Ranking the 5 Best American Players in Pittsburgh Penguins History

Steve Rodenbaugh@rodeyslContributor IIIFebruary 26, 2014

Ranking the 5 Best American Players in Pittsburgh Penguins History

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    Although the rafters of the Consol Energy Center are adorned with retired jerseys of Canadian and European-born Penguins stars, the city of Pittsburgh has also hosted its share of American-born hockey greats as well. 

    Having been led by legendary American-born coaches such as Herb Brooks and "Badger" Bob Johnson—and managed by Ray Shero and Craig Patrick, grandson of the legendary Lester Patrickthe Pens have become inextricably linked to Team USA and the American hockey program.

    As the chants of "USA, USA" fade away for another four years and Pittsburgh's fans exchange red, white and blue for black and gold, let's look at the five best American players in Pittsburgh Penguins history.

Honorable Mention: Mark Johnson

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    When anyone thinks of the United States and hockey, inevitably the 1980 U.S. hockey team and the "Miracle on Ice" come to mind.

    Although team captain Mike Eruzione, who scored the game-winning goal against the Soviet Union, is the most recognized member of that team, many Penguins fans forget that Mark Johnson, the leading scorer from that team, was drafted by the Pens in 1977 and wore the black and gold for a while.

    Having scored five goals and six assists in just seven Olympic games, including two game-tying goals against the Soviets and the game-clinching goal in the gold-medal game against Finland, Johnson played the next three seasons in Pittsburgh, where he amassed 69 points in 146 games before being traded to his hometown Minnesota North Stars.

    While his play in Pittsburgh was not nearly as memorable as his play in Lake Placid, his legendary performance as part of Team USA earns him special recognition and a spot on this list.

No. 5: Bill Guerin

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    While his time with the Penguins was relatively short, Bill Guerin became a fan favorite in Pittsburgh, and the feeling was mutual.

    Having been traded to the Pens from the New York Islanders in exchange for a conditional draft pick at the 2009 trade deadline, he brought the veteran presence and goal-scoring ability that the Pens craved and was a natural fit for Sidney Crosby's line.

    With 27 points in 44 regular and postseason games in 2009, Guerin was an integral part of the Pens' run to the Stanley Cup in his first season. He followed that up with a 21-goal effort in 2009-10, making him the only player in NHL history to score 20 or more goals with seven different teams.

    After retiring in 2010 with 429 career goals (seventh among U.S.-born players in NHL history), Guerin remained with the Pens as a player development coach and was elected to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.

No. 4: Brooks Orpik

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    Drafted by the Penguins in the first round of the 2000 NHL draft, Brooks Orpik has been with the Penguins through both the good times and the bad and is the longest tenured player on the roster.

    Named for legendary USA hockey coach and longtime Penguins scout Herb Brooks, Orpik has been the cornerstone of the Pens' blue-line corps for more than a decade, and his 585 games played with the Pens stands seventh in franchise history.

    Best known for his legendary shift in Game 3 of the 2008 Stanley Cup Final, he was also responsible for one of the biggest goals in Pens playoff history.

    After they fought back to tie Game 6 of their 2013 first-round matchup against the New York Islanders, Orpik's slap shot from the blue line ended the series and propelled the Pens to the second round.

No. 3: Joe Mullen

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    After being traded in 1990 from the Calgary Flames to the Penguins for a second-round pick, Joe Mullen arrived in Pittsburgh as a player who was thought to be past his prime.

    Fortunately for the Pens, the Flames would come to regret that decision, as "Slippery Rock" Joe (as announcer Mike Lange dubbed him) would tally 169 regular and postseason goals in six seasons in Pittsburgh, including three seasons of 30 or more goals.

    Regarded by teammates and opponents alike as a "little guy with a big heart" for his balance and willingness to battle along the boards and in front of the net, Mullen retired in 1997 with 502 career regular-season goals, making him the first American-born player ever to reach the 500-goal plateau.

    The following year, he was elected to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000.

No. 2: Tom Barrasso

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    After jumping from the high school rinks of Massachusetts to the NHL as the fifth overall selection by the Buffalo Sabres in the 1983 NHL draft, Tom Barrasso seemed destined for greatness from the beginning.

    Just six months after graduating high school, he became only the third player in NHL history to win both the Calder and Vezina trophies in the same year.

    Traded to the Pens in 1988 along with a third-round pick for defensemen Doug Bodger and Darrin Shannon, Barrasso would help lead the Pens to back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1991 and 1992. 

    Having spent 12 of his 19 NHL seasons with the Pens, he would retire as the second-winningest goaltender in NHL history, with 369 wins behind John Vanbiesbrouck's 374. He was elected to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.

No. 1: Kevin Stevens

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    With his tremendous size, toughness and skill, perhaps no player in Penguins history redefined his position as much as Kevin Stevens.

    Standing 6'3" and weighing 230 pounds, he had the body of an enforcer and the hands of a scorer. He was the first player in NHL history to record 50 or more goals and 200 or more penalty minutes in the same season.

    In the 1991-92 season, his 123 points set a record for the most points by an American-born player and a left wing in one season. They also made him only the third player in NHL history to outscore Wayne Gretzky during the regular season.

    Having scored 260 goals in 522 regular-season games with the Pens, Steven ranks fifth in goals in team history, ahead of both Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby.