NHL: Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and the Top 35 American Players
Hockey, a sport dominated by Canadians and Europeans for many decades, has finally caught alight in the United States the past few years and there are more Americans to show for the sport in the NHL now more than ever.
As the American celebration of Thanksgiving quickly approaches, what better time than now to take a look at the 35 best players in the NHL who proudly represent the Stars and Stripes and give Americans more than enough reason to cheer for our country?
In this slideshow, you will see the players clumped together by position. Within those groups, their is no specific order in which they appear in the slideshow. My choices were determined by the players' overall NHL careers as well as their current performances this season.
In no particular order, here are the top 35 Americans playing in the NHL today.
Laura Falcon is a Featured Columnist for the Pittsburgh Penguins and a college writing intern for Bleacher Report. Follow her on Twitter or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments.
John-Michael Liles, Colorado Avalance: Size has always been against Liles his entire life, but he has taken it upon himself to change that this season. Leading all defensemen in scoring, Liles has become a dangerous force when joining the rush.
Chris Drury, New York Rangers: Known as Mr. Clutch, Drury has been a dependable guy to score the big goals, only his production has, since then, dramatically declined.
Doug Weight, New York Islanders: It's hard to not include him because of the many years he's been in the league, but Weights just isn't as good as he used to be.
Brandon Dubinksy, New York Rangers: Dubinsky is tapping into his goalscoring, especially this season, but he needs to keep it up to be taken seriously.
G Tim Thomas: Boston Bruins
When Thomas is on, he's unstoppable, and his numbers are more than enough proof. On a team that isn't prominent in the goal-scoring department, Thomas more often than not is the one carrying the Bruins to victory.
G Jonathan Quick: Los Angeles Kings
Quick has seen steady improvement every season since joining the NHL, and this year has been no different. Easily an MVP of the Kings, Quick is beginning to prove that this recent success isn't merely a fluke.
G Ryan Miller: Buffalo Sabres
Miller is the reigning Vezina winner, but his numbers this season make him look a little more human than last season. Regardless, Miller is a game-changing goalie who was the reason Team USA made it to the Finals in Vancouver.
G Jimmy Howard: Detroit Red Wings
Chris Osgood may not have been happy that he lost his starting spot to a rookie, but the rest of Detroit is. Howard showed plenty of promise his rookie year, and thus far he has stepped up to the challenge of bypassing the sophomore slump.
D Brian Rafalski: Detroit Red Wings
Rafalski is a huge asset to any team despite his late start in the NHL. His skill on the power play isn't common and neither is his ability to get better with age.
D Brooks Orpik: Pittsburgh Penguins
One of the heaviest hitters on the blueline, Orpik makes forwards think twice before dumping the puck behind the net. He's a dependable player who is quick to lead his team, on and off the ice.
D Erik Johnson: St. Louis Blues
Injury has prevented Johnson from playing three seasons in the NHL, but his recent breakout season showed just what he can do when healthy. Johnson is a monstrous body who will become lethal on both ends of the ice once he can fully use it to his advantage.
D Paul Martin: Pittsburgh Penguins
Martin is a beautiful skater who rarely makes glaring mistakes because of his immense knowledge of the game. Never a flashy defenseman, Martin knows his place on the team and always does his job.
D Jack Johnson: Los Angeles Kings
Another big defenseman, Johnson plays solid on both ends of the ice, but is most noted for his defensive game. He can play the shut down role, but you will often see him join the rush as well.
D Tim Gleason: Carolina Hurricanes
Gleason is definitely a fan favorite for his gritty and aggressive style. He's just the guy you want on your back line when Steven Stamkos or Alex Ovechkin are heading down the ice, and the best part is he's just reaching his prime.
D Ryan Suter: Nashville Predators
Suter finds a way to put up the big minutes despite playing on a team stacked with good defense, but his abilities as a puck-moving defenseman make him incredibly valuable. Of course, we all know about his family.
D Dustin Byfuglien: Atlanta Thrashers
First he was a defenseman, then he was a winger, and now he's back to defense. Clearly, Byfuglien can play on both ends of the ice and when he takes his shot, he doesn't miss by much, if at all.
D Mike Komisarek: Toronto Maple Leafs
Komisarek's offensive numbers got off to a slow start upon his NHL debut, but he's come to prove he isn't an offensive guy. He may be worth a lot of money, but Komisarek is a stay-at-home defenseman who does his job.
D Ryan Whitney: Edmonton Oilers
Whitney hasn't been as good since his trade from Pittsburgh, but he might surprise people as he continues to mature. Whitney has a good offensive touch that can be beneficial on the power play.
D Rob Scuderi: Los Angeles Kings
Scuderi is the definition of a stay-at-home defenseman. He quietly does his job, kills the penalties and blocks shots with limited mistakes.
D James Wisniewski: New York Islanders
Wisniewski has been making the headlines lately because of his questionable gestures to New York Rangers agitator Sean Avery, but he does walk the walk. He's up there in the points department among defesemen and they've gotten progressively better.
F David Booth: Florida Panthers
Life's been rough for Booth since his concussion courtesy of Philadelphia Flyers captain Mike Richards, but prior to the injury, Booth seemed to be on a roll with increasing numbers each season. With his numbers increasing each year, this could very well be a redemption season.
F Jason Pominville: Buffalo Sabres
Pominville consistently puts up good numbers for the low-scoring Buffalo Sabres while maintaining a clean bill of health until a concussion sidelined him this season. Depend on this guy to put up the points for the Sabres.
F Brian Gionta: Montreal Canadiens
The newest captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Gionta is a quiet leader whose intense determination to win shines through his play rather than through his mouth. Despite his position, Gionta gets into the mix and will play a gritty and skilled game.
F Mike Modano: Detroit Red Wings
As the all-time goal-scoring and points leader among American players in the NHL, Modano is easily one of the best Americans to play hockey. He's even putting up strong numbers as a 40-year-old; that's the sign of a star (no pun intended).
F Scott Gomez: Montreal Canadiens
Gomez is a good two-way player who makes sound decisions defensively and uses quick bursts of speed when on a counter attack. His playmaking skills aren't too shabby either.
F TJ Oshie: St. Louis Blues
Oshie is a young player coming into form with the help of his soft hands and powerful, workhorse style. Give him a few years and he will be one of the most creative goal scorers in the NHL, especially when it comes down to a shootout.
F Ryan Callahan: New York Rangers
Callahan is one of those players that can put up the points to lead the New York Rangers to victory. However, the biggest part of his game is the intangibles—the hits and plays that get the team and crowd rallying making him a clutch player.
F Ryan Malone: Tampa Bay Lightning
Malone has started the season slowly, but he understands his purpose on the team. His skills are good, but his office is in the blue paint and he loves fighting for those dirty goals.
F Joe Pavelski: San Jose Sharks
Pavelski has always been a good hockey player, but overshadowed by others on his team. However, he finally broke out of his shell in last year's playoffs to turn into a goal-scoring machine, putting him up there with the best on his team.
F Bobby Ryan: Anaheim Ducks
Ryan is a young star forward with a world of potential, but he 's also registered two 30-goal campaigns in his first two seasons in the NHL. And he's only getting warmed up.
F Ryan Kesler: Vancouver Canucks
One of the best defensive forwards in the game, Kesler plays a complete game that includes offensive and defensive domination. On a team that sports the NHL's famous twins, he makes it easy to stand out with his talent.
F Phil Kessel: Toronto Maple Leafs
Kessel can tap into a very strong skill set and he started this season with a bang despite cooling since. There is no doubt that Kessel is a powerful goal scorer who will have the big-game play in him to make Boston regret sending him away.
F Patrick Kane: Chicago Blackhawks
Kane has been a star in every aspect of his game and he continues to grow as each season passes, scoring the big goals in big-game situations. His continuous improvement could see him hitting the 100-point mark soon.
F David Backes: St. Louis Blues
Backes is another physically imposing player on the ice. But not only will he drop the mitts to stand up for his teammates, the guy can also score like the best of them.
F Paul Stastny: Colorado Avalanche
Stastny is another powerful two-way forward whose point production is the core of the entire Colorado Avalanche team. Despite his offensive numbers suffering at two seasons ago, Stastny is still young and has shown that he can score big point totals.
F Jamie Langenbrunner: New Jersey Devils
Langenbrunner exudes experience in every aspect of his game. His experience is what brings so much value to his being, and despite getting up there in age, he's still kicking it with the young guys with good numbers and health.
F Dustin Brown: Los Angeles Kings
Few players match the amount of grit and determination seen in Brown, one of the best young captains in the NHL today. His game is similar to Jarome Iginla's, full of energy, goal-scoring and physicality.
F Zach Parise: New Jersey Devils
On a team that boasts defense above all things, Parise has been able to regularly find the net. It doesn't matter whether the puck is along the boards, at center ice or in the crease, expect Parise to be right there, doing whatever it takes to put the puck in the net.