The equipment, number of NHL teams and USA Hockey medal haul has changed since Phil Housley and Rob McClanahan were hockey prospects, but the drive of young players to catch the eyes of scouts up the development ladder remains constant.
American prospects today have a shining new opportunity to showcase their talents at Saturday’s inaugural CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo, N.Y. Housley and McClanahan will serve as coaches of their respective teams made up of the top 40 American prospects who are eligible for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
“When I played we went from high school to college and this kind of opportunity didn’t exist in any way shape or form,” said McClanahan, who helped the 1980 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team win the gold medal and played in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres. “If I’d had the opportunity to do something like this it would have been just spectacular.”
Both coaches remember the nerves of playing in front of NHL scouts and said they will impart their experiences with the players.
“We all get nervous in certain situations,” Housley said. “The best thing these guys can do is keep the game simple and let their talent take over.”
Housley, who helped Team USA win the 1996 World Cup of Hockey and staked his claim as one of the greatest American defensemen during a stellar NHL career, said he recognizes the impact the game will have on the prospects, but that he wants his players to enjoy the game as well.
“You’ve earned the right to be playing in this game, now just go out and make the game simple,” he said.
McClanahan added that he and Housley will preach the same message when it comes to framing the context of the game.
“This is an important game for a lot of these kids’ futures,” he said, “but it’s one step in their entire process. It’s an important game and important day, but it’s not the end-all.”
The coaches can speak from experience, each having played in pressure-packed international and professional games.
“These kids have been working hard for quite some time," McClanahan said. “They have to trust what they’ve done and believe that that is enough and go with what they have.”