How Patrick Kane compares to the best American-born forwards in NHL history

kaneUSA.jpgWith the good old U.S. of A. on the minds of many, I thought I’d put together a couple posts on American hockey. Obviously, when thinking of red-white-and-blue hockey, it’s natural to think of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Looking at the roster for the ’06 Olympic team that failed to impress versus a young, scrappy ’10 team that overachieved its way to a silver medal, it’s obvious that there was a passing of the torch. The old stars including Jeremy Roenick and Mike Modano made way for young up-and-comers such as Patrick Kane and Zach Parise.

If I had to pick one young American forward who might be the next big thing, it would be Kane. It’s been quite a year for the young player, as he went from the ugly taxi cab scandal to NHL ’10 cover star to Olympic near-glory and finally a Stanley Cup winning overtime goal. As much as he’s been through (both good and bad), Kane looks like he’s just begun what could be an outstanding NHL career.

In fact, I couldn’t help but ask myself if he could end up being the best American forward, ever. How does he compare to the last generation of American stars at this point in his career? Much like when I compared Mike Green to some of the all-time highest scoring NHL defensemen, let’s take a look at how Kane stacks up to some of the best American-born scorers in their first three full seasons.

Patrick Kane

Regular Season (three seasons)
Games Played: 244
Goals: 76
Assists: 154
Points: 230
Plus/Minus: +9

Playoffs (two playoffs)
GP: 38
G: 19
A: 23
P: 42
+/-: -11

Notes: Although Kane’s plus/minus seems to plummet in the postseason, he actually scores at more than a point-per-game pace. Most players see a dip in point production when they jump from the regular season to the playoffs, but Kane excels (at least numbers-wise) when the games get bigger.

Jeremy Roenickroenickonsharks.jpg

(Note: he played 20 games in the 88-89 season, but I’ll start his stats off from 89-90 to make for a more comprehensive comparison.)

Regular Season (three seasons)
GP: 237
G: 120
A: 143
PTS: 263
+/-: 63

Playoffs (three appearances)
GP: 44
G: 26
A: 22
PTS: 48
+/-: 12

Notes: Kane and Roenick have some interesting similarities. They both have plenty of personality and can be (mostly playful) troublemakers. They both made a splash at the NHL level just about immediately, and with the Chicago Blackhawks to boot. When you consider the fact that Roenick came into the league in a high flying era, I’d say that his slight statistical advantages just about wash out.

Pat LaFontaine

(Much like Roenick, I’m going to leave out his abbreviated rookie year when he played in 15 games during the 83-84 season.)

Regular Season (three seasons)
GP: 212
G: 87
A: 90
P: 177
+/-: 15

Playoffs (three appearances)
GP: 26
G: 7
A: 9
P: 16
+/-: -11

Notes: Advantage, Kane. LaFontaine surely must have been at least on Buffalo-native Patrick Kane’s radar when he was growing up, but Kane is well ahead of the great American forward at this point in his career. LaFontaine’s career didn’t truly take off until his fifth pro season, but by then, the only thing that could stop him were concussion problems.

Mike Modanomodanostar.jpg

(Note: He played in two playoff games at age 18, but we’ll start from full seasons the next year.)

Regular Season (three seasons)
GP: 235
G: 90
A: 126
P: 216
+/-: -14

Playoffs (three appearances)
GP: 37
G: 12
A: 15
P: 27
+/-: -8

Notes: Advantage, Kane, again.

When comparing Patrick Kane to some of the best American-born forwards in NHL history, the young player bests or equals his predecessors. At least at the three-year mark.

You might give Jeremy Roenick the slight edge – especially since he was a more physical player – but Kane is ahead of Modano and LaFontaine at this point in their careers.

So, perhaps this is the biggest question: is Kane primed to be the best American forward … ever? Could he even end up ahead of Modano on the all-time U.S.-born point scoring list? I’m not sure, but it will be fun to find out.

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    Varlamov injured, again, as questions arise about future in Colorado

    Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov, of Russia, takes a drink during a time out against the Arizona Coyotes in the second period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, March 7, 2016, in downtown Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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    So, an interesting series of events for the Avs on Wednesday.

    First, the club announced that No. 1 netminder Semyon Varlamov‘s troublesome groin — one that’s hampered him throughout the last two seasons — will sideline him for the next two weeks.

    “We’re going to shut [Varlamov] down until after the All-Star break [Jan. 27-30],” coach Jared Bednar told the Avalanche website. “This is no longer a day-to-day thing.”

    Varlamov, who turns 29 in April, has struggled with health and consistency since his banner ’13-14 campaign — the one in which he led the NHL with 41 wins, finished second in Vezina voting and fourth for the Hart Trophy.

    He appeared in 57 games in each of the last two seasons, but his save percentage steadily dropped (from .921 to .914). This year, he’s only played 24 times, and he’s at an ugly .898.

    Given he’s nearly 30 and trending in the wrong direction, it wasn’t entirely surprising to read this today, from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:

    We’ve been focusing on defencemen as what the Avalanche will be acquiring for one of their cornerstone forwards.

    But don’t be surprised if a goalie becomes a focal point of the conversation, too. I’m not sure Colorado is too secure in what they have.

    Varlamov’s smack in the middle of a five-year, $29.5 million extension, one that carries a $5.9 million cap hit. That’s a big financial obligation. Outside of Varly, Colorado has a young ‘tender in Calvin Pickard — the 24-year-old in his first full year as Varlamov’s backup — but right now, it’s unclear if the Avs see him as a potential No. 1.

    It’s also unclear what the organization thinks of Spencer Martin, the 63rd overall pick in ’13. Martin’s played reasonably well for AHL San Antonio this year, and is still just 21 years old.

    Add it all up, and the goaltending situation is just another wrinkle in what’s become a very complex situation for Colorado.

    Toffoli unlikely to join Kings on road trip

    LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Tyler Toffoli #73 of the Los Angeles Kings gets a shot on Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at Staples Center on December 5, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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    The Los Angeles Kings will have to keep on keeping on without Tyler Toffoli.

    Toffoli has not played since Dec. 20 due to a lower-body injury, and head coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t expect the sniper will join the Kings for their upcoming road trip.

    “It was four weeks yesterday,” Sutter said, per LA Kings Insider. “We thought he’d be further ahead. Once we came back and had the doctor’s evaluation we were told a three-to-six week time frame, so yesterday was four weeks, so we thought he’d be a little further ahead, but at the same time, there’s a fine line between the healing and the training. I think Tyler’s pushing hard and we want him back. We were hoping to have him for sure on this next trip, so that doesn’t appear to be the case right now because he hasn’t had any skating or practicing.”

    Toffoli did actually hit the ice for a skate this morning, but there remains no timetable for his return.

    Without Toffoli, the Kings have been leaning heavily on Jeff Carter to score. Carter has a team-high 23 goals; Tanner Pearson is next with 13, followed by Toffoli with eight.

    Read more: Kings still don’t have timetable for Toffoli’s return 

    Los Angeles hosts San Jose tonight, then hits the road for five games starting Saturday in Brooklyn. A poor trip and the Kings — currently holding down the second wild-card spot, but only barely — could find themselves on the outside looking in.

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    Goalie nods: Pavelec to make season debut for Jets

    DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  Goalie Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Winnipeg Jets looks on during a break in the action as he defends the goal against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on April 9, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Jets 1-0 in an overtime shootout.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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    Well, it’s come to this for the Winnipeg Jets.

    Undone all year by shaky netminding from Connor Hellebuyck and Michael Hutchinson, the Jets finally saw enough this week and recalled veteran Ondrej Pavelec from the AHL.

    Tonight, Pavelec makes his season debut when the Jets host the Coyotes at the MTS Centre.

    Waived just prior to the start of the regular season, Pavelec — in the final year of a much-maligned five-year, $19.5 million contract — passed through unclaimed and was dispatched to Manitoba, where he’s performed reasonably well.

    The 29-year-old posted a .917 save percentage in 18 games and, while that’s hardly the stuff of legend, his play was steadily improving prior to his recall. On Sunday, he stopped 42 of 43 shots in a win over Chicago.

    The big question, of course, is if Pavelec can show some consistency, which he’s always lacked at the NHL level. He went 13-13-4 with a .904 save percentage last season, and his career save rate is just .907.

    For the Coyotes, Mike Smith is in goal.

    Elsewhere…

    Matt Murray, fresh off allowing seven goals in a win over Washington, goes for the Pens in Montreal. He’ll be up against Carey Price, who’s struggled lately and has just an .886 save percentage in January.

    Jared Coreau has two shutouts in his last four start for Detroit, so the Wings will go back to him tonight when they host the B’s. Tuukka Rask, hooked in Monday’s ugly loss to the Isles, goes for Boston.

    Roberto Luongo gets the night off after Florida lost in Calgary last night, meaning James Reimer goes in Edmonton. The Oilers will go with Cam Talbot, who’s embracing his heavy workload this season.

    — Speaking of heavy workloads, Martin Jones will be back in for the Sharks tonight, as they travel to Los Angeles. He’ll be up against Peter Budaj.

    Don’t expect a full-scale rebuild in Detroit

    Colorado Avalanche v Detroit Red Wings
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    Don’t expect the Detroit Red Wings to tear it down and start over. Even if they miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990 — which appears likely at this point — GM Ken Holland has no intention of changing course.

    “We’re going to continue to try and be competitive, we’re going to continue to try and make the playoffs and our ultimate goal is to eventually be a Cup contender,” Holland said today, per MLive.

    The long-time GM added that having veterans like Henrik Zetterberg and Jonathan Ericsson around to guide the younger players was key to maintaining the culture of the Red Wings.

    The Wings aren’t the only team that’s opted for a rebuild-on-the-fly model. The Boston Bruins, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks are also attempting similar transitions.

    “To me, rebuild means eight to 10 years, and there are teams that have made the playoffs one year in 10 while rebuilding,” said Holland.

    And that’s simply not something the Wings are willing to risk. So they’ll keep at it their own way, just trying to win every game they can.

    Related: Sedin says a ‘winning culture’ is important to maintain