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U.S. improving on world stage

Updated: June 28, 2004, 1:10 AM ET
By Jim Kelley | ESPN.com

RALEIGH, N.C. -- To understand how U.S.-born players were regarded in the 2004 NHL entry draft, consider this:

In making his first pick, the fifth overall, Wayne Gretzky and the Phoenix Coyotes had narrowed their options down to two players. Both were Americans.

"We think [Al] Montoya is a great goaltender," said the Great One in explaining the Coyotes' decision to select high-schooler Blake Wheeler. "It was a tough decision for us, and probably the biggest reason we decided to go ...

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