Mike Modano and the Top 20 American NHL Skaters of All Time

Liz BrownsteinContributor ISeptember 16, 2011

Mike Modano and the Top 20 American NHL Skaters of All Time

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    Even though hockey has recently returned to being a Canadian-dominated sport, there have been many influential players who hail from the United States.

    American-born players have demonstrated their talents time and again, and even though some of the better-known players are Canadian or European, some of the most prominent and respected players in the game’s history are American-born.

    Players like Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Mike Modano and Brett Hull have all earned reputations as star American hockey players, so where will they fall on this list?

20. Dave Christian

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    Dave Christian is 20th on our list of the best US-born hockey players with 773 points in 1,009 games, giving him an average of 0.766 points per game.

    He appeared with the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team, and started his NHL career shortly thereafter. He has less impressive statistics than other players on this list; however, he absolutely deserves recognition for holding the record for the fastest first career goal in NHL history, scoring just seven seconds into his first NHL shift.

19. Patrick Kane

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    Patrick Kane, a 22-year-old right wing with the Chicago Blackhawks, was the first overall draft pick in 2007. So far he has tallied 303 career points, 103 of which were goals, in 317 career games.

    Kane already has a Stanley Cup championship and an Olympic Silver Medal. Furthermore, he was selected as an alternate captain at the 2011 All-Star game, which serves as a testament to his status as one of the NHL’s new, elite players.

18. Bobby Ryan

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    In just three seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, Bobby Ryan has scored a total of 105 career goals and 202 career points. Bobby Ryan’s performance during his rookie season, scoring 31 goals in just 64 games, earned him enough praise to land him as a finalist for the Calder Trophy.

    Drafted second overall in 2005, he is often overlooked because of his dominant linemates (Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry); however, he deserves a spot on this list of the best American-born players of all time.

17. Chris Chelios

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    Many people might find the decision to put Chris Chelios in the 17th seat on this list rather outlandish, however, considering the defender extended his career well past his prime, he became something close to a liability in his later days, often doing more harm than help. 

    However, the man who was given the nickname "Father Time" in the latter stages of his playing days certainly earned the title. At the time of retirement, Chelios was the oldest active player in the NHL at the age of 46. He holds the distinction of playing more games than any other American-born player with a remarkable 1,651 games played. However, he kept playing even with his skills fading, and thus, despite the 948 career points, he is still sitting outside our top 15.

16. Ed Olczyk

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    Ed Olczyk split his 16 NHL career seasons between six teams, with the longest stays in Chicago and Toronto. He played in 1,031 career games and scored 794 points total.

    Olczyk peaked early in his career, posting 90 points in the 1988-1989 season with the Toronto Maple Leafs. After a similarly impressive 88-point season following the career high, Olczyk struggled to find a stable franchise to mix into, and thus his statistics slowly decreased until his retirement following the 1999-2000 season.

15. Zach Parise

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    Zach Parise of the New Jersey Devils is starting to be seen as the future of American hockey, and was recently ranked by NHL.com as the most dominant active US-born player.

    In 420 career games, this 27-year-old has 341 points total; however, he is more notorious for his skills as a defensively-minded forward. He has already appeared in one NHL All-Star Game and is expected to participate in several more in his career.

14. Bill Guerin

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    In a very long 18 seasons in the NHL, Bill Guerin spent time in eight separate franchises. This power forward had at least 100 penalty minutes in eight separate seasons during his career.

    Bill Guerin played in 1,263 career games and tallied up 856 points and 1,660 penalty minutes. Guerin won two Stanley Cups, an Olympic Silver Medal and has appeared in four NHL All-Star Games, earning him a comfortable seat in our 14th spot.

13. Gary Suter

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    Gary Suter spent half of his 18-year career with the Calgary Flames, where he scored over half of his 845 total points. As a defenseman, he managed to break the 20-goal plateau three times and the 70-point barrier four times in his career.

    In 1,145 games played, he posted an impressive 642 assists and 1,349 penalty minutes. With such impressive totals offensively, Suter is undeniably deserving of the title of one of the best American defenseman in hockey history.

12. Doug Weight

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    One of the physically smaller players on this list is Doug Weight, who stands 5’11" and weighs in at 196 pounds. This center split his 19-year career between six different teams, including one Stanley Cup championship with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006.

    In 1,238 career games played, Doug Weight scored 1,033 points and, despite his smaller size, still racked up 970 penalty minutes. The 40-year-old American player only decided to hang up the skates this offseason after winning the King Clancy Memorial Trophy.

11. John LeClair

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    After struggling to find a place in the Montreal lineup, John LeClair flourished once he was traded to the Philadelphia Flyers. He meshed well with his Philly linemates and ended up spending 10 of his 16 NHL seasons with the Flyers.

    LeClair was the first American player to record three consecutive 50-goal seasons from 1995-1998. He was also able to break the 70-point plateau in five consecutive seasons with Philadelphia. His consistency as a constant scoring threat make him one of the best American players in history.

10. Tony Amonte:

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    Tony Amonte divided his 15 seasons in the NHL between five different teams, but he was most known for his time with Chicago, where he had more than 30 goals in six straight seasons. He also had a five-season stretch with the Blackhawks where he did not miss a single game.

    In his 1,174 career games, he scored 416 goals and 900 points, earning this five-time All-Star a safe spot on this list of best American hockey players in history. With his unparalleled consistency and reliability throughout his career, Amonte, the 12th-highest scorer in American hockey history, cracks the top 10 of our list.

9. Neal Broten

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    The second player on this list to have participated in the “1980 Miracle on Ice,” Neal Broten became the first American player to score more than 100 points in a single season in 1985-1986 when he tallied 29 goals and 76 assists for a 105-point season. In 1,099 career games, he recorded an impressive 923 points total and won a single Stanley Cup Championship with the New Jersey Devils in 1995.

    In 2009, Broten was voted by Minnesota Wild fans as the best player ever to come from the state of Minnesota. When the self-proclaimed "State of Hockey" declares him as the best hockey player ever to come from its ranks, it's safe to say he's completely deserving of his spot on this list.

8. Pat LaFontaine

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    Our next player proves that big numbers can sometimes come in small packages. Pat LaFontaine, despite measuring only 5'10" and weighing 180 lbs, managed to score an extremely impressive 1,013 points over the course of his career.

    But perhaps even more amazing is the fact that his career spanned only 865 games, meaning LaFontaine scored an average of 1.171 points per game, the highest of any American player in history.

7. Joe Mullen

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    During 17 seasons in the NHL, Joe Mullen spent time with four different teams. In his long and illustrious career, he won three the Stanley Cup championships and played in three NHL All-Star Games.

    Joe Mullen was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000 after being the first American-born player to reach 500 career goals and 1,000 career points. After playing in 1,062 career games, he recorded 1,063 total points, earning him his spot as seventh on our list of the best American players of all time.

6. Brian Leetch

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    Brian Leetch, a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, is undoubtedly the best American-born defenseman in NHL history. He was the first American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, and held the honor alone until Tim Thomas won it in 2011.

    This two-time Norris Trophy winner is one of only five defensemen in league history to score more than 100 points in a single season. He also holds the NHL record for the most goals by a rookie defenseman with 23 in his 1987-1998 season. The Rangers retired Leetch’s number No. 2 in 2008, shortly before his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. With this kind of resume, how could he not make the list?

5. Phil Housley

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    Over the course of his 21-year career, Phil Housley was one of the most well-rounded players in American hockey history, excelling in both forward and defensive positions. Housley’s lengthy career holds the distinction of playing the most games without winning a Stanley Cup at 1,495.

    Known for setting up scoring plays, as attested by his 894 career assists, Housley was exemplary of NHL defensive talent in the 1980s and 90s, being selected to seven All-Star Games.

    With one of the longest careers on record, and one of the highest point totals amongst American players, it's no wonder Housley has earned the fifth spot on this list.

4. Keith Tkachuk

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    Coming in at No. 4 on this list, Keith Tkachuk spent his 19 NHL seasons with four teams, including moving with the Winnipeg Jets to become a member of the inaugural Phoenix Coyotes in 1996.

    Tkachuk is one of only four US-born players to reach 500 career goals, hanging up the skates with 538 total goals, 527 assists and 1,065 points in 1,201 games played while racking up a mind-numbing 2,219 penalty minutes. Tkachuk broke the 50-goal marker in back-to-back seasons in 1995-1997, earning himself his first of five selections to the NHL All-Star Game.

    Even as one of the most notorious power forwards in NHL history, Tkachuk has yet to be inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame. However, he ranks second among American-born players in goals, and because of that he has earned the fourth spot on this list.

3. Jeremy Roenick

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    Jeremy Roenick is an NHL player known for both his hot-headedness and his skills to back up his sharp tongue and scandalous remarks. With impressive scoring numbers, he lived up to his trash talk with a career ranked fourth among American players in both goals and points.

    With 1,363 career games, 513 goals and 1,216 total points, Roenick proved time and again why he is a force to be reckoned with, appearing in nine NHL All-Star Games and being inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010.

    After breaking the 100-point barrier in three consecutive seasons, and exceeding 50 goals in back-to-back years (1991-93), Roenick proved himself worthy of his spot as the third best American-born Hockey player in history.

2. Mike Modano

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    As a 41-year-old free agent, Mike Modano is currently contemplating retirement after 21 seasons in the National Hockey League, earning a remarkable 1,274 career points over the course of 1,308 career games.

    Mike Modano has been selected to participate in eight NHL All-Star games and has his name engraved once on the Stanley Cup with the 1999 Dallas Stars. 

    Whether or not he decides to retire, this veteran center and Olympic Silver Medal winner (2002) has certainly had a career worthy of being called one of the best among American-born players.

1. Brett Hull

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    Brett Hull tops our list as the best American NHL player of all time with an impressive 1,391 career points in 1,269 total games played. In 10 seasons in the NHL, Hull managed to record 1.096 average points per game as a right wing.  

    Hull was a part of two Stanley Cup championship teams and took part in eight NHL All-Star games. He was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy, Hart Memorial Trophy and Lester B. Pearson Award once each in his career.

    Needless to say, Brett Hull was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009. He absolutely deserved that recognition, as well as this rank as the best American NHL player of all time.