Poll: Who is the best active American hockey player?

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This might be the greatest time ever for U.S. born goalies, but it’s a pretty special time for American hockey in general. Since this is the Fourth of July, we have the old red-white-and-blue on our minds, so we thought we’d take a look at the best active American hockey players and then ask you which one is the greatest of them all.

Feel free to use whatever criteria you want, with one exception: consider them at this moment in time instead of their full-fledged careers. (Otherwise semi-active Mike Modano would dominate to the point of boredom.)

Here’s a quick list of the top candidates. You can write-in your own choices in the “other” category in the poll if your favorite isn’t represented.

Patrick Kane

While they play different styles (one was a physical player, the other plays much more on the perimeter), Patrick Kane is the spiritual successor to Jeremy Roenick. They’re both charismatic high draft picks for the Chicago Blackhawks who often have funny things to say and oodles of on-ice flair. Each guy has had his off-ice moments, but they’re mostly beloved in the hockey community … and with good reason.

Tim Thomas

In the last three seasons, Thomas amassed two Vezina Trophies, one Conn Smythe and a Stanley Cup. His unorthodox style occasionally prompts people to throw him under the bus but he just contorts his body out of danger time and time again. As I said before, Thomas is the American Dream in hockey pads.

Ryan Miller

He’s not as hot a topic in the moment as Thomas is, but Miller might be just as much of a household name because of his great 2010 Olympic performance and 2010 Vezina Trophy. It’s quite possible that Miller is staring at his greatest opportunity to win the Cup since Danny Briere and Chris Drury bolted for big bucks.

Zach Parise

Will an injury-plagued season hurt Parise in the eyes of voters? It shouldn’t because he’s a high-scoring player (one 94 point season, one 82-point campaign) who racked up crazy plus/minus numbers on his way to becoming one of New Jersey’s most devilish first round draft steals.

Ryan Kesler

He might have burnt some bridges by swearing his semi-allegiance to Canada and the Vancouver Canucks, but Kesler’s do-it-all mentality makes him appealing to Americans nonetheless. The 2011 Selke Trophy winner is a favorite among hockey connoisseurs but he can score quite a bit too, crossing the 70-point barrier in two straight seasons.

Phil Kessel, Dustin Brown, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Joe Pavelski, David Backes, Paul Martin, Ryan Suter, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson

From dynamic goal scorers (Kessel and Ryan) to more balanced guys with offensive potential (Callahan, Dubinsky, Backes, Brown and Pavelski), there are plenty of other strong forward choices. Suter, Martin and Erik Johnson are among the best American born blueliners while Quick, Howard and Anderson are top goalies on NHL teams. Any number of these guys could capture the hearts of hockey fans even if they’re not necessarily on the marquee level (although Ryan is awfully close).

To keep the poll reasonable, 10 of the players listed in this post will be named as choices but you can fill in your own choice in the “Other” category if those nominees aren’t good enough. The contestants are listed in alphabetical order.

PHT Morning Skate: 6 teams that have work to do before the start of free agency

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–USA Today looks at six teams that have some work to do before the free-agent market opens on July 1st. The Coyotes are gonna need to find a new coach, Vegas will have to keep tweaking their roster and the New York Rangers still need that puck-moving defenseman. (USA Today)

–The Dallas Stars have been searching for a number one defenseman for a few years now. You have to believe they were excited to land Miro Heiskanen third overall on Friday. The Dallas Morning News shares five things you need to know about their new top prospect. Yea, he wasn’t even both when Dallas won the Stanley Cup in 1999. (Dallas Morning News)

–Does your team need a center? NHL.com compiled a list of the top free-agent centers that are scheduled to hit the open market on Saturday. If clubs are looking for size down the middle, they could do worse than Joe Thornton or Martin Hanzal. (NHL.com)

–If you’re a fan of great hair, you’ll enjoy this. The Score looks at the top 5 “flows” from the NHL Draft. Nico Hischier wasn’t only the top pick in the entry draft, he also found himself on the top of this list, too. (The Score)

–2017 Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns went to Disney World with his family during the off-season, and many of the children thought he was a pirate (I can’t really blame them). “I actually signed a couple of autographs in kids’ books because they thought I was a pirate. And I actually signed them.” (Sports Illustrated)

–Penguins forward Ryan Reaves didn’t believe the rumblings about him being traded on Friday night. His response was classic:

These 2017 NHL Draft picks lacked hype … but not swagger

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The interview process for draft prospects must be a real beating. Then again, it’s also an opportunity for hopefuls to push back.

In the case of two smaller prospects, it meant providing some swagger in their answers, possibly impressing their new teams. If nothing else, Kailer Yamamoto and Michael DiPietro generated some refreshingly confident quotes.

One would assume that the Edmonton Oilers picked Yamamoto with the 22nd choice for more than just a great answer alone … but still.

Nice, right?

Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek related a similar story about DiPietro, who the Vancouver Canucks nabbed with the 64th pick.

Funny story: When one team at the NHL told him “We don’t think you can play in the NHL with our team, you’re too small” at the combine, he fired back with “well, I guess you have a problem with winning, then.” How do you not like that?

If nothing else, those two aren’t shy.

As a bonus story, check out the bumpy path Will Reilly – aka the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2017 NHL Draft – took to being chosen last overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, via Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy. From the sound of things, there are worse feelings than going 217th.

The 2017 NHL Draft may have been “pumped down” from a hype perspective, yet it sounds like many of these prospects at least bring some moxie to the table.

Kings, Golden Knights labeled 2017 NHL Draft winners; Bruins, not so much

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It’s nearly certain that we won’t be able to determine the “winners and losers” of the 2017 NHL Draft until, say, 2022. If not later.

Still, what fun is that?

Quite a few outlets pegged some winners and losers, though sometimes the choices were more about themes like nations or player types than specific teams.

For example: Puck Daddy gives a thumbs down to the “green room” experiment.

Let’s take a look at some of the consensus picks.

Winners

Vegas Golden Knights

GM George McPhee was dealt a bad hand when it comes to the lottery draft, so he instead made his own luck. And then he selected three players who could improve this team going forward.

Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek especially liked the last two of their three first-rounders (Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom), viewing Cody Glass as more of a no-brainer. Plenty of others were on board.

Los Angeles Kings

Gabe Vilardi fell to Los Angeles, whether it was because of shaky skating or some other reason. That potential steal (and some other shrewd moves) impressed the Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy, who assembled draft profiles for PHT.

Again, Vilardi’s loss was considered the Kings’ gain, as slower skaters were considered losers by the likes of Post Media’s Michael Traikos.

Philadelphia Flyers

Boy, Ron Hextall is good at this thing, isn’t he? Philly drew high marks even beyond the layup of landing Nolan Patrick. The main area of disagreement revolved around the Brayden Schenn trade, though plenty came out on Hextall’s side there, too.

Arizona Coyotes

Boy, that negative press didn’t last long, did it? Between landing Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan, and Antti Raanta in trades and savvy picks, they were a popular choice.

Themes

Smaller players, Sweden, and Finland drew semi-serious mentions as “winners.”

Losers

Boston Bruins

The perception is that they played it too safe.

Colorado Avalanche, for now?

OK, this was more about draft weekend than picks, but people are criticizing Joe Sakic for standing pat. That could change, but the negative sentiment is there.

Detroit Red Wings

Another common choice. Some believe that their draft was the worst of them all, which isn’t great considering the declining opinion of GM Ken Holland overall.

New York Rangers

Lias Andersson was viewed as a reach by plenty, and his connection to the trade to Arizona might intensify the scrutiny.

Themes

Not a great draft for Russian-born players and/or guys who don’t skate quite swiftly.

***

So, those are some of the near-consensus choices for winners and losers, via the brave souls who made rapid reactions to the 2017 NHL Draft.

Ducks ink D Holzer to two-year deal reportedly worth $1.8M

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As the dust settled on the expansion draft, the Anaheim Ducks’ defense is coming into focus.

Sunday continued that pattern; the Ducks signed Korbinian Holzer to a two-year contract worth $1.8 million, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

You can break down the Ducks defense as more expensive players (Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Kevin Bieksa) and cheaper ones (Holzer, Brandon Montour, and Josh Manson).

Only Vatanen, Lindholm and Holzer see contracts that go beyond 2017-18 – at least without an extension yet for the likes of Fowler and Manson – so Holzer provides a little bit of certainty.

Is the $900K a minor overpay, though? Holzer played in 32 games for the Ducks this season after appearing in 29 in 2015-16. His impact has been pretty minimal, generating seven points while averaging 13:31 in ice time per contest (down from 14:45 the previous season).

Granted he may get more opportunities to show what he’s capable of if the Ducks lose another piece. Then again, at 29, the Ducks likely know what they have.