NHL Players

19 Best American Hockey Players Of All Time

By Kapil Sapkota / 28 December 2023 02:19 PM

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The legacy of ice hockey in the United States is marked by a rich and evolving history encompassing professional and international achievements.

Over the years, the sport has grown in popularity, producing iconic moments, legendary players, and a strong hockey culture nationwide.

American players have made significant contributions to the National Hockey League (NHL), with many achieving stardom and lasting impact on the league.

Moreover, on the global stage, the United States has seen victory in numerous ice hockey events in the Olympics and World Championships.

The ice hockey history of the United States is characterized by triumphs on the global stage, a strong presence in professional leagues, and a commitment to expanding the sport's accessibility and inclusivity.

1. Mike Modano

Modano is one of the greatest American-born ice hockey players in history. He was selected as the first overall pick by the Minnesota North Stars in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft.

A key figure in the Stars' success, Modano played a pivotal role in the team's 1999 Stanley Cup victory.

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Modano achieved individual success and made history by becoming the highest-scoring American-born player in NHL history, amassing over 1,300 points during his illustrious career.

In 2014, Modano was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

2. Patrick Kane

Kane has established himself as one of the most skilled and prolific players of his generation. Patrick was selected first overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007.

He won the 2008 Calder Memorial Trophy as the top rookie, making an immediate impact in the NHL.

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Kane's contributions were instrumental in the Blackhawks winning three Stanley Cups in six seasons (2010, 2013, 2015).

Notably, his overtime goal in Game 6 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals secured the championship for the team, ending a 49-year Cup drought for the franchise.

3. Brian Leetch

Brian Leetch stands as one of the greatest defensemen to have ever graced the NHL. He was selected by the New York Rangers in the 1986 NHL Entry Draft.

Leetch quickly became a linchpin for the Rangers. The blueliner led the franchise to its first Stanley Cup in 54 years in 1994. He won two Norris Trophy in 1992 and 1997 as the league's top defenseman.

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In the 1991-92 season, he became the only defenseman in NHL history to win the league's MVP award, the Hart Trophy, since the legendary Bobby Orr.

The Hockey Hall of Fame inducted Leetch in 2009.

4. Chris Chelios

Chelios's remarkable career spanned over two decades, leaving an indelible mark on the sport. He is hailed as one of the greatest defensemen in the history of the NHL.

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Chris was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1981 Entry Draft. He clinched the Norris Trophy three times as the league's top defenseman during his career.

Chelios won three Stanley Cups during his career, two with the Canadiens (1986) and one with the Detroit Red Wings (2002).  He was rightfully enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.

5. Brett Hull

The Calgary Flames selected Hull in the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. However, it was during his time with the St. Louis Blues and later the Dallas Stars that he achieved true stardom.

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In 1999, Hull hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Stars. He scored the triple-overtime Cup-winning goal in Game 6 of the Finals against the Buffalo Sabres. His next Stanley Cup came with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002.

Internationally, Hull played a crucial role in Team USA's triumph at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. He became an HHoF member in 2009.

6. Joe Mullen

A trailblazer in American ice hockey, Joe Mullen is celebrated as one of the most accomplished forwards in NHL history.

Mullen's NHL journey began with the St. Louis Blues in the late 1970s, whose impact was particularly felt during his time with the Calgary Flames.

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He played a key role in the Flames' success, including their 1989 Stanley Cup victory.

Mullen was a valuable member of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the early 1990s, contributing to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and 1992. 

In 2000, Mullen was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, becoming the first American-born player to achieve this honor.

7. Phil Housley

Widely regarded as one of the greatest American-born defensemen in the history of ice hockey, Phil Housley was selected as the sixth overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres in 1982.

Housley consistently ranked among the highest-scoring defensemen in the league and finished his career with over 1,200 points.

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Internationally, Phil Housley proudly represented Team USA in multiple tournaments, including the Olympics. He played a crucial role in guiding the United States to victory in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. 

Housley received an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.

8. Ryan Miller

A highly accomplished goaltender and a stalwart figure in American ice hockey, Ryan Miller has left an enduring legacy through his remarkable career.

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Miller's career reached new heights during his tenure with the Buffalo Sabres. He played a pivotal role in the team's success, earning the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender in the 2009-10 season.

Internationally, at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Miller played a key role in guiding the United States to the gold medal game. They lost the match, but Miller showcased the resilience and skill that defined his goaltending style.

9. Keith Tkachuk

Keith Tkachuk stands as one of the most prominent American-born players in the history of ice hockey. 

Tkachuk's NHL career took off after being selected by the Winnipeg Jets in the first round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft.

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Tkachuk's leadership qualities were evident as he captained the Phoenix Coyotes and the St. Louis Blues.

Internationally, Tkachuk represented the United States in multiple tournaments, including the 2002 Winter Olympics. He was a key part of the U.S. team that won the gold medal at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey.

10. Brian Rafalski

An undrafted player, Rafalski's NHL career began with the New Jersey Devils in the late 1990s. He won two Stanley Cups with the franchise in 2000 and 2003.

Paired with the legendary Nicklas Lidstrom, Rafalski played a crucial role in the Detroit Red Wings' 2008 Stanley Cup victory.

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Internationally, Rafalski represented the United States in multiple Olympic Games. Notably, he played a key role in Team USA's silver medal run at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics.

Rafalski was part of Team USA's thrilling run to the gold medal game at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

11. Jeremy Roenick

Jeremy Roenick has left an indelible mark on the NHL as one of the most dynamic American-born players. He was drafted eighth overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1988 NHL Draft.

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The forward reached the Stanley Cup Final in the 1991-92 season with the Blackhawks and earned multiple All-Star selections throughout his career.

He reached the 50 or more goals mark with the Blackhawks in the 1991-92 and the 1992-93 seasons consecutively.

Roenick also proudly represented the United States on the international stage. He won silver with the national team in the 2002 Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City.

12. Zach Parise

Parise began making a name for himself during his collegiate career at the University of North Dakota. His success at the collegiate level set the stage for a highly anticipated NHL career.

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Zach was drafted 17th overall by the New Jersey Devils in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, and he quickly became a standout forward in the league.

The forward became the New Jersey Devils MVP consecutively from 2008 to 2010.

Internationally, Parise has proudly represented the United States in multiple tournaments. He played a key role for Team USA in the silver medal run in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

13. Scott Gomez

A former professional ice hockey player, Scott Gomez left a lasting impact on the NHL. He began his NHL journey with the New Jersey Devils, who selected him in the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.

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In his rookie season (1999-2000), Scott won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie making a significant and immediate impact.

A key part of the Devils' offensive core, Gomez played a crucial role in the team's back-to-back Stanley Cup victories in 2000 and 2003.

Internationally, Gomez represented the United States in various tournaments, including the Winter Olympics.

14. Kevin Shattenkirk

Shattenkirk has etched his name in the annals of professional ice hockey as a skilled and dynamic defenseman.

The Colorado Avalanche selected Kevin in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. His career began to flourish when he joined the St. Louis Blues in 2011 and became a linchpin on the Blues' blue line.

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Signing with the Lightning in 2019, he played a pivotal role in their successful quest for the Stanley Cup in the 2019-2020 season.

Internationally, Shattenkirk has represented the United States in various tournaments, contributing to the team's success on the international stage. He won silver in the 2007 IIHF U18 Championships.

15. Johnny Gaudreau

A highly skilled and electrifying forward, Johnny Gaudreau has made a significant impact on the NHL. He was selected by the Calgary Flames in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

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Johnny played college hockey at Boston College and his dynamic style on the ice helped lead the Eagles to an NCAA championship in 2012.

Throughout his career with the Flames, Gaudreau was consistently among the team's leading scorers. He won the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in the 2016-17 season.

Internationally, Gaudreau has represented Team USA in various competitions. He won gold in the IIHF World Junior Championship in 2013.

16. Jack Eichel

Eichel's rise to hockey stardom began during his collegiate career at Boston University.

The player was named the Hobey Baker Award winner as the top player in collegiate hockey. He was selected second overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2015 Entry Draft.

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He became the captain of the Sabres in 2018. Eichel won the Stanley Cup with the Vegas Golden Knights in 2023, in his first playoff appearance.

In the International stages, Eichel has represented the United States in various competitions. He captured gold in the 2014 IIHF World U18 Championship with the national team.

17. John Carlson

One of the premier defensemen in the NHL, John Carlson is known for his offensive prowess, all-around skills, and leadership on the ice.

Carlson was drafted by the Washington Capitals in the first round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He won the Stanley Cup with the team in 2018.

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As an offensive defenseman, Carlson consistently ranks among the league leaders in points by a defenseman and has been nominated for the Norris Trophy several times.

In addition to success in the NHL, Carlson has represented the United States in various international competitions. He won the gold medal in the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship.

18. Auston Matthews

A dynamic and exceptionally skilled center who has taken the NHL by storm, Auston Matthews was drafted first overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2016 Entry Draft.

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Matthews made an immediate impact in his rookie season, scoring four goals in his debut game. As the top rookie, he won the Calder Memorial Trophy in 2017.

Auston has earned the Rocket Richard Trophy twice as the NHL's leading goal-scorer.

Internationally, Matthews has represented the United States in various tournaments. He won gold in the 2014 World U-17 Hockey Challenge and IIHF U18 World Championship in 2014 and 2015.

19. T.J. Oshie

The right winger Oshie was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the 2005 Entry Draft. He quickly made his mark as a player with exceptional skill and a penchant for clutch moments.

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Oshie spent the majority of his early career with the Blues and was traded to the Washington Capitals in 2015. Oshie played an integral role in their Stanley Cup victory in 2018.

In a memorable moment during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Oshie gained international acclaim for his outstanding shootout performance against Russia, securing a crucial victory for Team USA.

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