NHL Power Rankings: Top American-born players right now

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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.

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    Maple Leafs sign defenseman Rasmus Sandin to 2-year deal

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    TORONTO — Rasmus Sandin has signed a two-year, $2.8 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the club announced on Thursday.

    The 22-year-old from Sweden was the 29th overall selection in the 2018 draft. Sandin had 16 points in 51 games with Toronto last season. He’s played in 88 career regular-season games, with six goals and 22 assists, and has one goal in five playoff games.

    “Got a great set of tools,” fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin said. “With experience, I think they’re only going to get better.”

    The signing comes as the Leafs’ blueliners been hit hard by injuries. Muzzin has been dealing with a back issue, and Timothy Liljegren recently had surgery for a hernia.

    Toronto then lost Jamie Benn (groin) and Carl Dahlstrom (shoulder) in Wednesday’s 3-0 preseason victory over the Montreal Canadiens, pressing forwards Calle Jarnkrok and Alexander Kerfoot into defensive roles for two periods.

    Back with Wild, Fleury welcomes big workload as clear No. 1

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — With his ever-present smile, tireless approach and long list of accomplishments in the net, Marc-Andre Fleury has always embraced a heavy workload.

    The Minnesota Wild sure haven’t shied away from leaning hard on their new – and 37-year-old – goalie. After arriving in a deadline-day trade in March and re-signing with the Wild in July, the guy everyone calls “Flower” is still fully abloom as he begins his 19th season in the NHL.

    “They say, `You play,’ I play, unless maybe I’m hurt or something,” Fleury said. “But other than that, I like playing.”

    Wild general manager Bill Guerin initially planned to bring back both Fleury and Cam Talbot, who made the All-Star team and went 13-0-3 in his last 16 regular season starts before being benched in favor of Fleury for the first-round playoff series against St. Louis. The Wild lost in six games, after Talbot got the cold start in the elimination game and gave up four goals on 26 shots.

    Guerin changed his mind, though, after signing Fleury to a two-year, $7 million contract. Realizing Talbot’s frustration from the lack of postseason action, he didn’t want to risk any tension or discontent. Talbot was traded to Ottawa for Filip Gustavsson, who will be the No. 2 goalie while top prospect Jesper Wallstedt gets more development in the AHL.

    Gustavsson has only 23 career regular-season starts, nearly 200 fewer than Talbot, so it’s a good bet that Fleury will get the majority of the games.

    “I was ready to share the load with him, but things didn’t work out and happy to be having the chance to play maybe a bit more. It’s fun to play. It’s more fun than sitting on the bench,” said Fleury, who went 28-23-5 in 56 combined starts for Chicago and Minnesota last season with a 2.90 goals against average and a .908 save percentage.

    The Wild reconvened for training camp last week, beginning their quest to recapture the mojo they enjoyed last season while setting franchise records for points (113), wins (53) and goals (305). The only team that finished ahead of them in the Western Conference was Colorado, which went on to win the Stanley Cup, but they never met the Avs in the playoffs because the Blues got to them first.

    There’s a strong chemistry in place, at least, to build upon.

    “We still have a lot of guys here who were here last year. We’re just trying to make it even better, just trying to listen to everybody,” center Joel Eriksson Ek said. “We want to set a standard and a way for how hard this team’s going to work.”

    The Wild start the regular season by hosting the New York Rangers on Oct. 13.

    COMINGS AND GOINGS

    The most significant roster move of the summer amongst the skaters was the inevitable salary-cap-driven trade of second-leading scorer Kevin Fiala to Los Angeles. Fiala had a career-high 33 goals and 52 assists last season. Guerin otherwise dabbled mostly in two-way contracts in free agency for depth. Former Anaheim center Sam Steel signed with Minnesota last month, one day after defenseman Dimitry Kulikov was dealt to the Ducks.

    MORE POWER

    The Wild were done in during the playoffs by abysmal special teams. They went just 4 for 24 on the power play against the Blues, and head coach Dean Evason had the team working on that on the first day on the ice. The penalty kill that lagged last season was a focus of the second practice.

    “It has to get better, no question,” Evason said.

    BLUE LINE SHUFFLE

    Captain Jared Spurgeon has been placed with Jonas Brodin on the first pair on defense, and Jake Middleton has joined Matt Dumba on the second unit. Dumba and Brodin are close friends who’ve been paired together for several seasons.

    “Dumbs is a shooter too,” said Middleton, who re-signed for three years and $7.35 million. “It’s pretty exciting. I can get some cookies passing him the puck. That’d be a big plus. I think it’ll work well. He loves hitting guys too. He plays a gritty game as well so I think we’ll be a good combo.”

    UP FRONT

    With Jordan Greenway recovering from offseason surgeries, Tyson Jost will get the first chance to skate with Eriksson Ek and Marcus Foligno. The departure of Fiala has opened at least one spot for a rookie to make the team, with 2020 first-round draft pick Marco Rossi in line for it.

    ON THE SLATE

    This is the first time in eight years the Wild will play their regular-season opener at home. After three more games at Xcel Energy Center, they don’t hit the road until a five-game trip that starts Oct. 22 at Boston. The Wild have a season-long nine-game homestand from Feb. 9-21.

    Stars expect to open camp without unsigned scorer Jason Robertson

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    FRISCO, Texas — Young 40-goal scorer Jason Robertson is expected to miss the start of training camp for the Dallas Stars because the team and the restricted free agent haven’t agreed on a new contract.

    General manager Jim Nill said there’s been steady, ongoing negotiations over the last couple of weeks with Robertson and his representatives. Nill wouldn’t say what has kept the two sides from reaching a deal, adding there have been “very good discussions.”

    The Stars, with new coach Pete DeBoer, open camp Thursday in Cedar Park, Texas, at the home of their AHL team. They have three days of work there before returning to North Texas for their exhibition opener at home on Monday night. They open the regular season Oct. 13 at Nashville.

    “I think he’s disappointed he’s not at camp, we are too,” Nill said before the team departed for the Austin area. “I think it’s very important for a younger player and as you mentioned, the (new) coaching staff. … We do have some time on our side, but we wish he gets here as soon as he can.”

    Robertson had a base salary of $750,000 last season, the end of a $2.775 million, three-year contract. He still has five more years before he has the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent.

    The left wing turned 23 soon after the end of last season, when he had 41 goals and 38 assists for 79 points in his 74 games. Robertson joined Hockey Hall of Famer Mike Modano, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin as the only 40-goal scorers since the franchise moved to Dallas in 1993.

    A second-round draft pick by the Stars in 2017, Robertson has 125 points (58 goals, 67 assists) in his 128 NHL games. He had one goal and three assists in his first postseason action last season, when Dallas lost its first-round playoff series in seven games against Calgary.

    DeBoer said he looks forward to coaching Robertson, but that the forward’s absence won’t change his plans for camp.

    “It doesn’t impact what I’m doing,” DeBoer said. “Listen, I laid awake at night with the excitement of coaching Jason Robertson, 40-plus goals, but he’s not here. So, you know, until he gets here, I can’t spend any energy on that.”

    Nill said the Stars are open to a long-term extension or a bridge contract for Robertson, who was part of the team’s top line last season with veteran Joe Pavelski and Roope Hintz. They combined for 232 points, the second-most in franchise history for a trio.

    “We’re open to anything. But other than that … I’m not going to negotiate through the media,” Nill said. “As I said, we’ve had good conversations. We’ll see where it goes.”

    Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

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    Training camps open around the NHL after another short offseason, a third in a row squeezed by the pandemic. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon one bit.

    For one of hockey’s best players and his teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend their Stanley Cup title, less than three months since they knocked off the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

    “I still feel like I just was playing,” MacKinnon said. “I took two weeks off, and then I started skating again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I like the short summer. It feels like the season’s just kind of rolling over again.”

    The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.

    That means a mere 88 days between Game 6 of the final and the first-on ice practice sessions.

    “We’re kind of used to it now,” Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy said after he and the Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three consecutive trips. “It’s a little harder, of course, because you don’t have that much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to get back at it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summers to be short every year.”

    It was a little longer for Connor McDavid and the Oilers after losing to Colorado in the West final. Despite the lack of downtime, McDavid “wouldn’t trade that in for anything” and aims to make it even further since Edmonton shored up its goaltending situation by adding Jack Campbell.

    A few spins of the goalie carousel ended with the Avalanche acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and Cup winner Darcy Kuemper landing with Washington. Joining new teammates, many of whom hoisted the Cup in 2018, Kuemper is not worried about less time off.

    “It was definitely a very unique summer,” Kuemper said. “With how short it was, you start getting back into the gym and you’re kind of a little bit worried that your training’s going to be so short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back into shape. You were already there.”

    NEW COACHES

    The Oilers are one of several teams settling in for training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has the full-time job now.

    “Looking forward to a camp with him,” McDavid said. “He did a great job coming in during the middle of the season, but it’s never easy on a coach, for sure. I’m sure there’s things that he wanted to touch on that you wasn’t able to kind of in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to to touch on all of it this year.”

    The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months since being put in charge of the Canucks. Philadelphia’s John Tortorella, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy, Dallas’ Peter DeBoer, Florida’s Paul Maurice, Chicago’s Luke Richardson, Detroit’s Derek Lalonde and the New York Islanders’ Lane Lambert are all starting the job fresh.

    CAMP TRYOUTS

    Roughly 40 players are attending a camp on a professional tryout agreement with the chance to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has that opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan returned to Carolina to seek a job with the Hurricanes.

    The most intriguing situation involves 37-year-old center Eric Staal, who agreed to the tryout with Florida the same time brother Marc signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was with Eric and Marc on the 18th green at Pebble Beach to witness the occasion.

    “They’re both just super pumped, as was I,” said Jordan Staal, who is the captain of the Hurricanes. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Marc, as well. Really cool. Really cool thing.”

    EARLY START

    Before the puck drops on the NHL season in North America on Oct. 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8. And those are not exhibitions.

    “We still play two important games,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who is a native of Prague. “It’s not just preseason where you coming here to warm up.”

    Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5 as part of the NHL’s Global Series.

    And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work is ongoing between the league and NHL Players’ Association to stage a World Cup of Hockey in February 2024, which is popular among players even if it knocks the calendar off kilter again.

    “I think they missed out on a huge, huge portion of the international game that’s really going to be missed,” McDavid said. “We need to figure out a way to get an international tournament in as quickly as possible.”