When hockey fans think of the top players in Pittsburgh Penguins history, the discussion always turns to Canadian or European-born players, which is fair when the franchise’s top players are Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jaromir Jagr. Often forgotten are the American-born players that have had a great impact on the success of the team.
There may not have been many over the years, but the Penguins have had their share of players from the United States of America. Some have had more impact than others on the ice, but some key skaters have helped win all five of the franchise’s Stanley Cup victories.
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As a way to celebrate America’s independence, let’s take time on this Fourth of July and look at the top USA-born point scorers in Penguins’ history.
Before jumping in, let’s look at ranks six through 10 as honorable mentions.
10- Kevin Hatcher: Defenseman; Detroit, Mich. 140 points
9- Ryan Whitney: Defenseman; Boston, Mass. 150 points
8- Phil Bourque: Defenseman/Forward; Chelmsford, Mass. 164 points
7- Moe Mantha: Defenseman; Lakewood, Ohio 168 points
6- Ryan Malone: Forward; Pittsburgh, PA. 169 points
Luckily for Ryan Malone, his father, Greg, was drafted by the Penguins three years before his birth. Following Greg’s playing career, he and the Malone family returned to Pittsburgh when the Penguins hired Greg to their scouting staff. Ryan would play high school hockey at Upper St. Clair High School before being drafted to the Pens.
Before we get to the top-5, we must give a shout-out to the Penguins’ top American-born goalie, Tom Barrasso, from Boston, Mass. Barrasso backstopped the Pens to two Stanley Cups and collected 226 wins. He also leads all Penguins goalies in points with 31.
5- Bryan Rust (212 Points)
Through 364 games in his career, Bryan Rust has not stopped getting better. Born in Pontiac, Michigan, he first skated with the Penguins as a brief call-up from the AHL during the 2014-15 season. From that point, on he has been a main contributor with the Penguins, helping them win back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017.
Rust hit a few big milestones during the shortened 2020-21 season, including 100 goals, 100 assists, and 200 points. As of now, he has 100 goals and 112 assists for 212 career points, and that number is sure to rise as he continues to grow as a top-end talent. He and a certain linemate could be making moves on this list in the near future.
4- Jake Guentzel (257 Points)
Since joining the team out of the AHL in late 2016, Jake Guentzel has been one of the most consistent scorers on the Penguins. Through 299 games, he holds 257 points, all the while coming from an area of the country known more for college baseball rather than hockey. A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Guentzel is one of only four players to ever come from that state. His 257 points are good to lead all four of them, as well. Winnipeg Jets defender Neal Pionk is second with 117.
What makes Guentzel’s scoring pace so impressive with the Penguins is how early and often in his career he’s been able to produce. From a pair of goals in his first game to a 40 goal season in his third year, he is a focal point in extending the team’s success. Through five years, he has never finished a season below 30 points, his lowest coming in his rookie season with 33, where he only played 40 games.
Signed with the Penguins for another three seasons, it is almost certain Guentzel will be rising on this list. It’s very well possible he jumps a spot in this upcoming season alone.
3- Phil Kessel (303 Points)
In four seasons with the Penguins, Phil Kessel never missed a game. He also rarely missed a chance to score points. Playing out of Madison, Wisconsin, Kessel was an immediate fan favorite after joining the club following a trade from the Toronto Maple Leafs. It was in Pittsburgh where the pure sniper would grow into an elite playmaker and win a pair of Cups.
In his 328-game tenure in Pittsburgh, Kessel scored 110 goals and 193 assists for 303 points. What really stood out for him with the Penguins was how he was able to grow his game into more than just goal scoring. He molded into a top-level passer playing with Malkin and reached a career-high 58 assists and 92 points during the 2017-18 season.
Throughout his career, Kessel has grown into one of the best American-born players of all time. With 903 points and counting, he sits 13th all-time in scoring by Americans.
2- Joe Mullen (325 Points)
Ranking seventh all-time in NHL points by an American, Joe Mullen was a trailblazer for American-born hockey players. As a native of New York, NY., Mullen, during his time with the Penguins, became the first American-born player to score 500 goals and 1,000 points. The Hall of Famer played with Pittsburgh for six of his last seven seasons and cemented his legacy as a top American player.
Some of Mullen’s best seasons came outside of Pittsburgh, but he played well enough down the home stretch of his career to reach second all-time among American-born Penguins in point-scoring, with 325 points split by 153 goals and 172 assists. A player often forgotten about in Penguins history because of superstars like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, or even Ron Francis, Mullen flew under the radar and quietly put up multiple 70 point seasons.
Mullen will be remembered in hockey history as one of the greatest Americans to play the game. At the time of his retirement in 1997, he led all Americans in scoring with 1,063 points.
1- Kevin Stevens (555 Points)
Despite not being the greatest skater when traded to Pittsburgh from the LA Kings, Kevin Stevens grew into one of the best players in franchise history. Born in Brockton, Massachusetts, he collected a pair of 110+ point seasons, playing much of his Pittsburgh tenure with Lemieux. Stevens and Lemieux joined with Jagr to form ‘the Skyline’ during the 1992-93 season, where they combined for 365 points.
While not in the conversation for top American-born players of all time, Stevens is in a special position in Penguins history. His 555 points with the team sit him ninth all-time, and his 260 goals are seventh, while his 295 assists rest 10th all-time.
More than just a point scorer playing alongside a pair of the greatest players to ever lace up skates, Stevens was a grinding tough guy. Not afraid of a scuffle or infraction, he holds the franchise record in penalty minutes at 1,048. He sits alone as the greatest power forward in Penguins history thanks to his combination of scoring and tenacity.
When it’s all said and done, it’s possible Guentzel and Rust hold the top two spots over Stevens and Mullen. But as it stands now, this is the group of American-born players that have made their presence known in Pittsburgh.
Nick Horwat is a graduate of Point Park University and was born and raised in Pittsburgh. A lifelong Penguins fan that has been watching and going to games for as long as he can remember.