In this week’s edition of the NHL Power Rankings we are taking advantage of the fourth of July holiday to look at the top American-born players in the NHL right now.
Key words: Right now. As in, today. As of this moment.
We are not looking at the best American-born players of all time, or the best active American-born players that have had the best career.
We are looking at the best players at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. Look at it this way: If you were building a team right now and had to win the Stanley Cup this upcoming season, who would you pick first. Approach it with that mindset.
There has arguably never been more American-born talent in the NHL than there is right now, from established superstars, major award winners, and rising stars.
Who all makes the cut?
To this week’s NHL Power Rankings!
1. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs. The current league MVP and the best goal-scorer in the world at this moment, regardless of country. He scored 60 goals this past season (in only 73 games) and over the past three years has averaged a 62-goal pace per 82 games. Those are absurd numbers.
2. Adam Fox, New York Rangers. Fox is already one of the best defenseman in the NHL. He won the Norris Trophy a year ago and might have actually been even better this season. The scary thing: His best days might still be ahead of him. Fox and starting goalie Igor Shesterkin are the foundation of the Rangers’ future.
3. Matthew Tkachuk, Calgary Flames. Tkachuk is the total package as a player. He scores, he drives possession, he is a good all-around player, and he is also a complete pest to play against.
4. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins. McAvoy might not score like some of the other top defenders in the league (Cale Makar, Fox, Roman Josi) but he can still contribute quite a bit offensively and he is a sensational defensive player. One of the best all-around defenders in the league.
5. Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames. Not sure he has another 115-point season in him, but even if he does not match that level again Gaudreau is still one of the best offensive players and playmakers in the league. He and Tkachuk together are especially dominant.
6. Jake Guentzel, Pittsburgh Penguins. Guentzel is one of the best goal scorers in the league and can be a better defensive player than he gets credit for being. Yes, he plays next to Sidney Crosby. But a lot of talented players have skated next to Crosby in Pittsburgh over the years and never produced like this. Or anything close to it.
7. Kyle Connor, Winnipeg Jets. Connor has developed into a top-tier finisher and made a run at 50 goals this season. He might do it again this season. Maybe he actually hits the 50-goal mark. He still needs to be better defensively. A lot better, actually. But that goal scoring….
8. Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks. If we are talking career or all-time American-born players he would be higher. He is still a top scorer, especially on the power play. But he has almost no defensive impact to speak of and it is getting worse as he gets older. As we sit right now, there is simply a younger crop of American-born players that have jumped ahead of him at his current state.
9. Jason Robertson, Dallas Stars. When we do this ranking again after next season or the season after, Robertson might be in the top-five. Or maybe the top-three. He is going to be a superstar.
[Related: Jason Robertson is engine that drives Stars]
10. Alex DeBrincat, Chicago Blackhawks. He is one of the best finishers in the NHL and might have a 50-goal season on the horizon. The question is which team will he be scoring those goals for?
11. Jack Eichel, Vegas Golden Knights. You might think this is too low. Maybe it is. But we have not seen a lot of Eichel over the past two years due to injury, and when he has been on the ice he has not been quite as dominant as he was early in his career — probably because he was not totally healthy. If he can get back to 100 percent he is still a top-tier player. But we have to actually see him be that player again. Is that unfair?
12. J.T. Miller, Vancouver Canucks. Miller was always a very good player early in his career with New York and Tampa Bay, but his play has gone to an entirely new level in Vancouver. Will he be a 99-point player again? I wouldn’t bet on it, but he will still be an outstanding player.
[Related: NHL Power Rankings: Offseason trade candidates]
13. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes. He will not score a ton of goals, but he has offensive ability and is an elite defensive player.
14. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets. He plays a ton behind what has been, mostly, a lousy defensive team. He does not get much help and is asked to do more than almost any other goalie in the league and still posts strong individual numbers.
15. Chris Kreider, New York Rangers. His 2021-22 season was unlike anything we have ever seen from him in his career. Not sure how much confidence I have in him repeating that. But even if he goes back to being a 30-goal player with strong two-way ability he is still a hell of a player.
16. Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights. Injuries have been a constant thorn for him over the years, and he is getting older, but his production and overall play is still fantastic when he is healthy.
17. John Carlson, Washington Capitals. He can still get it done on the power play and help drive offense, but his defensive play is starting to slow down.
18. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks. An elite scorer from the blue line, and he seemed to clean up at least some of his defensive deficiencies this past season.
19. Jack Hughes, New Jersey Devils. Like Robertson, another player that has the potential to make a dramatic rise over the next year. He was going to have a breakout year in 2021-22 had it not been for an injury that robbed him of half of his season.
20. Brady Tkachuk, Ottawa Senators. He has no problem generating shots and driving possession, and with a little luck could throw a 40-plus goal season at you in the very near future.
21. Joe Pavelski, Dallas Stars. He just keeps producing at a top level even into his late 30s. I do fear that we might see him start to slow down this season. Then again, I said that a year ago as well.
22. Bryan Rust, Pittsburgh Penguins. Outstanding all-around player and underrated part of the Penguins roster. Can play 5-on-5, penalty kill, and power play all extremely well.
[Related: Penguins extend Bryan Rust contract]
23. Trevor Zegras, Anaheim Ducks. Is this too low? It feels too low. But we have only seen him for one year (but what a year!) so there is still some mystery there. Like Robertson and Jack Hughes, I feel like in another year he is in the top-10 of this list.
24. Brock Boeser, Vancouver Canucks. If he stays healthy and gets to play a full season he is probably going to score you 30 goals. Maybe not a superstar, or even an all-star, but a very good player.
25. Clayton Keller, Arizona Coyotes. A top line scorer that has not let playing on a bad team impact his possession numbers or goals for/against numbers.
26. Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets. His contract raised eyebrows when it was signed a year ago, but he is a really good player that kind of gets lost a little bit on a struggling team.
27. Dylan Larkin, Detroit Red Wings. His production is a bit inconsistent from year to year, but when he is at his best he is a 30-goal guy with gamebreaking speed.
28. Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes. A highly sought after player in the trade market that would be a strong top-pairing player on any team.
29. Brock Nelson, New York Islanders. Far from a superstar, but a very productive player on a team that is not known for its offense. Pop quiz: without looking it up, how many goals did he score this past season? Would have guessed 37? Because he scored 37 goals.
30. Torey Krug, St. Louis Blues. Not sure he has made the overall impact the Blues wanted when they signed him in free agency, but he is still a pretty important part of their blue line both offensively and defensively.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.