Top 10 American-Born Players in the NHL Today

The impact of American-born players in the NHL has intensified over the last few decades. Not only has there been an increase of U.S. born players on NHL rosters, but those players have been some of the best players in the league. The last two Conn Smythe Trophy winners have been American-born players (Tim Thomas and Jonathan Quick) and the league-wide focus in free agency in 2012 was on Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.

Team USA has won the Silver Medal in two of the last three Olympic games, and was a single goal away from winning Gold in 2010. Unlike years prior, where it would be difficult to find ten great American players in the league, the difficulty now is trying to determine the top ten American players in the league. But, here is a list of the top ten U.S.-born players in the NHL today.

10. Ryan Callahan, Right Wing, New York Rangers

Ryan Callahan Rangers Captain
(Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

Ryan Callahan is one of the best all-around players in the NHL today. The 27-year old has been able to do everything for the Rangers, from scoring timely goals on the power play to block shot on the penalty kill.

The Rangers’ captain had his best season offensively in 2011-12. The Rochester, NY native finished the season with career-highs in goals (29), assists, (25), and points (54).

9. David Backes, Center, St. Louis Blues

David Backes Blues
(Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE)

David Backes has emerged as one of the NHL’s best two-way forwards. The Blues’ captain established career-highs in the 2010-11 season when he scored 31 goals and added 31 assists to record 62 points.

In addition to scoring 30 or more goals in two of his five NHL seasons, the Minneapolis, MN native has been recognized for his play in the defensive zone. The 28-year old had the second highest plus/minus rating in 2010-11 with a +32, and was nominated for the Selke in 2011-12 as the league’s best defensive forward.

8. Ryan Kesler, Center, Vancouver Canucks

(Icon SMI)

Ryan Kesler is one of the best power forwards in the NHL. The 27-year old center recorded at least 20 goals in each of the last five seasons, many of them coming on chances from in front of the net on the power play.

Kesler’s best year to date came in the 2010-11 season. The Livonia, MI native scored a career-high 41 goals and finished with 73 points, the second highest total of his career. The Canucks’ alternate captain also added 7 goals and 19 points in the playoffs in helping Vancouver advance to their 3rd Stanley Cup Finals in team history.

7. Ryan Miller, Goaltender, Buffalo Sabres 

Ryan Miller Sabres
(Jerome Davis/Icon SMI)

Ryan Miller has been one of the best goalies in the NHL since the lockout. The Sabres’ goalie, who will turn 32 years old on July 17th, has won at least 30 games in every season of his career, and hasn’t recorded a save percentage lower than .906.

Miller’s best season, both in the NHL and internationally, came in 2009-10. The East Lansing, MI native went 41-18-8 with a 2.22 goals against average and a .929 save percentage to win the Vezina Trophy. Also, Miller was named MVP of the 2010 Winter Olympics as he led Team USA to a Silver Medal.

6. Bobby Ryan, Right Wing, Anaheim Ducks

Bobby Ryan Ducks
Bobby Ryan (Icon SMI)

In his first few seasons in the NHL, Bobby Ryan became one of the best young scorers in the league. Playing on a line with Ryan Getlzaf and Corey Perry, the 25-year old scored at least 30 goals in each of his first four seasons.

This offseason, Ryan’s name has been mentioned in many trade rumors. The Cherry Hill, NJ native is a hot commodity and will demand a lot in return for any trade that happens, as he should.

5. Phil Kessel, Right Wing, Toronto Maple Leafs

Phil Kessel Maple Leafs
Phil Kessel’s 37 goals: surprise or disappointment? (Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)

Since being drafted 5th overall in the 2006 draft by the Boston Bruins, expectations have been high for Phil Kessel. And while Kessel  experienced ups and downs in both Boston and Toronto, his overall numbers put him among some of the best in the game.

In each of the last four seasons, Kessel has scored at least 30 goals and has recorded no fewer than 55 points in any season. In 2011-12, the Madison, WI native led all Americans in the NHL in scoring with 37 goals, 45 assists, and 82 points.

And the scary thing about Kessel is that he is only 24 years old.

4. Ryan Suter, Defenseman, Minnesota Wild

Ryan Suter (Flickr/bridgetds)

Ryan Suter is one of the best all-around defensemen in the NHL. The son of 1980 Gold Medal winner Bob Suter, and nephew of one of the best American-born defensemen ever Gary Suter, Ryan has put together his own impressive resume through the first seven seasons of his career.

In 2011-12, the 27-year old put together his best season yet on both sides of the puck. The Madison, WI native recorded a career-high 46 points, while finishing with a +15 plus/minus rating, the second highest of his career. This off-season, Suter left the Nashville Predators to sign a 13-year/$98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild.

3. Patrick Kane, Right Wing, Chicago Blackhawks 

Patrick Kane Blackhawks
(Warren Wimmer/Icon SMI)

When 23 goals, 43 assists, and 66 points is viewed as a down year for a player, that player is clearly recognized as one of the best scorers in the game. That is the case with Chicago Blackhawks’ right winger Patrick Kane.

Each of those totals that Kane recorded in 2011-12 was the lowest of his career. Kane’s best season came in 2009-10, when the Buffalo, NY native recorded career highs in goals (30), assists (58), and points (88), and scored the game-winning goal to give the Blackhawks their first Stanley Cup in 49 years.

Despite his “down” year in 2011-12, there is no reason to believe that Kane won’t return to form. After all, he is only 23 years old.

2. Zach Parise, Left Wing, Minnesota Wild

Zach Parise Devils
(Icon SMI)

Zach Parise is one of the most consistent, and highest scoring American forwards in the NHL. In five of the six seasons in which Parise played more than 80 games, the 27-year old scored at least 31 goals, and recorded no fewer than 62 points.

Parise’s best season came in 2008-09. The Minneapolis, MN native scored a career-high 45 goals, and recorded a career-high 94 points. This off-season, the 2010 Olympian left the New Jersey Devils, and signed a 13-year/$98 million contract with the Minnesota Wild.

1. Jonathan Quick, Goaltender, Los Angeles Kings

Jonathan Quick Kings
(Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)

Jonathan Quick not only established himself as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL, but as the best American-born player in the game today. Since becoming the Kings’ full-time starter in the 2009-10 season, the 26-year old’s numbers have improved every season.

Quick’s steady improvement culminated with his spectacular 2011-12 season. The Milford, CT native carried the Kings to the postseason by winning 35 games, recording a 1.95 goals against average, and a .929 save percentage, while earning a nomination for the Vezina Trophy.

In the 2011-12 playoffs, Quick elevated his incredible regular season play. The Vezina nominee went 16-4 with a 1.41 goals against average and a .946 save percentage to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, capture the first Stanley Cup in the Kings’ franchise history.



33 thoughts on “Top 10 American-Born Players in the NHL Today”

  1. Really good overall list. I’m not sure about Quick being number 1 though. Also, just to make this clear…DUSTIN BROWN did NOT “carry” or “lead” the Kings to their cup. Yes, he was their captain, but you have to acknowledge the fact that everyone else on the King’s roster including Richards, Carter, Penner, Kopitar, Doughty, Quick, Stoll, Williams, Voynov, Nolan, King, and Lewis ALL got on a hot stream at the SAME time. It wasn’t just Brown even though he was hitting players back and forth and scoring shorthanded goals. If everyone on the Kings played how they usually played except Brown, LA would not have won a cup. It was a collective effort. Brown should either be number 10 or 11.

  2. List is a bit of a JOKE. Cannot leave Brown off, thats a crime; also, yes Quick is good but you do realize that this is not a list about the last 8 months, last season he was barely good enough to split the season with Bernier. And if youre going to go on recent performance/potential, then Pacioretty needs to be there ahead of Callahan, Backes (maybe) or even Ryan. Much younger, over thirty goals in first healthy NHL season, and ripped it up at WC’s ahead of more “notable” stars. Not to mention McDonough, who I assume you are familiar with if you rate Callahan so high.

    Do us a favour, do some research that doesn’t involve total homerism with a dash of what everybody has already said/posted on fanboards.

    PS. Suter is extremely over-rated and will be exposed next year without having Weber as a partner.

    • Thank you for the comment. Quick was barely good enough to split 2010-11 with Bernier? There was a goalie controversy stirred by the media, but last time I checked, Quick started close to 75% of the Kings’ games and finished 6th in the NHL in goals against average and in the top 10 in the league in wins. Not too bad for a guy who “split” the season. He has had a steady rise since he split the 08-09 season with Erik Ersberg and Jason LaBarbera.

      You are right in the respect that if this was strictly about the last 8 months, then Pacioretty would be on the list, but that’s not what this list is about. The majority of the people who have commented would put Brown on the list, and I totally understand it. I’ve said in the comments that he is a very good player, and there are a few other players who got consideration (Joe Pavelski, McDonagh, Keith Yandle). And as far as Suter goes, time will tell how he plays in Minnesota without Weber as his defense partner.

      If you would like to educate me though (since I am such a homer and obviously don’t do any research), I welcome you to make your own top-10 list and I would be more than glad to talk about it.

    • you are forgetting contributions from Kopitar, Richards, Carter, Penner, Quick, Doughty, Stoll, Williams, and Dwight King. Dustin did not carry his team to the cup. Let’s just make that clear. He should be 10 on this list.

  3. Seems a touch unrealistic to defend a claim for Callahan over Brown based on Selke voting that already has a somewhat absurd east coast bias as it stands. I mean, people are claiming you’ve got a bias, using another biased evaluation might not be the most helpful defense. I’d be curious to see your real defense, using numbers?

  4. “Maybe I’m biased about Callahan because I watch him all of the time, but he put up the same number of points as Brown and excels in all situations.” Brown captained his team to a stanley cup victory, Callahan didn’t. Enough said.

  5. Slight oversight.
    Dustin Brown is not only the 2nd ever American born Captain to win the Stanley Cup, ever, but he was also a finalist for the Mark Messieh award for leadership.

  6. Pavelski, Brown? Numbers are better than Kesler, Callahan and Backes. Playoff performers as well. Little east coast bias maybe?

    • Maybe it is a little east coast bias. Believe me when I tell you that I considered Pavelski and especially Brown. I know Backes might not be as strong offensively as Pavelski, but he can still score (31, 17, 31, 24 goals in each of the last 4 years) and is good enough in his own end to be nominated for the Selke. Maybe I’m biased about Callahan because I watch him all of the time, but he put up the same number of points as Brown and excels in all situations.

      • Brown let his team to a Stanley Cup… Callahan did not. Brown would be on any unbiased list over Callahan, Backes and Kesler.

          • Not to take anything away from Brown who played hard and scored a bundle of shorthanded goals, but he didn’t carry the Kings to the cup. Everyone on their team caught fire at the right time including Quick, Richards, Carter, Nolan, Lewis, King, Penner, Doughty, Williams, and Stoll all at the same time. Brown was a piece but did not carry his team to the cup.

      • Definite east coast bias. Lets see here: Brown +/- 18 Cal +/- -8, Brown 54 pts Cal 54 pts, Brown 2nd in hots, Cal 5th in hits, Brown captains his team to the SC Cal does not, Brown 20 pts in 20 playoff games and +16 in those games, Cal 10 pts in 20 playoff games @ +2. But yea Cal is definitely better.

        • Callahan was also 4th in Selke voting, Brown didn’t crack the top 20. All of the numbers about Brown are true, the guy is a very good player and captained his team to the Cup, no dispute. But IMO, on both sides of the puck, I think Callahan is a better all-around player.

          • The performance that Brown gave after the trade deadline and on through the playoffs was the best hockey I have ever seen! Brown is a true all around player. He plays very similar to Callahan. but Brown is the better player no question..

            • Best hockey you have ever seen? Don’t get me wrong, Brown had a terrific finish to the season in all facets of his game and averaged a point per game in the playoffs. But in my opinion, the “best hockey ever seen” is a little bit of a stretch.

    • It was tough for me to leave Brown off, no doubt about it. Maybe I’m biased towards Callahan because I watch him every night, but I think he does a lot at both ends of the ice, and he is very similar to Brown in that respect. Backes was a Selke nominee and put up the same number of points as Brown. I think after the year Kessel had it’s tough to not have him ahead of Brown, and even though Kesler had a down year, the guy put up two 70-point years in a row. Again, no knock on Brown at all, just my opinion.

      • I think using their placement in award voting is just more example of East Coast bias, so it shouldn’t really be taken into account. Kopitar was low on votes for the Selke, too, and deserved to be much higher. But because they’re on the WC, they don’t get the proper exposure. JMO.

    • I definitely considered Howard, but for me Miller has been more consistent than Howard has. If Howard does what he did in 2011-12 next year, and Miller doesn’t bounce back from his performance this year, then I would agree with you. And I know I left him off, but it’s tough to argue with you about Dustin Brown as well.

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