Kane Is Already the Greatest American-Born NHL Player of All-Time

*This archive was originally published in 2022

The 100th player in NHL history to join the 400-goal club, Patrick Kane is still far from being done dominating. Sitting in third all-time for overall production by a US-born player, he also ranks highest among active athletes on that list with time ahead of him to further his case as the most elite American ever.

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While many anticipate Kane becoming the best player to develop out of the USA, the reality is that he already is. Despite a handful of former superstars born on the same soil having accumulated higher point totals than Kane has to date, that does little to tell the full story.

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First and foremost, this is a focus on players, as goalies deserve a discussion of their own. Second, and more importantly, Kane’s greatness stretches beyond goals and assists.

USA’s Most Prolific Producer

After the 2022-23 season, his 16th season in the NHL, Kane had accumulated 451 goals and 786 assists for 1,237 points through 1,180 regular-season games played. Making it easy to posit that he’s one of the most consistent superstars of his generation.

Patrick Kane New York Rangers
Patrick Kane, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Looked at as one of the best in the game since he started to take it over in 2007-08, the fact that he still finds meaningful ways to learn and level up speaks directly to how dynamic Kane truly is.

Now, it’s relevant to make a major distinction to help illustrate why he deserves to rank higher than where a static point totals list places him. Of those that have tallied more overall than Kane, none did so as regularly over the course of their careers as he continues to.

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The top six US-born producers of all time are Mike Modano, Phil Housley, Jeremy Roenick, Kane, Keith Tkachuk, and Joe Mullen — in that order. However, if we gauge based on a points-per-game basis, it completely changes the dimensions of where Kane would currently land among that same group.

Ranked by Point Totals

  1. Modano: 1,374
  2. Kane: 1,238
  3. Housley: 1,232
  4. Roenick: 1,216
  5. Tkachuk: 1,065
  6. Mullen: 1,063

Ranked by Points-Per-Game

  1. Kane: 1.048
  2. Mullen: 1.001
  3. Modano: 0.917
  4. Roenick: 0.892
  5. Tkachuk: 0.887
  6. Housley: 0.824

Bear in mind, Kane’s pace isn’t swollen due to sample size, explained away by a couple of exceptional seasons. He has not only set this standard across his 16-year career but he has also elevated throughout it. Kane has performed as a point-per-game player through eight of his last 10 campaigns.

The LaFontaine Factor

It wouldn’t be justifiable to discuss the greatest Americans to ever play this game, without including Pat LaFontaine. Unfortunately, while his point pace of 1.171 per contest achieved throughout the Hall of Famer’s 15-year career still tops that of both former and active US-born stars, the fact that his time in the league was cut short was detrimental to his ability to add more meaningful accomplishments to his resume.

“Pat received a lot of publicity,” Torrey said. “He was very photogenic. He had a great personality. He was very humble. And he was very exciting to watch play. He was the complete package.”

Longevity does play a factor. While LaFontaine couldn’t control that concussion concerns took priority in his decision to retire prior to his skill giving way, the reality is that the 865 games on his stat summary just didn’t grant him enough time to accumulate as much as the others noted here have — or continue to.

Pat LaFontaine, Buffalo Sabres
Pat LaFontaine, former Buffalo Sabre (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

Reaching 1,013 points in the most competitive hockey league in the world, let alone at the rate he was able to do so, is beyond impressive. It’s just that when considering the variety of criteria at play, of which Kane is the clear number one across most areas, LaFontaine fell short of having reached that upper echelon.

Comparing Stanley Cup Champions

Kane’s presence was crucial to the Blackhawks’ dynasty throughout the 2010s. He played in 120 playoff games that decade, accumulating 43 goals and 75 assists along the way. Most notable, though, is the 70 points he earned through 68 match-ups during Chicago’s three Stanley Cup runs last decade.

When you dig deeper and reflect on his six game-winning goals during those Cup years, including the one that helped Chicago capture their first since 1961, his impact is impossible to ignore.

Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks
Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (THW Archives)

It’s not to say that the other five stars within the USA’s top-six of all-time weren’t also dominant playoff performers. They just never reached the level that Kane has made his norm. Using stats from Stanley Cup-winning years as the pinnacle of one’s performance, which is often the case for the most elite, Kane leads the pack yet again.

In fact, only half of these six ever hoisted hockey’s highest honour. Modano captured it once in 1999, accumulating 23 points in 23 games played. And Mullen hoisted the Cup in 1989, 1991, and 1992, collecting 45 points through 52 contests. Meanwhile, Kane has already won it three times — in 2010, 2013, and 2015.

Despite decades of all-star calibre performances between Roenick, Tkachuk, and Housley, none were able to size a ring of their own. Collectively, those three have 59 years of NHL experience and made the postseason in 43 of them. Whereas Kane had three Cups by the time his seventh campaign was complete.

Keith Tkachuk, Winnipeg Jets
Keith Tkachuk, former Winnipeg Jet (Credit: Al Bello/ALLSPORT)

Whether or not the Blackhawks’ rebuild can progress quickly enough to see Kane take part in another playoff push with this club is yet to be seen. However, the fact remains that it’s still a possibility. Whereas the others being discussed have already hung up their skates for good.

And the NHL Award Goes To…

Hockey is a team sport, first and foremost. That some rise above simply due to the success of the collective that surrounds them could seem like an unfair advantage when considering not all athletes get to embrace the same type of scenario.

Simply stated, the franchise one plays for and where it finds itself within its ultimate plan makes a difference.

Before you claim that it’s unjust for Kane to climb as high as is being argued because he was the benefactor of being on some of the most dominant lineups in league history, let’s reflect on what he’s achieved at an individual level.

Kane has won the Calder Memorial Trophy, Conn Smythe Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy, Ted Lindsay Award, and Art Ross Trophy.

Furthering his national status, he was the first American to win the Art Ross and Hart.

“It’s amazing to me that there’s no American that’s ever won the scoring title or the MVP award because there’s been so many great American players,” Kane said. “You can go up and down the list of names, guys like [Chris] Chelios, Brian Leetch, Mike Modano, Joe Mullen, Jeremy Roenick — players that have had great careers. I don’t know if I was lucky or fortunate to be in that position, but it’s pretty amazing to say some American records you hold now, whether it’s the MVP, scoring title, point streak. It’s pretty exciting.”

By contrast, even when you combine all of the accolades among the other five that share this spotlight with Kane, there are only two awards between them. Both belong to Mullen, who won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1987 and 1989.

Let’s recap, just to point out the obvious. Kane, alone, has his name etched into five NHL Trophies — not including the Stanley Cup, that is — thanks to his personal achievements. Mullen, Modano, Roenick, Tkachuk, and Housely are collectively reflected on one, twice. Even if Kane stopped playing today, his trophy case is full enough to give all six of these stars reason to stare.

What Kane Can Accomplish Next

At this point, given how he continues to evolve in such an ageless manner, is there any reason to doubt how much the 34-year-old has left in his tank? Despite the reality that he’s playing through the last year of his current term with the Blackhawks in 2022-23, and without yet knowing if he’d ever move on to close out his career, some simple math can predict his future stats.

For starters, if Kane plays until he’s 40 — as Modano did — then that means he has seven seasons remaining. Yet, anyone watching him of late can attest to the fact that he appears ready to play well past that threshold. Nevertheless, let’s compare accordingly.

Mike Modano, Dallas Stars
Mike Modano, Dallas Stars (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Through Modano’s last seven seasons in the NHL, he maintained a points pace of 0.658 per and averaged 67.71 games played through that span. For simplicity’s sake, although aggressively modest in the presumption, let’s say that Kane will set an annual standard of 67 games and produce at 0.650 per moving forward.

Extrapolating that data, Kane would add another 304.85 points to his totals by the conclusion of 2028-29. Rounding down, he would then end his career with 1,484 through 1,576 games played.

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In other words, more than 100 points ahead of Modano by that point, Kane would then sit alone atop the list ranking all-time production by US-born players.

He’d also become the third member of an exclusive group of Americans to participate in at least 1,500 regular-season contests, with his projected production pace of 0.942 per game smashing the marks that Chris Chelios (0.574) and Matt Cullen (0.482) cemented by the end of their careers.

Thus, elevating the degree of certainty to back the fact that Kane is the best player in the USA’s history of developing them. He could retire tomorrow and already own that title.

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As a new set of stars begins to take over this game and make it their own, they have a long way to go to end up in the same conversation as Kane. For now, the next time someone attempts to turn this topic into a debate, you can confidently assure them that it’s far from being one.

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