The impact of American-born players in the NHL has intensified over the last few decades. Not only has there been an increase of U.S. born players on NHL rosters, but those players have been some of the best players in the league. The last two Conn Smythe Trophy winners have been American-born players (Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick) and the league-wide focus in free agency in 2012 was on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.
Team USA has won the Silver Medal in two of the last three Olympic games, and was a single goal away from winning Gold in 2010. Unlike years prior, where it would be difficult to find ten great American players in the league, the difficulty now is trying to determine the top ten American players in the league. But, here is a list of the top ten U.S.-born players in the NHL today.
Ryan Callahan is one of the best all-around players in the NHL today. The 27-year old has been able to do everything for the Rangers, from scoring timely goals on the power play to block shot on the penalty kill.
The Rangers’ captain had his best season offensively in 2011-12. The Rochester, NY native finished the season with career-highs in goals (29), assists, (25), and points (54).
9. David Backes, Center, St. Louis Blues
David Backes has emerged as one of the NHL’s best two-way forwards. The Blues’ captain established career-highs in the 2010-11 season when he scored 31 goals and added 31 assists to record 62 points.
In addition to scoring 30 or more goals in two of his five NHL seasons, the Minneapolis, MN native has been recognized for his play in the defensive zone. The 28-year old had the second highest plus/minus rating in 2010-11 with a +32, and was nominated for the Selke in 2011-12 as the league’s best defensive forward.
Ryan Kesler is one of the best power forwards in the NHL. The 27-year old center recorded at least 20 goals in each of the last five seasons, many of them coming on chances from in front of the net on the power play.
Kesler’s best year to date came in the 2010-11 season. The Livonia, MI native scored a career-high 41 goals and finished with 73 points, the second highest total of his career. The Canucks’ alternate captain also added 7 goals and 19 points in the playoffs in helping Vancouver advance to their 3rd Stanley Cup Finals in team history.
Ryan Miller has been one of the best goalies in the NHL since the lockout. The Sabres’ goalie, who will turn 32 years old on July 17th, has won at least 30 games in every season of his career, and hasn’t recorded a save percentage lower than .906.
Miller’s best season, both in the NHL and internationally, came in 2009-10. The East Lansing, MI native went 41-18-8 with a 2.22 goals against average and a .929 save percentage to win the Vezina Trophy. Also, Miller was named MVP of the 2010 Winter Olympics as he led Team USA to a Silver Medal.
In his first few seasons in the NHL, Bobby Ryan became one of the best young scorers in the league. Playing on a line with Ryan Getlzaf and Corey Perry, the 25-year old scored at least 30 goals in each of his first four seasons.
Since being drafted 5th overall in the 2006 draft by the Boston Bruins, expectations have been high for Phil Kessel. And while Kessel experienced ups and downs in both Boston and Toronto, his overall numbers put him among some of the best in the game.
In each of the last four seasons, Kessel has scored at least 30 goals and has recorded no fewer than 55 points in any season. In 2011-12, the Madison, WI native led all Americans in the NHL in scoring with 37 goals, 45 assists, and 82 points.
And the scary thing about Kessel is that he is only 24 years old.
4. Ryan Suter, Defenseman, Minnesota Wild
Ryan Suter is one of the best all-around defensemen in the NHL. The son of 1980 Gold Medal winner Bob Suter, and nephew of one of the best American-born defensemen ever Gary Suter, Ryan has put together his own impressive resume through the first seven seasons of his career.
In 2011-12, the 27-year old put together his best season yet on both sides of the puck. The Madison, WI native recorded a career-high 46 points, while finishing with a +15 plus/minus rating, the second highest of his career. This off-season, Suter left the Nashville Predators to sign a 13-year/$98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild.
When 23 goals, 43 assists, and 66 points is viewed as a down year for a player, that player is clearly recognized as one of the best scorers in the game. That is the case with Chicago Blackhawks’ right winger Patrick Kane.
Each of those totals that Kane recorded in 2011-12 was the lowest of his career. Kane’s best season came in 2009-10, when the Buffalo, NY native recorded career highs in goals (30), assists (58), and points (88), and scored the game-winning goal to give the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.
Despite his “down” year in 2011-12, there is no reason to believe that Kane won’t return to form. After all, he is only 23 years old.
2. Zach Parise, Left Wing, Minnesota Wild
Zach Parise is one of the most consistent, and highest scoring American forwards in the NHL. In five of the six seasons in which Parise played more than 80 games, the 27-year old scored at least 31 goals, and recorded no fewer than 62 points.
Parise’s best season came in 2008-09. The Minneapolis, MN native scored a career-high 45 goals, and recorded a career-high 94 points. This off-season, the 2010 Olympian left the New Jersey Devils, and signed a 13-year/$98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild.
1. Jonathan Quick, Goaltender, Los Angeles Kings
Jonathan Quick not only established himself as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, but as the best American-born player in the game today. Since becoming the Kings’ full-time starter in the 2009-10 season, the 26-year old’s numbers have improved every season.
Quick’s steady improvement culminated with his spectacular 2011-12 season. The Milford, CT native carried the Kings to the postseason by winning 35 games, recording a 1.95 goals against average, and a .929 save percentage, while earning a nomination for the Vezina Trophy.
In the 2011-12 playoffs, Quick elevated his incredible regular season play. The Vezina nominee went 16-4 with a 1.41 goals against average and a .946 save percentage to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, capture the first Stanley Cup in the Kings’ franchise history.