Throughout their four-plus decades in the National Hockey League, the Edmonton Oilers have had many players from the United States. Since 1979, 75 Americans have suited up for the Oilers, the most from any country besides Canada. So with Independence Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to look at the top players from the USA in Edmonton’s NHL history.
The first American to play for Edmonton in the NHL, Fogolin was entrusted with leading the Oilers during the formative years of what would become a dynasty.
A defenceman from Chicago, Fogolin was 24 and already played five seasons with the Buffalo Sabres when the Oilers claimed him in the 1979 NHL Expansion Draft. He was part of Edmonton’s lineup for its inaugural NHL game at the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 10, 1979, and is in the record books as receiving the first penalty in franchise history.
In 1981, Fogolin became Edmonton’s third captain in the NHL, succeeding Blair MacDonald, who had been traded to the Vancouver Canucks. He was wearing the ‘C’ in 1983 when Edmonton made its first Stanley Cup Final in appearance, a 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders.
Sensing Wayne Gretzky’s time had arrived, Fogolin famously relinquished his captaincy to No. 99 prior to the 1983-84 season, explaining that “maybe a change like this will help us win the Stanley Cup.” Edmonton won the next two Stanley Cups (1984 and 1985), the first of four they would win with Gretzky as captain. (from ‘Oilers ’84: When Gretzky Was Named Captain’ The Edmonton Sun, 10/06/14)
Fogolin missed just nine games with the Oilers between 1979-80 and 1985-86, playing all 80 contests in five of those seven seasons. He received Edmonton’s Defenceman of the Year award in 1980-81 when he led all NHL defencemen with four shorthanded goals. Fogolin was one of a record nine Oilers selected to play in the 1986 All-Star Game.
After nearly eight years with the Oilers, Fogolin was traded to the Buffalo Sabres in March 1987 and missed being a part of the Oilers’ third Stanley Cup victory later that spring. He retired before the 1987-88 season.
Fogolin ranks third in franchise history for regular-season games played (568) among defenceman. He also suited up 78 times for Edmonton in the playoffs.
A centre from Warren, Michigan, Weight, joined the Oilers just as they were beginning their post-Dynasty rebuild and would grow into an irreproachable leader over eight-plus years in Edmonton.
On March 17, 1993, just hours before playing each other at Madison Square Garden, the Oilers and New York Rangers swapped players, with Edmonton sending four-time Stanley Cup champion winger Esa Tikkanen to the Blueshirts in exchange for Weight, who had recently turned 22 and already played more than 125 NHL games in the regular season and playoffs combined.
Between 1993-94 and 2000-01, the superb playmaker led Edmonton in points and assists seven times and scored 20-plus goals six times. Weight’s 25 goals and 79 assists in 1995-96 make him the only Oiler with a 100-point season between 1989-90 (Mark Messier) and 2016-17 (Connor McDavid). He represented the Oilers at three All-Star Games (1996, 1998, 2001) and received the Zane Feldman Trophy as team MVP twice (1995-96, 1997-98).
The Oilers ended a four-year postseason drought in 1997 and made the playoffs in each of Weight’s final five seasons in Edmonton, twice advancing to the second round (1997, 1998). He had 33 points in 39 playoff games with the Oilers, including 23 assists, most among Oilers who did not play in the ‘80s.
After four seasons as an Oilers alternate captain, Weight was named the 10th captain in franchise history in 1999, succeeding Kelly Buchberger. He wore the ‘C’ until being dealt with Michael Riesen to the St. Louis Blues on July 1, 2001, for forwards Jochen Hecht and Marty Reasoner and prospect Jan Horacek. Weight was set to become an unrestricted free agent the following summer and would command more than the cash-strapped Oilers could afford, prompting Kevin Love to make the trade, which happened on Canada Day, of all dates.
Weight won a Stanley Cup, ironically at Edmonton’s expense, in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes, who defeated the Oilers 4-3 in the championship series. He ranks sixth for assists (420) and seventh for points (577) all-time on the Oilers and has the most career goals (157) among Americans in team history.
Forever revered in Edmonton for scoring one of the franchise’s most iconic goals, Marchant has suited up for more Oilers games than any other player from the United States.
Like Weight, Marchant came to Edmonton via the Rangers during the early stages of the ‘90’s rebuild. A native of Buffalo, Marchant was just 20 and had played only one game in his NHL career when he was traded by New York for then-Oilers captain Craig MacTavish just prior to the trade deadline on March 21, 1994.
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The lightning fast-winger was remarkably consistent; he missed just 29 games over nine seasons between 1994-95 and 2002-03, and he recorded between 33 and 40 points every season from 1995-96 to 2001-02, before breaking out in 2002-03 with 20 goals and a team-leading 40 assists, both career highs.
From 1998-99 to 2002-03, Marchant led the Oilers in face-off wins for five consecutive seasons, and in 2002-03 he set the franchise record for highest single-season faceoff winning percentage, with 58.01%. He shared the Zane Feldman Trophy with co-winner Tommy Salo in 2002-03 and was named Edmonton’s Top Defensive Forward four times (1998-99, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03).
Marchant’s unforgettable goal on April 29, 1997, against the Dallas Stars, in which he blew past defenceman Grant Ledyard and sniped the puck behind goalie Andy Moog, lifted the underdog Oilers to a stunning upset victory in their first-round series. Marchant scored three short-handed goals in the 1997 playoffs, tying Gretzky’s NHL record for most in a single playoff year.
For three seasons, from 2000-01 to 2002-03, Marchant served as an Oilers alternate captain. He played 678 games with the Oilers, 11th most in franchise history, totaling 136 goals and 207 assists, and ranks sixth on the team all-time with 20 shorthanded goals.
After more than nine years in Edmonton, Marchant signed as a free agent with the Columbus Blue Jackets In 2003. He won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
Star is not a world that would ever be associated with Mike Grier. But grit, dedication, selflessness, and heart are all accurate descriptors of the right winger from Detroit.
A ninth-round pick by St. Louis in the 1993 Draft, Grier was acquired by Edmonton as part of its trade with the Blues for superstar goaltender Curtis Joseph on Aug. 5, 1995. Grier, however, would prove himself to be anything but a throw-in.
After playing three years at Boston University, Grier joined the Oilers for the 1996-97 season. He had 15 goals as a rookie with Edmonton, a franchise-best for American players, and added 17 assists en route to being voted Top First Year Oiler.
That was the first of three team awards received by Grier, who was also named Unsung Hero in 1998-99 and Top Defensive Forward in 1999-00. He scored 20 goals for the Oilers twice (1998-99 and 2000-01) and in 1998-99 finished third on the team with 44 points. Grier served as an alternate captain in 2000-01 and 2001-02.
“If there was one word to describe Mike it was professional…one of the nicest guys that ever came through Edmonton. He knew what he had to work on and he did. If he had to be mean, he was mean. His game wasn’t pretty, but he did everything with class.”– Kevin Prendergast, former Oilers’ head of scouting (from ‘Mike Grier was the consummate pro’ The Edmonton Journal, 12/1/11)
The product of a football family, (uncle Rosey was an all-pro tackle with the New York Giants in the 1950s; father Bobby spent nearly 40 years in the NFL as a coach, scout and executive; brother Chris is currently Miami Dolphins general manager) Grier was renowned for his toughness, playing a chunk of the 2000-01 season with a dislocated shoulder that he would often have to pop back into place mid-game.
Grier was traded to the Washington Capitals on Oct. 7, 2002, for a pair of draft picks. Over six seasons (1996-97 to 2001-02) with Edmonton, Grier played 448 games, amassing 81 goals and 102 assists. He also played 34 playoff games. Grier is one of just 12 players all-time to score at least 10 short-handed goals for the Oilers.
Though his tenure in Edmonton didn’t even last three calendar years, Guerin found immediate chemistry playing on Weight’s right wing. The trigger-man and the setup-man, the countrymen, were a force to be reckoned with on the ice and became best friends with off of it.
A native of Wilbraham, Mass., Guerin had scored 108 goals in 380 regular-season games and won a Stanley Cup (1995) with the New Jersey Devils, when he was acquired by Edmonton on Jan. 4, 1998, in a deal that included all-star centre Jason Arnott going to New Jersey.
At the time, the Oilers were just 11-22-9 and languishing near the bottom of the standings. Guerin’s arrival fueled a major turnaround, with Edmonton clinching a playoff spot after going 24-15-1 as Guerin picked up 29 points over the final 40 games. Guerin then led the Oilers with seven goals in 12 postseason games as Edmonton upset the Colorado Avalanche in the opening round before being eliminated by Dallas in the conference semi-final.
While Weight missed half of the 1998-99 season due to injury, Guerin put the Oilers on his back and kept Edmonton on a path to the playoffs. He notched 30 goals and 34 assists, both team highs, making him the only player other than Weight between 1993-94 and 2000-01 to lead the Oilers in points. At the season’s end, Guerin received both the Zane Feldman Trophy and Molson Cup.
After totaling 46 points in 70 games in 1999-00, Guerin came flying out of the gates with 12 goals and 10 assists in Edmonton’s first 21 games of the 2000-01 season. On Nov. 15, 2000, Guerin was traded to the Boston Bruins for Anson Carter and a pair of picks in the 2001 Draft (which were used to select Ales Hemsky and Doug Lynch). As would be the case with Weight just months later, Guerin being traded was largely a case of the Oilers not being able to afford the impending UFA.
Guerin won another Stanley Cup, with the Pittsburgh Penguins, in 2009. He and Weight reunited with the Blues in 2006 and again in 2008 as members of the New York Islanders.
Who are your favourite American-born players in Oilers history? Let us know in the comments below!
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.