrian if you take out the cheap points he racked up in a 7-0 blowout over Anchorage as well. He's a great player that is fun to watch, but he's going to have to put up those types of performances in big games later in the season to really quiet the critics.