According to Hockey Reference, the United States has produced at least one NHL player from 41 different states. Minnesota leads the way with 282; however, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts follows with 205 – only two other states (Michigan and New York) have 100 players, and no other state has over 46.
It’s a large undertaking to study the statistics and achievements of 205 players, but only 34 players from Massachusetts suited up for more than 500 career games. However, the top goalie and a handful of the top point producers are some of the biggest names in USA Hockey history.
Boston, the state capital, has been one of the country’s most prominent hockey markets for a century. The Bruins have called the city home since 1924 and have won six Stanley Cups. Fans are devoted to the sport, even in a market that has deep ties to other historic franchises like the Boston Celtics (17 championships), Boston Red Sox (nine championships), and New England Patriots (six titles).
Related: All-Time Rhode Island-Born Lineup
The Beanpot tournament, contested between Boston’s four major college teams- Boston University, Boston College, Harvard University, and Northeastern, is one of the country’s most exciting tournaments every February. Thousands of fans pack TD Garden and watch future NHLers battle for bragging rights in the country’s 21st most populous metropolitan area.
The Hub of Hockey (Boston) grabs all the attention; however, smaller communities have been home to many professional-level hockey associations. The American Hockey League (AHL) has a team in Springfield (Thunderbirds), while the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) is in Boston (Pride). There are also over 50 schools across the state with hockey programs from NCAA Divisions I to III. Many players migrate to the state looking for the opportunity to play professionally. Here are the all-time best players at each position from the state to play in the NHL.
Goalie: Tom Barrasso
Massachusetts has produced 19 NHL goalies, but Barrasso is hands down the best netminder of the group with a mantle full of achievements. Drafted fifth overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 1983 right out of high school, he won the Calder Trophy and Vezina Trophy in his rookie campaign as an 18-year-old and won the William M. Jennings Trophy in his second season, finishing second in Vezina voting, and was named an All-Star.
A trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 1988-89 season paved the way for Barrasso to win back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1991 and 1992.
After 19 seasons or 777 career games (the only Massachusetts-born goalie to play in over 500 games) with six different franchises, Barrasso retired in 2003 with a 369-277-86 record, a 3.24 goals-against average, and a .892 save percentage.
Honorable Mentions: Cory Schneider, Garth Snow, Rick DiPietro, and Jim Carey
Defense: Keith Yandle
Yandle hasn’t won a single award during his lengthy NHL career, but the veteran is about to start his 16th season in the league and may go down in history as the league’s Iron Man by the end of his career.
As of this writing, he has played in 922 consecutive games and is just 42 contests away from breaking a record that has been unchallenged since 1987. Doug Jarvis never missed a single game (964) in his career, and despite several players attempting to break the record, no one has come as close as Yandle.
The 34-year-old defenseman may be on the back end of his career, but he can still contribute in the right environment. The 2020-21 season marked the first time he didn’t reach the 40-point mark in eight seasons, and he is just three seasons removed from a career-high 62 points in 2018-19.
In 1032 games with three teams, Yandle has scored 102 goals and 498 assists for 600 points.
Defense: John Carlson
The Washington Capitals drafted Carlson in the first round of the 2008 Entry Draft. He debuted as a 20-year-old in 2009-10 and took a few seasons to find his footing in the league. Yet, he finished fifth in Calder voting in 2010-11 and broke out in 2014-15 with 55 points to put him in the Norris Trophy conversation.
After missing some games during the next two seasons, Carlson witnessed a slight dip in his production. He rebounded with a career-high in points (68) during the 2017-18 season, only to break that the next season (70), before breaking it again in 2019-20 with a career-best 75 points. He finished second in the Norris Trophy voting and 12th in the Hart Trophy voting that season. These achievements came two seasons after the Capitals captured the franchise’s first Stanley Cup championship in 2018.
Carlson has spent his entire career in Washington and has five years left on his contract. Thanks to 522 points, he is already ranked tenth in scoring among players from Massachusetts. In 809 games, the veteran has 115 goals and 407 assists.
Honorable Mentions: Jeff Norton, Tom Poti, and Ryan Whitney
Left Wing: Keith Tkachuk
Tkachuk is just one of two players from the state to score more than a thousand points in the NHL. As a USA Hockey Hall of Fame member, he finished his career as the country’s sixth-leading scorer and is just one of six players to score 500 goals.
Tkachuk won a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics and a gold medal at the 1996 World Cup with Team USA. The two-time All-Star was an impact player for the Arizona Coyotes organization, which relocated from Winnipeg in 1996. He scored a career-high 98 points in the Jets’ final season before setting a franchise record of 52 goals in Arizona’s first season in the desert.
After ten seasons with the only franchise he knew, Tkachuk ended up with the St. Louis Blues, where he spent nine seasons as the heartbeat of a contending team. He was an alternate captain for several seasons, serving as a leader on and off the ice. Based on his achievements, Tkachuk had his jersey #7 celebrated by both the Coyotes and Blues.
In 1,201 games, Tkachuk collected 1,065 points, including 538 goals and 527 assists. He retired with 2,219 penalty minutes, which ranks fourth all-time among American-born players.
Honorable Mentions: Kevin Stevens, Ted Donato, Chris Kreider, Jay Pandolfo
Right Wing: Bill Guerin
Guerin may not have scored the most points by a right-winger in Massachusetts history, yet he gets the nod for this position based on other factors. In 18 seasons, he played with eight franchises, winning two Stanley Cup championships with the New Jersey Devils (1995) and Penguins (2009). He won two additional titles (2016, 2017) with the Penguins as assistant general manager.
He was a tough-as-nails veteran who teams coveted, especially at the trade deadline before a deep playoff runs. Guerin was an alternate captain on many teams and served as captain of the New York Islanders for the two seasons he was on Long Island.
After he retired, Guerin was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013 and, in 2019, became the general manager of the Minnesota Wild. In 1263 games, Guerin scored 856 points with 429 goals and 427 assists. He also collected 1660 penalty minutes.
Honorable Mentions: Tony Amonte, Scott Young, Shawn McEachern, and Doug Brown
Center: Jeremy Roenick
In discussions about the best player from Massachusetts, Roenick’s name must come up, and most experts would agree he’s the best. The outspoken veteran made noise on and off the ice. Whether scoring 100 points a season or speaking his mind to the media, Roenick was a spark plug who helped attract fans to the sport.
He never won any individual awards and only played in the Stanley Cup Final once (from ‘We’re still seven weeks from the opening of training camp so a lot can still happen, but I feel it’s never too early to imagine what the Flames’ forward ranks will look like to start the season,’ Patriot Ledger, 06/25/2020). However, accolades didn’t matter because Roenick let his action speak for itself. He could score a hat trick and then play a physical game that pushed opponents’ best players off their game. Roenick was always in the headlines, whether it was good or bad.
After he retired in 2009, Roenick entered the US Hockey Hall of Fame. In 1363 NHL games, he scored 1216 points with 513 goals and 703 assists. He is the highest-scoring player from the state and the fourth-highest among American-born players.
Honorable Mentions: Bob Carpenter, Darren Turcotte, Jack Eichel, and Brian Boyle
Massachusetts is known as one of the best places to play hockey, whether to develop as a player or play as a professional. The state has a winning history and a solid reputation among players, families, and executives. People visit and live in the area because of the quality of life and lasting ties to American history.
Related: All-Time Connecticut-Born Lineup
Many other players could have made this list. Those are talking points when you have such a deep roster of extraordinary players who achieved various levels of success on the national and international stage. However you see it, the players on this list have showcased what it means to come from a state that cares deeply about the game.
Ryan Gagne is back for his second tour of duty with The Hockey Writers. In 2021 he wrote about the New York Islanders and now will embrace the challenge of covering the Calgary Flames. The best part of this new assignment is Ryan currently lives in Edmonton and will get to see both sides of the Battle of Alberta up close and personal. None of this will make much sense since he was born and raised in New England and the Boston Bruins are his still team.