The game of hockey still remains fourth among the major sports behind basketball, baseball and football in the United States, but the game has grown nationwide over the past few decades. George “Gerry Peirce Geran, a native of Holyoke, MA, was the first-ever American-born player to play in the NHL when he dressed for the Montreal Wanders during the league’s inaugural season of 1917-18.
Since Geran’s debut, 1,274 players born in the United States have skated in at least one NHL game. Those players have come from 40 states and the District of Columbia. We are going to take a cross-country trip to highlight the best player to come from each of those states. The only criterion is we are going by the state the player was born in, not where he was raised or played his youth hockey. Let the debates begin!
Alabama – Nic Dowd
We start our journey across the United States with Alabama, which, surprisingly, has produced three NHL players: Nic Dowd, Jared Ross and Aud Tuten. Dowd is the best of that lot, having played in 251 games for the Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals. The Huntsville, AL native has 24 goals and 63 points and scored a career-high eight goals for the Capitals during the 2018-19 season.
Alaska – Scott Gomez
The Land of the Midnight Sun has produced 13 NHL players over the years including the likes of Matt Carle, Brandon Dubinsky and Nate Thompson. Scott Gomez is, by far, the most successful player to come out of Alaska. After being selected 27th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, he went on to score 181 goals and 765 points in 1079 games.
Gomez won the 2000 Calder Trophy for being the league’s top rookie with 19 goals and 70 points. He played in the Stanley Cup Final in three of his first four seasons in the league, winning it in 2000 and 2003. He had 101 points in 149 career postseason games.
While he had his greatest success with the Devils, including 33 goals in 2005-06, he also spent time playing for the New York Rangers, Montreal Canadiens, San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers, St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators.
Arizona – Sean Couturier
Believe it or not, hockey is picking up in the state of Arizona. Up until 2012, defenseman Jim Brown, who played three games for the Kings in 1983, was the only player born in the Grand Cayon State to play in the NHL. There are currently four players from Arizona playing in the league; Couturier, Tage Thompson and Brady and Matthew Tkachuk.
At this present moment, Couturier is the best player in this group, although the Tkachuk brothers may have something to say about that over the next few seasons. He has always been known as one of the best defensive forwards in the league and he has recently added offense to his game. He had back-to-back 76-point seasons in 2017-18 and 2018-19 with 31 and 33 goals respectively. Couturier has become a very valuable player and key part of the Philadelphia Flyers success.
California – Auston Matthews
Thanks to the success the Anaheim Ducks, Kings and Sharks over the past 20 years, the game of hockey has grown by leaps and bounds in California. There have been 46 players from the Golden State to play in the NHL with the majority of those making their debut over the past 15 years.
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Although Auston Matthews was raised in Arizona and began his love of the game by watching the Coyotes, he was born in San Ramon, CA. He has already scored the most goals (158) and points (285) of anyone born in California, in just 282 games. Only Brooks Orpik and Lee Norwood have more assists, but it is only a matter of time before he owns that record too.
The sky is still limit for Matthews, who scored at least 34 goals in each of his first four seasons. He had a career-high 47 goals and 80 points before the 2019-20 season was put on hold. At just 22-years-old, there is no telling how far he can climb up the league’s all-time scoring list.
Colorado – Ben Bishop
Bishop is one of 15 players born in Colorado, 11 of which were born in Denver, to play in the NHL. The 33-year-old goaltender has had the most success out of all of them with 222 wins in 11 seasons with the Blues, Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning, Kings and currently the Dallas Stars.
Since the start of the 2013-14 season, Bishop is seventh among all NHL goaltenders in win and leads all netminders with at least 100 starts in both goals-against average (GAA) and save percentage (SV%). He has finished second in Vezina Trophy voting twice in his career, in 2016 and 2019, and helped the Lightning reach the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
Connecticut – Johnathan Quick
The Constitution State has produced 32 NHLers over the years, including the likes of Cam Atkinson, Nick Bonino, Chris Drury and Max Pacioretty. However, the most accomplished player among the group is Quick, who has built a Hall of Fame resume with the Kings.
Since his first full season in 2008-09, Quick has won 324 of his 634 starts; only Marc-Andre Fleury, Pekka Rinne and Henrik Lundqvist have won more. He is one of 93 goaltenders to play in at least 100 games during this span and he is fifth in GAA among them.
Quick won two Stanley Cups with the Kings, in 2012 and 2014. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy for being the most valuable player of the postseason in 2012. He also took home a pair of William Jennings Trophies, given to the goaltender(s) who allowed the fewest goals in league in at least 25 games, in 2014 and again in 2018.
Delaware – Mark Eaton
Eaton is the one and only player born in Delaware to play in the NHL. The defenseman set the bar pretty high playing in 640 for the Flyers, Nashville Predators, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders. He played in all 24 postseason games during the Penguins run to the 2009 Stanley Cup, scoring four goals and seven points and finishing with a plus-4 rating.
District of Columbia – Jeff Halpern
Halpern joins Kevyn Adams and Bill Nyrop as the only three players born in Washington, D.C. to play in the NHL. He had the best career of the trio with 152 goals and 373 points in 976 games with the Capitals, Stars, Lightning, Kings, Canadiens, Rangers and Coyotes. He had two 20-goal seasons and finished with at least 40 points four times in his 14-year NHL career.
Florida – Shayne Gostisbehere
Shayne Gostisbehere is one of 13 players from the Sunshine State to play in the NHL and one of eight who have debuted since the start of the 2015-16 season. He leads all Florida natives in goals (51), assists (148) and points (199). Only Dan Hinote has played in more games.
It will be interesting to see how long he holds these state records considering both Jack and Quinn Hughes were born in Orlando, FL.
Georgia – Mark Mowers
Georgia has only produced three NHL players; forwards Eric Chouinard and Mowers and goaltender Jean-Marc Pelletier. Mowers had 18 goals and 62 points in 278 games for the Predators, Detroit Red Wings, Boston Bruins and Ducks. The Decatur, GA native played in three postseason games for the Red Wings during the 2006 Stanley Cup playoffs.
Idaho – Pat Shea
It is safe to say that this is the first time Shea has ever been mentioned on The Hockey Writers. He is one of two players from Idaho to play in the NHL, joining Guyle Fielder. Both Shea and Fielder were from Potlatch, ID and played in a combined 19 games. Shea gets the nod because the defenseman had one assist for the Chicago Blackhawks during his 10 games of the 1931-32 season. Fielder never had a point in his nine games with the Blackhawks and Red Wings during the 1950s.
Illinois – Chris Chelios
The Land of Lincoln has produced 70 NHL players of the year and with the recent success of the Blackhawks over the past decade, youth hockey is as strong as it has ever been in the state. There is little doubt that Chelios, a Chicago native, is the best player from Illinois as he is one of the greatest American-born players to ever lace up a pair of skates.
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The Hall of Famer played 1651 games, scoring 185 goals and 948 points and retiring with a plus-351 rating. He played for the Canadiens, Blackhawks Red Wings and finished his career playing in seven games with the Atlanta Thrashers at 48-years-old.
Chelios won three Stanley Cups in career, one with the Canadiens and two with the Red Wings. Two of his three Norris Trophies came with the Blackhawks after winning one in Montreal.
No defenseman in the history of the league played in more games than him. He is eighth all-time in assists (763) and 10th in points (948) among blueliners, all while racking 2891 penalty minutes, the second-most ever at the position.
Indiana – Jack Johnson
The Hoosier State has produced 10 NHL players with four of them playing over 800 games in the league. Among those are forward Donald Brashear and defensemen Ken Klee and John-Michael Liles. Jack Johnson has played in the second-most games with 937 NHL contests under his belt. He is second in assists (232) and points (302) behind only Liles.
The Indianapolis, IN native was taken third overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes but was traded to the Kings in 2006. He was traded from the Kings to the Columbus Blue Jackets in part of the deal that brought Jeff Carter to Los Angeles.
Iowa – Scott Clemmensen
Iowa has never been known as a hotbed of hockey, but it is starting to get better. With the Minnesota Wild’s AHL affiliate in Des Moines and some solid AAA programs in the state, the game is growing within its borders.
Clemmensen played in 191 games between the pipes for both the Devils and Panthers. He made a career-high 39 starts for the Devils during the 2008-09 season, winning 25 games and finishing the season with a 2.39 GAA. He also appeared in over 200 AHL games during his career.
Maine – Brian Dumoulin
Eight players have come out of the state Maine, three of those have played in the NHL this season including Garnet Hathaway and Oliver Wahlstrom. Dumoulin has been on Pittsburgh’s blue line for 347 games since the start of the 2013-14 season. He played in all 48 of their playoff games during their run to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
Maryland – Jeff Brubaker
Three players born in Maryland have dressed for at least one NHL game. Defenseman Jamie Fritsch and goaltender Jeremy Duchesne each played in one game in 2009 and 2010 respectively. Brubaker, a left winger, scored 16 goals and 25 points in 178 career games for the Hartford Whalers, Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, Rangers and Red Wings.
Massachusetts – Jeremy Roenick
Only Minnesota has produced more NHL players than the 202 that have come out of the Pilgrim State. If you were to have a tournament made up of state teams, Massachusetts would be one of the favorites to win it. Some of its great players include Tony Amonte, John Carlson, Jack Eichel, Bill Guerin, Kevin Stevens and Keith Tkachuk.
Long before Roenick became an outspoken television analyst, he was a Hall of Fame goal scorer with the Blackhawks, Coyotes, Flyers, Sharks and Kings for 20 NHL seasons. He played in the most games for any player born in the state with 1363. He is the all-time leader with 703 assists and 1216 points. Only Tkachuk scored more than his 513 goals.
His legacy lives on where his great career started. You can walk into the United Center during any Blackhawks game and you will still see quite a few number 27 sweaters walking around the concourse.
Michigan – Mike Modano
Michigan is another state that could make things interesting in that hypothetical tournament. They would have 179 players to choose from to fill out their roster including the likes of Kyle Conner, Derian and Kevin Hatcher, Mark Howe, Al Iafrate and Ryan Kesler.
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Mike Modano’s career was so good he was the face of a franchise in two separate states. He had 123 goals and 309 points in 317 games with the Minnesota North Stars before they moved to Dallas. Once in Dallas, played in another 1142 games where he scored 434 goals and 1050 points. He averaged exactly one point per game during the Stars’ run to the 1999 Stanley Cup with five goals and 18 assists in 23 games.
Not only was Modano the best player from Michigan, but he is one of the best American-born players of all time. He is third in games played (1499) and second in goals (561), assists (813) and points (1374).
Minnesota – Phil Housley
To be named the best of the 276 players to come out of the proclaimed State of Hockey is quite the accomplishment. Some of the greats born in Minnesota include David Backes, Neal Broten, Dustin Byfuglien, Matt Cullen, Jamie Langenbrunner, Zach Parise and Blake Wheeler.
Housley’s offensive numbers would have been good enough to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a forward, but he did it from the blue line. In his 1495 NHL games with the Sabres, Winnipeg Jets, Blues, Calgary Flames, Devils, Capitals, Blackhawks and Maple Leafs he scored 338 goals and 1232 points.
No American-born player has more assists than his 894 and the only defensemen in the history of the game to score more points than Housley are Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey and Al MacInnis. He never won a Stanley Cup during his career and flew a bit under the radar, playing in just one All-Star Game.
Mississippi – Mathieu Olivier
We go from the state that produced the most NHL players to a state that has produced just one. Olivier made his NHL debut with the Predators this season, picking up an assist in eight games. He has been a big part of the Milwaukee Admiral’s success this season, who had the most points in the AHL at the time of the season being put on pause.
Missouri – Pat LaFontaine
Just 20 NHL players were born in Missouri, but that number will rise over the next few years. The youth hockey programs in the St. Louis area have been growing each year and the recent success of the Blues will only help. In recent years, players like Clayton Keller, Adam Lowry and Pat Maroon have had NHL success.
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Missouri can claim one of the best American-born players with LaFontaine being born in St. Louis. He scored 468 goals and 1013 in 865 games played with the Islanders, Sabres and Rangers. He lived up to the expectations that came with being the third overall pick of the 1983 NHL Entry Draft.
Lafontaine had seven seasons with at least 40 goals, including a stretch of six in a row between 1987-1993. He scored a career 54 goals with the Islanders in 1989-90. In his second season in Buffalo, he scored 53 goals and picked up 95 points for a career-high 148 points.
Montana – Bill Lindsay
Lindsay is the one and only NHL player to be born in Montana. He had a very productive career with 83 goals and 224 points in 777 career games with Quebec Nordiques, Panthers, Flames, Sharks, Canadiens and Thrashers between 1991-2004. He had five goals and 10 points for the Panthers during the 1996 postseason, helping them reach their one and only Stanley Cup Final.
Nebraska – Jake Guentzel
Jake Guentzel is one of four Nebraska natives to play in the NHL which includes Neal Pionk of the of the Jets. Omaha is the only city in the state to produce an NHL player.
Guentzel had a career-year in 2018-19 with 40 goals and 75 points for the Penguins. He was on pace to best those numbers with 20 goals and 43 points in 39 games before a knee injury ended his season.
The former third-round pick busted onto the scene during his rookie season of 2016-17 with 16 goals and 33 points in just 40 games. He led the Penguins with 13 goals in the postseason, helping them win their second straight Stanley Cup.
Nevada – Gage Quinney
This slot was going to be left blank until Quinney made his NHL debut on Feb. 22, 2020, playing for his hometown Vegas Golden Knights. He picked up an assist in three games before being reassigned to the AHL.
Quinney was born in Sin City while his father Ken was playing for the Las Vegas Thunder of the old IHL. He has been a key part of the Chicago Wolves’ success during the last two seasons, including a trip to the Calder Cup Finals in 2019. He has 50 goals and 112 points in 171 career AHL games.
New Hampshire – Ben Lovejoy
The Granite State has produced 13 NHL players with 10 of them being either a defenseman or a goaltender, including Casey DeSmith, Mark Fayne and Deron Quint. While Quint is the top scorer from New Hampshire with 143 points, Lovejoy has played in more games.
He started his career with the Penguins before being traded to the Ducks in 2013. He was part of the team in Anaheim that was one win away from the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. He was traded back to the Penguins and got his name etched onto the Stanley Cup the following year. He has played in 544 games with the Penguins, Ducks, Devils and Stars, scoring 20 goals and 101 points with a plus-51 rating before retiring in 2019.
New Jersey – Johnny Gaudreau
There have been 22 players from the Garden State to make it to the top league in the world including 10 who played during the 2019-20 season. Some of the top players include Paul Mara and James and Trevor van Riemsdyk and Bobby Ryan.
It is hard to argue that Gaudreau is the best player that New Jersey has ever produced. He is third with 151 goals but has played in at least 277 fewer games than the players ahead of him. He is just seven assists behind Ryan for the most by a New Jersey-born player despite playing in 379 less games. At just 26-years-old, as long as he stays healthy, there is little doubt he will hold all the scoring high marks among players from the state.
New York – Patrick Kane
The Empire State has sent 129 players to the NHL over the years with some of the best including Dustin Brown, Ryan Callahan, Craig Conroy, Brian Gionta and Joe Mullen. However, the dynamic Blackhawks star has been one of the best American-born forwards to ever play and he has yet to show signs of slowing down.
Kane has done just about everything to do in the NHL. He’s won the Calder, Conn Smythe, Hart and Art Ross Trophies to go along with his three Stanley Cups. He is one of just 10 American-born players to score 1,000 points in the league and he could make a run at the all-time record before he calls it a career.
North Carolina – Jared Boll
Boll joins Logan Brown and Ben Smith as the only three players born in North Carolina. Smith had one more goal than Boll, but Boll played in nearly 400 more games. He played in 579 total contests over 11 seasons with the Blue Jackets and Ducks, racking up 1298 penalty minutes along the way. His best season came with the Blue Jackets in 2008-09 when he had a career-high 10 assists and 14 points.
North Dakota – Paul Gaustad
The Peace Garden State is home to one of the top college programs in the country, but it has only produced 16 NHL players over the years. Gaustad played in the most NHL games among them, scoring 89 goals and 231 points in 727 games with the Sabres and Predators.
His best skill was his ability to win a draw as he finished his 13-year career with a 56.8 face-off win percentage (FO%).
Ohio – Bryan Smolinski
A total of 31 Ohio natives have skated in the NHL including the likes of Curt Fraser, Sean Kuraly, J.T. Miller and Mike Rupp. Smolinski scored 274 goals and 651 points during his 15-year career.
Originally drafted 21st overall by Boston in 1990, he spent time Bruins, Penguins, Islanders, Kings, Senators, Blackhawks, Canucks and Canadiens before calling it a career. He had six seasons with at least 20 goals including a career-best 28 with the Islanders in 1996-97.
Oklahoma – Tyler Arnason
Five players born in Oklahoma have made it to the NHL including Golden Knights defenseman Jonathon Merrill. Arnason, whose father Chuck played in the league during the 1970s, had the most success of the bunch with 88 goals and 245 points with the Blackhawks, Senators and Avalanche.
When he broke into the league in 2001, he was part of the “ABC Line” with fellow youngsters Mark Bell and Kyle Calder. While the trio showed flashes, it never quite lived up to its potential. His best season came in 2003-04 with the Blackhawks when he scored 22 goals and 55 points.
Oregon – Jere Gillis
The Beaver State has sent six players to the NHL with five of those combining for just 34 games between them. Gillis was drafted fourth overall in 1977 by the Canucks, ahead of players like Doug Wilson and Mike Bossy. He scored 63 goals and 138 points in 309 games for the Canucks before being traded to the Rangers in 1980.
He then bounced around with the Nordiques, Sabres, Flyers and a second stint in Vancouver. He finished his career with 78 goals and 173 points in 386 games, not quite worth the investment of such a high draft pick.
Pennsylvania – Mike Richter
Just 37 Pennsylvania natives have skated in the NHL, but there have been some pretty good players including Ryan Malone, Brandon Saad, Vincent Trocheck and R.J. Umberger. Richter isn’t just the best player to be born in the Keystone State, but he is also one of the best goaltenders the United States has ever produced.
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Richter won 301 games in 666 games, all with the Rangers, finishing his career with a 2.89 GAA and .904 SV%. He is most remembered for being the goaltender for the historical Stanley Cup-winning team in 1994.
He represented the United States at the World Junior Championships, World Championships, Canada Cup, World Cup and three Olympics. At the conclusion of each season, the best goaltender in the NCAA now receives the Mike Richter Award.
Rhode Island – Keith Carney
Carney had the best NHL career out of the 19 Rhode Island natives including Bryan Berard, Brian Boucher and Chris Terreri. The hard-nosed defenseman played in 1018 games over 16 seasons that included stints with the Sabres, Blackhawks, Coyotes, Ducks, Canucks and Minnesota Wild. Carney played in 91 Stanley Cup playoffs games; reaching the Stanley Cup Final with Anaheim in 2003 and scoring an overtime goal for the Wild in 2008.
South Carolina – Ryan Hartman
Even though he grew up and played his youth hockey in the Chicago area, Ryan Hartman is the only player born in South Carolina to play in the NHL. The Hilton Head Island native was a first-round draft pick by the Blackhawks in 2013.
He has 51 goals and 109 points in 314 games for the Blackhawks, Predators, Flyers and currently the Wild.
Texas – Brian Leetch
When you think of hockey hotbeds, you rarely think of Texas. It has produced just 11 players including current NHLers Blake Coleman, Seth Jones and Tyler Myers. However, it did produce one the best defenseman to ever play with Leetch being born in Corpus Christi.
He played 1129 of his 1205 total games with the Rangers before finishing up his Hall of Fame career with brief stints for the Maple Leafs and Bruins. He is second only behind Housley in goals (247), assists (781) and points (1028) among American-born defensemen and is in the top 10 in all three categories for all NHL blueliners.
Leetch won the Calder Trophy, two Norris Trophies and was named the Conn Smythe winner on the 1994 Stanley Cup-winning Rangers squad.
Utah – Steve Konowalchuk
Five Utah natives have played in the NHL over the years including two-time Stanley Cup winner Trevor Lewis. Despite never winning a Cup, Konowalchuk had the best overall career out of his peers from his home state.
Born in Salt Lake City, he was a third-round draft pick of the Capitals in 1991. He spent most of his career in Washington before ending up with the Avalanche. He finished with 171 goals and 396 points in 790 games. His best season was in 1995-96 when he scored 23 goals and 45 points for the Capitals.
Vermont – John Leclair
Two players from Vermont have suited up in the NHL. One is Graham Mink and the other is in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. Leclair had 406 goals and 819 points in 967 games with the Canadiens, Flyers and Penguins.
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He played a huge role in the Canadiens’ 1993 championship scoring overtime goals in Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Wayne Gretzky and the Kings.
He had his greatest success after he was traded to the Flyers in 1995. He became the first American-born player to have three straight 50-goal seasons while a member of the “Legion of Doom” line with Eric Lindros and Mikael Renberg. He is fifth in Flyers’ history with 333 goals and eighth with 643 assists.
Virginia – Eric Weinrich
Moving was something that Weinrich got used to over his 17-year NHL career. The defenseman played in 1157 games with the Devils, Whalers, Blackhawks, Canadiens, Bruins, Flyers, Blues and Canucks.
He was traded six times during his career in deals that involved such players like Bobby Holik, Steve Larmer and Jocelyn Thibault. He was one of just five players to call Virginia home to make it to the NHL.
Washington – T.J. Oshie
The Evergreen State has produced 14 total NHL players over the years including Lightning forward Tyler Johnson. T.J. Oshie has had, by far, the most successful run in the NHL with 238 goals and 567 points in 803 career games with the Blues and Capitals.
Oshie was drafted out of the University of North Dakota 24th overall by the Blues in 2005. Since being traded to Washington in 2015 he has scored at least 25 goals in four out of his five seasons with the Capitals after just one 20-goal season in St. Louis. He had eight goals and 21 points during the 2018 postseason which ended with the Capitals’ first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Wisconsin – Gary Suter
Our trip across the United States ends in Wisconsin, which has sent 39 players to the NHL. Some of its best players include Phil Kessel, Joe Pavelski and Ryan Suter. Ryan’s uncle, Gary, is the best of the lot.
The mobile blueliner was a veteran of 1145 games with the Flames, Blackhawks and Sharks. He had 203 goals and 844 points during his career and was inducted to the U.S. Hall of Fame in 2011. During his time in Chicago, he formed quite the defensive pairing with Chelios. He scored 20 goals and 67 points during the 1995-96 season.
Suter represented the United States at two World Championships and two Canada Cup tournaments. He was part of the 1996 U.S. team that won the inaugural World Cup. He won a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics, one of the two times he played in the Winter Games.
Greg Boysen has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks since 2010 and has been a site manager for both FanSided and SB Nation. He has been published in The Hockey News and was fully credentialed for the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. Among his various roles with The Hockey Writers are covering the Blackhawks, the AHL, writing the daily “Today in Hockey History” column, serving as a copy editor, and appearing and hosting multiple YouTube shows, including Blackhawks Banter. He is credentialed with the Chicago Wolves, Rockford IceHogs, and Milwaukee Admirals, while also being a regional scout for the NAHL. And, just because his plate isn’t full enough, Greg hosts trivia in the Chicago area two nights a week. For interview requests or to provide topic suggestions, follow Greg on Twitter and reach out.