Jonathan Quick was a second-team all-star and Conn Smythe recipient last season. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Long-time NHL stars Mike Modano and Ed Olczyk (as well as Devils GM Lou Lamoriello) were inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame this week. Which U.S. natives might follow them there some day? That’s our focus of this week’s THN.com Top 10, as we spotlight the best current American-born NHLers:
The Kings captain and Ithaca, N.Y. native was rumored to be on the trading block at last season’s trade deadline, but cemented his place in Kings and league history with a brilliant post-season in which he scored eight goals (including three game-winners) and 20 points in as many games.
Another player who has had trade whispers around him of late, Ryan has mended fences this off-season and should be a part of the Ducks for years to come. You can see why Anaheim would be interested in doing so: last season was the Cherry Hill, N.J. native’s worst since his rookie year, but he still came away with 31 goals and 57 points in 82 games.
His Maple Leafs went off the rails late last year, but Kessel still finished with more goals (37) and points (82) than any other American player. However, the Madison, Wisc., native had the worst plus-minus (minus-10) of any of the top 10 U.S. point-getters. In other words, there’s still room for his game to grow.
After coming back from a nasty concussion, Pacioretty enjoyed his best season in 2011-12, netting 33 goals and 65 points in 79 games. For those efforts, the New Canaan, Ct., native was rewarded by the Habs with a six-year, $27 million contract extension this summer.
Granted, Miller’s 31 wins last season were his lowest victory total since he had 30 in 2005-06, but that was as much a function of the team’s struggles as his own. At age 32, the East Lansing, Mich. native isn’t the spring chicken he once was, but when he’s on his game, few netminders are better.
The Buffalo, N.Y. native had his worst pro season in 2011-12 with 23 goals and 66 points in 82 games. In fact, his offensive totals have dropped for two straight seasons now (from 88 points in 2009-10 to 73 in 2010-11). However, people forget Kane is just 23 years old and most players have some down periods in their careers. If he were ever put on the trade market, the lineup of teams willing to acquire him would show how talented Kane still is.
One of two marquee free agent signings made by the Wild this summer, Parise returns to his home state – he’s a Minneapolis native – to boost that franchise’s fortunes. His 31 goals for the Devils last season is a far cry from the career high of 45 he had for New Jersey in 2008-09, but the 28-year-old is now on a team that will take some of the defensive constraints off him and should boost his numbers back to where they were.
He isn’t a home state kid like his new teammate, but don’t kid yourself – Suter (born in Madison, Wisc.) might have a more dramatic and immediate impact on the Wild than Parise. The physical blueliner averaged 26:30 of ice time in Nashville last year and his presence will make the jobs of every member of that team that much easier.
Although Patrice Bergeron won the Frank J. Selke Trophy last year, a good case could be made for Backes as the best defensive player. Backes uses his 6-foot-3 frame as well as any player in the league and can be sent onto the ice in any situation. And he’s still two years away from turning 30, so that Selke Trophy may yet have his name engraved on it.
You don’t win a Stanley Cup, Conn Smythe Award as playoff MVP and have your name prominently mentioned in debates about the Vezina and Hart Trophies without being the cream of the crop in the hockey world. And that’s exactly what Quick did for the Kings last season. The 26-year-old Milford, Ct., native got better as the season went on and his post-season stats (including a 1.41 goals-against average and .941 save percentage) illustrate how dominant he was during L.A.’s championship run.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.