The 10 Greatest American Hockey Players Ever


Hockey has traditionally been a sport dominated by Canadian gamers, although lately it has turn into an more and more worldwide affair. But American gamers have all the time had a significant function within the recreation, notably within the National Hockey League.

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We’ll be looking on the 10 best American gamers of all time, together with some honorable mentions. We’ll be judging based mostly not solely on a participant’s NHL profession however his or her contributions on the collegiate and worldwide degree, as nicely. Without additional ado, let’s have a look.

10) Auston Matthews

It could seem untimely to nominate somebody with simply 5 NHL seasons below his belt as an all-time nice, nevertheless it’s exhausting to disclaim Auston Matthews‘ place on this list. The seventh American drafted first overall, he became one of the league’s elite goal-scorers the second he stepped on the ice — even potting four goals in his NHL debut, the primary participant within the fashionable period to take action. He completed that season with 40 targets and 69 factors, successful the Calder Memorial Trophy with 164 of 167 first-place votes.

Auston Matthews Toronto Maple Leafs
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Since then, Matthews has completed each season on a 40-goal tempo in an 82-game marketing campaign, although he has struggled with some accidents and COVID-19 hurdles. Even regardless of that, he dominated the all-Canadian North Division through the 2020-21 season, scoring 41 targets in 52 video games, simply successful the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy for the league’s high goal-scorer. That season presently sits in a tie for twentieth in NHL era-adjusted goal-scoring seasons all-time. He additionally gained the 2022 Hart Trophy as league MVP with 60 targets and 106 factors in 73 video games.

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At this writing, Matthews is second amongst American gamers in factors per recreation, and first in targets per recreation performed. He has 537 factors in 478 video games. The solely demerit on his on-ice report thus far is playoff efficiency, however that’s typically the slowest side of a participant’s recreation to progress. Yes, it could be untimely to incorporate Matthews on this record, however there may be nearly no argument that he’ll find yourself close to the highest by the tip of his profession, barring main unexpected circumstances. In honor of all that he’s already completed, he’ll maintain down this primary spot for now.

Honorable Mention: Keith Tkachuk

If the tenth spot may feasibly be cut up, Keith Tkachuk (a.okay.a. “Big Walt”) would take the opposite half. He’s reached most of the ultimate hockey milestones, with 1,000 factors and 1,000 PIMs, over 500 targets, and a 2002 silver medal. He even gained gold on the 1996 World Cup. But Tkachuk’s lasting impression on the sport and on American hockey might have extra to do along with his progeny.

Keith Tkachuk, Winnipeg Jets
Keith Tkachuk, Winnipeg Jets (Al Bello/ALLSPORT)

His sons, Matthew (Calgary Flames) and Brady (Ottawa Senators) had been the sixth and fourth picks within the 2016 and 2018 NHL Drafts, respectively, and look prone to be as massive or larger stars than their father. Big Walt’s daughter, Taryn, is a standout area hockey participant within the St. Louis space. The elder Tkachuk definitely deserves a spot on this record, however he narrowly loses out to Matthews right here.

9) Hobey Baker

Hobey Baker’s Hockey Hall of Fame profile describes him as “the first American-born hockey star.” There’s a motive why collegiate hockey’s high prize bears his title.

Hobey Baker Award
Hobey Baker Memorial Trophy (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios by way of Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

Baker was born in Bala Cynwyd, Pennslyvania in 1892, and would go on to Princeton University, the place he would turn into a adorned two-sport athlete. He would set a number of faculty information in soccer, excelling particularly as a punt returner. With his assist, Princeton would win a nationwide championship in 1911.

But it was hockey the place Baker made an unforgettable impression. He helped Princeton to 2 nationwide championships, in 1912 and 1914, and is estimated to have surpassed 120 targets and 100 assists in his three seasons with the Tigers. He was, moreover, an unimaginable sportsman, visiting the opposing group’s dressing room to shake arms with each participant after every recreation.

After his collegiate profession, Baker would be part of the novice St. Nicholas Club and win a further nationwide championship (on the novice degree) in 1915. He was even supplied a $20,000 contract to hitch the Montreal Canadiens, then of the National Hockey Association, however declined it, preferring to stay an novice.

Unfortunately, World War I arose and took Baker abroad. Even there, he excelled, rising to the rank of captain, main his personal squadron of 26 pilots and 180 enlisted males, and successful medals together with the French Croix de Guerre. Tragically, hours earlier than he was set to return house, he took one final flight and crash-landed, leading to his premature demise on the age of 26.

Hockey and soccer weren’t the one sports activities through which Baker excelled. He was a scratch golfer, an elite swimmer, and an occasional observe and area star. He is arguably one of many best American athletes ever, and the one motive he isn’t greater on this record is the relative brevity of his hockey profession.

8) Jonathan Quick

The selection of the best American goalie of all time was a good three-way race. John Vanbiesbrouck is one among simply 4 Americans to win the Vezina Trophy since 1942. Ryan Miller presently leads all Americans in profession wins with 391, in addition to one of the vital spectacular Olympic performances in U.S. historical past. But on this race, the slight nod will go to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

Quick presently ranks second amongst American goalies with 375 wins, 16 shy of catching Ryan Miller for first, one thing he ought to do pretty simply earlier than he retires. He can also be thirteenth in save proportion (SV%) at .911. Quick and Miller each gained silver with the U.S. Olympic group in 2010, although Quick was a backup goalie throughout that run.

What pushes Quick barely forward of those two is his postseason success. He posted one of the vital outstanding playoff runs of all time in 2012, serving to the Los Angeles Kings seize their first Stanley Cup. He went an unbelievable 16-4, with a .946 SV% and a 1.41 goals-against common, working away with the Conn Smythe Trophy within the course of. He additionally led all playoff goaltenders in shutouts in three straight campaigns, with three that postseason, three the next postseason, and two extra in 2014, the place he would seize his second Stanley Cup.

Jonathan Quick Vegas Golden Knights
Jonathan Quick, Vegas Golden Knights (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Quick would additionally lead a Jennings Trophy-winning tandem within the 2013-14 season and the 2017-18 season. But it was his clutch postseason efficiency which gave him a slight edge amongst these three, three of the best American goaltenders of all time.

7) Pat LaFontaine

Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in Waterford, Michigan, Pat LaFontaine is without doubt one of the extra unheralded American gamers on this record. His hockey profession began in earnest within the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), the place, throughout his solely season, he posted 104 targets and 130 assists for 234 factors. That would win him the Jean Bèliveau Trophy because the league’s high scorer, beating out a fellow teenager with some unimaginable scoring prowess named Mario Lemieux.

That season alone was sufficient to warrant LaFontaine some consideration on this record. He introduced house a cupboard filled with {hardware}, together with the common season and playoff MVP award, the offensive rookie of the yr, the Mike Bossy Award, named after a participant whose rookie purpose report he broke that season, for the most effective skilled prospect, and the CHL Player of the Year.

Pat LaFontaine #16 of the Buffalo Sabres
Pat LaFontaine nonetheless leads all American gamers in factors per recreation (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI by way of Getty Images)

From the QMJHL, LaFontaine went on to play his total profession within the state of New York, with the New York Islanders, the Buffalo Sabres, and a last season with the New York Rangers. He would amass 1,013 factors in 865 video games, making 5 All-Star Games and successful the 1995 Bill Masterton Trophy earlier than his profession was lower considerably quick by concussions.

His 1987 series-clinching purpose within the fourth time beyond regulation of Game 7 of the Patrick Division Semifinal stays one of the vital iconic in Islanders’ historical past. He had two 100-plus level seasons, together with a mind-bending 148-point complete in 1992-93. He would even have six consecutive seasons with 40-plus targets from 1987-1993, including a seventh in 1995-96.

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To this present day, LaFontaine’s 1.17 factors per recreation are the highest-ever profession mark by an American participant. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003 and was named one of many 100 best gamers within the historical past of the NHL in 2017. Not one to take it straightforward, since his retirement, LaFontaine has accomplished half a dozen Ironman triathlons. He is an unimaginable athlete very worthy of a spot on this record.

6) Neal Broten

On any record of the best American hockey gamers, there must be some recognition of the best second in U.S. Hockey historical past, the 1980 Miracle on Ice. While Neal Broten didn’t report some extent in that iconic semifinal recreation in opposition to the united statesS.R., he did accumulate two targets and an help within the match, en path to the United States’ gold medal victory.

Broten would go on to have probably the most profitable skilled profession of any of the members on that 1980 roster. A local of Roseau, Minnesota, simply south of the Canadian border, he would spend the primary 13 years of that profession enjoying for the group from his house state, the Minnesota North Stars. With them, he collected 796 of his 923 profession factors and performed in 876 of his 1,099 video games. In 1985-86, he turned the primary American to attain greater than 100 factors in a season.

Neal Broten
1998 Season: Neal Broten of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)

Broten would stay with the group for one and a half extra seasons after the Stars moved south to Dallas earlier than they traded him to the New Jersey Devils in Feb. 1995. That transfer would repay in spades for him, because the Devils would go on to beat the closely favored Detroit Red Wings in a four-game sweep to win the Stanley Cup. Broten would rating the series-clinching purpose, turning into the first-ever American to take action, sarcastically with Viacheslav Fetisov, a member of the 1980 Soviet group, as soon as once more on the ice for the opposition.

Broten holds the uncommon distinction of successful an NCAA championship with the University of Minnesota, an Olympic gold medal, and a Stanley Cup. He scored the game-winning purpose within the NCAA Championship and won the Hobey Baker in 1981.

Despite retiring in 1997, he scored six factors in three video games in a quick return to the ice for the U.S. Team within the 1999 Ice Hockey World Championship. He was voted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000, his quantity 7 is retired by the Stars, and in 2009, he was voted by Minnesota followers because the greatest-ever participant from the state.

5) Brian Leetch

The ninth total choose in 1986, Brian Leetch is synonymous with the New York Rangers. He is arguably one of many extra underrated defensemen within the historical past of the NHL. With Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis, Bobby Orr, and Dennis Potvin, he’s simply the fifth defender to report 100 factors in a single season (he hit 102 in 1991-92), and he’s the final blueliner to achieve the milestone.

Brian Leetch New York Rangers
Brian Leetch, New York Rangers (Wikipedia)

In 1,205 profession video games, all however 76 with the Rangers, Leetch recorded 247 targets and 781 assists for 1,028 factors. 71 of these factors got here as a rookie when he took 42 of 63 first-place votes and gained the Calder Trophy. Over the course of his profession, that trophy would be part of two Norris Trophies, which he would win in 1991-92 and 1996-97.

The greatest addition to his trophy case would turn into the Conn Smythe Trophy for postseason MVP in 1994. He led all gamers in these playoffs with 11 targets and 34 factors in 23 video games. He was the primary American to ever win a Conn Smythe trophy.

Over his profession, Leetch would go to 9 All-Star video games. He gained a silver medal in 2002 and retired formally in 2007. His quantity 2 was retired by the Rangers the next yr, the identical yr he can be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. One yr later, he can be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. But none of those accolades can seize Leetch’s significance as a lot as his teammate Mark Messier’s phrases in his NHL 100 greatest players video:

He was magic to play with… He was, for my part, and is the best Ranger of all time.

Mark Messier describing Brian Leetch

Honorable Mention: Phil Housley

Phil Housley put up unimaginable numbers in each video games performed (1,495) and factors (1,232). He went to seven All-Star video games. He was a runner-up for the Norris Trophy in 1992, gained gold on the 1996 World Cup of Hockey, and silver on the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Phil Housley #6 of the Buffalo Sabres
MONTREAL, CANADA – CIRCA 1980: Phil Housley of the Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI by way of Getty Images)

He is a member of each the Hockey Hall of Fame and the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. He is presently an assistant coach with the Arizona Coyotes after a stint as the top coach of the Buffalo Sabres.

4) Cammi Granato

Of all of the gamers on this record, nobody has had extra worldwide success than the Downer’s Grove, Illinois native Cammi Granato. She is a two-time Olympic medalist, successful gold in Nagano in 1998 and silver in Salt Lake City in 2002, all whereas captaining each groups.

Granato additionally noticed unimaginable success on the IIHF Women’s World Championship, the place she gained one gold medal (2005) and eight silver medals (intermittently between 1990-2004). She additionally took gold twice on the Four Nations Cup, in 1997 and 2003, taking house silver 5 different occasions.

Jim Gregory Don Hay Cammi Granato Pat Quinn Hockey Hall of Fame
Jim Gregory, Don Hay, Cammi Granato and Pat Quinn pose for images following the Hockey Hall of Fame blazer ceremony, November 7, 2010 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Granato was far more than a passenger on these groups: she was a star. Here is how Nathaniel Oliver, our former Buffalo Beauts author and an knowledgeable on ladies’s hockey, described her profession:

“At the close of her NCAA career at Providence College, she had scored an astounding 139 goals and 117 assists for 256 points in only 99 games. Her Olympic totals amount to 10 goals and eight assists for 18 points in 11 games from Nagano and Salt Lake City combined. Her 43 games in the IIHF Women’s World Championship saw her average 1.81 points per game from her 44 goals, 34 assists and 78 points. Think about it – 44 World Championship goals in 43 games!”

“A 15-year member of the U.S. Women’s National Team beginning in 1990,” Oliver continued, “Granato is the program’s all-time scoring leader with 343 points (186-157) in 205 games, and she captained both the Nagano and Salt Lake City squads.”

“When you take all of that into consideration, it is no wonder that she has been inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame (2008), the US Hockey Hall of Fame (2009) and the Hockey Hall of Fame (2010). Granato was one of the first female inductees into the Hockey Hall of Fame, alongside Angela James.”

Though it’s exhausting to put Granato’s profession into perspective with a few of her fellow American athletes, on condition that she clearly doesn’t seem in NHL report books, there isn’t any denying that she is without doubt one of the best to ever lace up skates in a Team U.S.A. jersey. She belongs close to the very high of this record.

3) Patrick Kane

The solely first-overall draft choose within the historical past of the Chicago Blackhawks, the Buffalo, New York native Patrick Kane is one among two lively gamers on this record, however he’s undeniably worthy of the distinction. At age 34, he has 1,235 factors in his profession and already has two 100-plus level seasons below his belt (106 in 2015-16, and 110 in 2018-19).

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

Readers are prone to be extra acquainted with Kane’s accomplishments than many on this record, however they’re spectacular: he gained the Calder Trophy with 72 factors in his rookie season, beating out Nicklas Backstrom, Carey Price, and teammate Jonathan Toews. He scored the game-winning and series-clinching purpose in time beyond regulation of Game 6 to win his first of three Stanley Cups in 2010. In 2013, he gained the Conn Smythe Trophy, main the Blackhawks with 19 factors in 23 video games.

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

Kane’s most adorned season was 2015-16. He collected 46 targets and 60 assists, gained the Hart Memorial Trophy for league MVP, the Ted Lindsay Award for Most Outstanding Player (voted on by the gamers), and he turned the very first American to win the Art Ross Trophy for main the league in factors in a single season.

When Kane was named one of the NHL’s 100 Greatest Players in 2017, it was extremely controversial, partially due to some off-ice issues. But he’s put a few of these considerations to relaxation by including nicely over 300 factors to his profession complete and remaining on his greatest habits since that second. He has already gained all the NHL’s main awards and led the revitalization of one among America’s most historic franchises. Projecting what the rest of Kane’s profession will possible appear to be, it might be inconceivable to depart him off this record.

Honorable Mention: Brett Hull

Of all these selections, one of many hardest was deciding whether or not to incorporate the fourth-highest profession purpose scorer in NHL historical past, Brett Hull, on the record as an American participant. Ultimately, we determined in opposition to it however thought it greatest to elucidate our reasoning.

Hull was born in Belleville, Ontario in 1964, however spent his early years within the United States whereas his father, Bobby, performed for the Blackhawks. That is the place he started his fledgling hockey profession as a four-year-old. But when Bobby was traded to the Winnipeg Jets, he returned to Canada and remained there till attending the University of Minnesota-Duluth for faculty.

Brett Hull
Brett Hull’s twin citizenship makes his placement on this record a tough query. (Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI by way of Getty Images)

It was whereas there that Hull determined his worldwide religion. He was handed over by Team Canada however supplied a spot on the American group, which he accepted. While he continued to play for the American group all through his profession, he admitted that neither felt extra like his personal nation; he simply selected to play the place he was given a chance.

Were Hull indisputably American, there isn’t any query that he can be a shoo-in for this record. In reality, he may high it. But given that there’s some controversy surrounding his nationwide standing, a choice must be made. Since he was born in Canada and spent the majority of his early life there, we are going to exclude him from a correct place on this record. But that takes nothing away from his unimaginable profession as one of many best pure purpose scorers to ever take the ice.

2) Mike Modano

Mike Modano will not be solely one of the vital iconic gamers in Dallas Stars historical past, however he’s additionally one of many best American gamers within the historical past of the sport. He is second amongst all American-born forwards in video games performed (1,499), and all American NHL gamers in targets (561), factors (1,374), and playoff factors (146). Born in Livonia, Michigan, Modano constructed his fame enjoying as an adolescent within the Canadian Hockey League, nevertheless it was the final time he would ever name a Canadian group his personal.

The North Stars drafted him with the primary total choice in 1988. In his rookie season, he would report 29 targets and 46 assists for 75 factors and would end second in voting for the Calder Trophy behind Sergei Makarov. That determination would create controversy, as Makarov was a 31-year-old coming over from the KHL, knowledgeable league in Russia. The NHL would change eligibility for the Calder Trophy to exclude gamers older than 26 the next yr.

NHL Hall of Fame class of 2014 inductee Mike Modano
Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2014 inductee Mike Modano (AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)

Losing the Calder Trophy below arguably unfair circumstances wouldn’t cease Modano from having an unimaginable profession. He would go on to play in seven All-Star Games, successful silver on the 2002 Olympics, and taking house a Stanley Cup in 1999. He performed in each recreation of that Stanley Cup Final, regardless of breaking his wrist in Game 2, and he notched assists on every of the ultimate 5 targets of the collection.

Modano is the best participant within the historical past of the Stars, both in Minnesota or Dallas. His quantity 9 jersey was retired in 2014, the identical yr he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. He holds the Stars’ information for video games performed, targets, assists, and factors. He is the best American ahead within the historical past of the sport.

1) Chris Chelios

No American participant’s profession can match the longevity or the success of the Chicago-native defenseman, Chris Chelios. He is without doubt one of the best defensemen ever to play the sport, and he belongs on the high of this record.

Chelios is eighth all-time in NHL video games performed, the very best of any American participant. In 1,651 video games, he collected 185 targets and 763 assists for 948 factors. He can also be 18th all-time in profession plus/minus, at a plus-351.

Chris Chelios of the Chicago Blackhawks controls the puck in opposition to the Minnesota North Stars/Wild through the NHL Stadium Series Alumni recreation on February 20, 2016. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI by way of Getty Images)

Few trophy instances are as overloaded as Chelios’. He went to 11 All-Star Games, together with 5 straight from 1990-1994. He gained the Norris Trophy in 1989, 1993, and 1996, and was given the Mark Messier Leadership Award in 2007. Like many on this record, he was a part of the 2002 Silver Medal group, and he took house gold on the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. Most importantly, Chelios gained three Stanley Cups, one with the group that drafted him, the Montreal Canadiens (1986), and two with the Red Wings (2002, 2008).

All advised, Chelios’ profession spanned 4 a long time: he was drafted in 1981 and debuted in 1983, and he performed his last NHL recreation with the Atlanta Thrashers on Apr. 6, 2010. He was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame three years later, together with longtime Red Wings teammate Brendan Shanahan. He has been a part of each the Red Wings and the Blackhawks’ entrance workplace and stays a key determine within the hockey neighborhood.

The Future Is Bright

The way forward for the American recreation has by no means been brighter. An American participant has been drafted within the high ten in every of the final 5 NHL Drafts. Two of the final six first total draft picks have additionally been Americans, with Matthews in 2016 and Jack Hughes most just lately in 2019. The NHL is plagued by American stars 25-years-old and youthful. This season, Adam Fox (23) won the Norris Trophy, and Jason Robertson (21) was runner-up for the Calder Trophy.

In 10 years, this record may look radically completely different. There can be new faces, and hopefully, many new worldwide accomplishments. There has by no means been a greater time to be a fan of the American recreation.


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