God bless America ... for these hockey players.
Happy birthday, United States. Below is an ode to your influence on the great game of hockey: a list of the greatest NHL players by state. First, a few notes.
Due to a dearth of homegrown talent, the following 14 states did not make the cut: Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
For consistency's sake, players are sorted by birthplace according to the league's official website. Therefore, the odd player will seem out of place. For instance, Brett Hull (Belleville, Ont.) is excluded altogether from this exercise, and Arizona's Auston Matthews (San Ramon, Calif.) is elsewhere.
As for honorable mentions, we instituted a two-player limit. Exceptions were made for a handful of hockey-mad states, like Michigan and Minnesota, who received up to five mentions (Statistical info courtesy: QuantHockey.com and Hockey-Reference.com).
Slim pickings in the deep south. Dowd, while an excellent college player in his day, has struggled to make a major impact in the NHL. A 2009 seventh-round pick out of St. Cloud State University, the Huntsville native has filled a depth forward spot for the Kings, previously, and Canucks, presently.
Honorable Mention: N/A
Gomez, a playmaking center who topped out at 84 points, picked up plenty of hardware over a six-team playing career. The pride of Anchorage won a Calder Trophy (1999-00) and two Stanley Cups (2000, 2003). At his peak, Gomez was a star, tying for the league lead in assists in 2003-04 with 56 helpers.
Honorable Mention: D Matt Carle, F Brandon Dubinsky
The desert has never been mistaken for a hockey hotbed, yet Couturier (raised in Quebec), Matthew Tkachuk (raised in St. Louis) and Matthews (born in California, raised in Arizona) represent legitimate NHLers with Arizona ties. Couturier, only 25 and the runner-up in Selke Trophy voting this spring, is a fringe star.
Honorable Mention: F Matthew Tkachuk
It's two years into his NHL career and already Matthews is the top Cali-born player. The five-tool center is dynamic and strong, he drives play and takes very few penalties, and has amassed 74 goals in fewer than 150 games. Matthews, 20, is among a few in contention for the Maple Leafs' captaincy.
Honorable Mention: D Lee Norwood, D Brooks Orpik, F Jason Zucker
Slavin may finish with a better career, but right now Bishop is the home run pick. The netminder has been a model of consistency since settling into the NHL, stopping between 91 percent and 92.4 percent of shots in all six seasons he has appeared in at least 20 games. Amazingly, Bishop has dressed for five teams.
Honorable Mention: F Mike Eaves, D Jaccob Slavin
For a place with a population below 4 million, the southern New England state has produced some quality talent. Quick takes the cake here, in large part because he's a winner. Two Stanley Cups and one Conn Smythe vaults him ahead of Drury and Janney, forwards with impressive resumes.
Honorable Mention: F Chris Drury, F Craig Janney, F Max Pacioretty
Delaware's lone NHL representative didn't do much from an offensive standpoint – his high-water mark for goals in a season was four, in 2003-04 with Nashville – but he does have a Stanley Cup ring from his time with the 2008-09 Pittsburgh Penguins.
Halpern and Kevyn Adams are the only notable NHLers born from the nation's capital. The former strung together a lengthier and more productive career. With stops in Washington, Dallas, Tampa, Los Angeles, Montreal, New York, and Phoenix, Halpern made the rounds. He was a faceoff-winning bottom-six forward.
Honorable Mention: F Kevyn Adams
The man they call "the Ghost" is a byproduct of his surroundings, namely the nearby Panthers. Gostisbehere, 25, hails from Pembroke Pines, just down the highway from Sunrise. In 2017-18, he racked up 65 points for the Flyers to finish fourth in defenseman scoring. The sky is the limit for the power-play QB.
Honorable Mention: D Jakob Chychrun, F Dan Hinote
Mowers, now a pro scout for the Sabres, enjoyed seven NHL seasons despite going undrafted out of the University of New Hampshire. The center was born in Decatur but grew up in New York. In the mid-2010s, as Mowers fell out of favor with NHL teams, he jumped to the top Swiss league.
Honorable Mention: N/A
Underrated historically, Chelios is not only Illinois' claim to hockey fame but also one of the game's all-time defensemen. The ageless wonder finally retired at 48, riding off into the sunset with three Norris Trophies and three Stanley Cups. Chelios, an 11-time All-Star, offered a unique mix of grit and skill.
Honorable Mention: G Craig Anderson, F Ed Olczyk
Johnson, of Indianapolis, is past his prime but has enjoyed a productive career as a minute-munching defenseman. He spent nearly five full seasons on the Kings, before being dealt to the Blue Jackets in 2012. Now locked up by the Penguins, Johnson can reset and, at 31, potentially get back on track.
Honorable Mention: F Donald Brashear, D John-Michael Liles
Perhaps best known for being one of Martin Brodeur's backups, the Des Moines native was no All-Star. However, considering he was picked in the eighth round of the 1997 NHL Draft, Clemmensen sure made something out of nothing. In retirement, he develops goaltenders for the Devils.
Honorable Mention: N/A
The Pine Tree State is a toss-up. On one hand, blue-liner Dumoulin is a two-time Stanley Cup champion, yet a veteran of just 243 NHL games. On the other, Rick DiPietro, now an analyst, was a highly touted prospect and decent NHL goalie whose body of work is forever incomplete due to career-ending injuries.
Honorable Mention: G Rick DiPietro
There isn't much meat on the bone in Maryland, with Jeff Halpern's birthplace listed as Washington, D.C. So, by default, Brubaker is the state's golden boy. The Frederick native had trouble finding steady NHL work, topping out at eight goals and four assists in 68 games for the Maple Leafs in 1984-85.
Honorable Mention: N/A
Roenick is hands-down a top-10 American-born player. He edges out a great collection of players hailing from Massachusetts, thanks to a resume straddling the Hall of Fame line. J.R. produced three 100-point seasons and two 50-goal campaigns, and he never shied away from flaunting that magnetic personality.
Honorable Mention: F Tony Amonte, G Tom Barrasso, F Bobby Carpenter, F Bill Guerin, F Keith Tkachuk
Modano is arguably the greatest U.S.-born player to skate in the NHL. One of his closest competitors, Brett Hull, was born in Canada, while Brian Leetch and Chris Chelios don't seem to carry the same clout. Modano holds the nation's record for goals and points, and he has a Stanley Cup ring.
Honorable Mention: D Mark Howe, F Ryan Kesler, G Ryan Miller, G Tim Thomas, F Doug Weight
Fourth all-time in points by a defenseman, Housley was a treat to watch for 20 years. His effortless skating, crafty passing, and ability to run a power play was a deadly combination. In 1992-93, the State of Hockey's best nearly hit triple digits - a rare feat for a blue-liner - but settled for 97 points in 80 games.
Honorable Mention: G Frank Brimsek, F Neal Broten, F Dave Christian, F Jamie Langenbrunner
Call him Mr. Missouri. Among those born in the Midwest state, LaFontaine is in another realm. The Hall of Fame center racked up a ridiculous 148 points in 1992-93, his second of two triple-digit seasons. He made five All-Star teams and holds the 15th-highest points per game in NHL history.
Honorable Mention: F Patrick Maroon, F Paul Ranheim
A member of the Omaha Hockey Hall of Fame, Ortmeyer is as good as it gets in Nebraska. He averaged 11 minutes per night over eight seasons. The right-handed forward dressed for the Rangers, Predators, Sharks, and Wild. Nowadays, he is employed by the Rangers in a player development capacity.
Honorable Mention: N/A
Drafted by the original Jets, Quint never made a major impact on the NHL. The left-handed blue-liner from Durham was by no means a point producer, with seasonal career highs of seven goals and 18 assists. Quint, now 42, was traded twice in 2000 and played for five clubs.
Gaudreau, the 5-foot-9, 157-pound perennial scoring threat, is just revving up, whereas Bobby Ryan and James van Riemsdyk have probably hit their respective ceilings. Johnny Hockey, who bagged 24 goals and 60 assists this past season, should be contending for Art Ross and Lady Byng honors over the next decade.
Honorable Mention: F Bobby Ryan, F James van Riemsdyk
Hall of Famer Mullen is a slam dunk here, even though Kane is arguably the best active American. A point-per-game player for his career, Mullen won three Stanley Cups in four years (1989 with the Flames; 1991, 1992 with the Penguins). He picked up two Lady Byngs and recorded 110 points in 1988-89.
Honorable Mention: F Dustin Brown, F Brian Gionta, F Patrick Kane, D Mathieu Schneider
Boll, who hails from Charlotte, went 101st overall in the 2005 NHL Draft. Since, he has carved out a decent career as a big-bodied, throwback right winger. He's hanging on as the league drifts toward speed and skill. The timing of the post is fitting, as Boll announced his retirement Wednesday to cap an 11-year NHL career.
Honorable Mention: F Ben Smith
Size and faceoffs - that was Gaustad in three words. With a 6-foot-5, 227-pound frame and a knack for winning more draws than basically the whole league, he was a valuable role player. Now retired, Gaustad's body of work can be fairly compared to Tim Jackman's career. And it's Gaustad by a mile.
Honorable Mention: F Tim Jackman
A handy player for 14-plus seasons, Smolinski's career can be summed up in a word: solid. The Toledo native scored the odd timely goal, pitched in on the power play, and was a mainstay on penalty-killing units across the NHL. All told, the 6-foot-1, 203-pounder dressed for eight teams.
Honorable Mention: D Dave Ellett, F Curt Fraser, D Moe Mantha
This is basically a tie, with the advantage going to Arnason for (as of now) boasting a fuller resume than John Merrill. The left-handed center had a career year with the Blackhawks in 2002-03, contributing 22 goals and 33 assists in 82 games. Merrill, picked by the Golden Knights in the expansion draft, is just 26.
Honorable Mention: D Jon Merrill
It has been a long time since Oregon produced an NHLer. In fact, Gillis, who played from 1977 to 1986, is the only local to even flirt with the 200-game mark. The Bend native suited up for the Canucks, Rangers, Nordiques, Sabres, Canucks, and, for one game, the Flyers.
Honorable Mention: F Scott Levins
Richter is America's most famous goaltender. Helping his case for Pennsylvania's best is a Stanley Cup, three All-Star selections and a career spent under the spotlight. Richter, who had his down years with the Rangers, ranks 33rd on the all-time wins list. John Gibson might eventually snatch his crown.
Honorable Mention: G John Gibson, F Ryan Malone, F Vincent Trocheck, F R.J. Umberger
Hailing from a place called Woonsocket, Berard burst onto the scene as the first overall pick and 1996-97 Calder Trophy winner. Unfortunately, his career was derailed by a gruesome eye injury. He missed the entire 2000-01 season and, though he didn't retire until years later, was never the same player.
Honorable Mention: G Brian Boucher, D Keith Carney
Hartman, born on Hilton Head Island, is a work in progress. The 23-year-old's underlying numbers are nice but the counting stats haven't caught up. After going 30th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, Hartman has split two-and-a-half seasons between the Blackhawks (past) and Predators (current).
Honorable Mention: N/A
Texas: Land of defensemen - apparently. All three of the state's NHLers are quality blue-liners. Unequivocally, it's Leetch who holds serve. He won four individual awards (Calder, Norris, Conn Smythe, Norris) despite competing against Nicklas Lidstrom. Plus: 11 All-Star nods and a Stanley Cup.
Honorable Mention: D Seth Jones, D Tyler Myers
Not the sexiest name in NHL history, but the Salt Lake City native built a decent career. Konowalchuk, recently fired by the Ducks as a coach, collected 40 or more points five times during his playing career. The left winger had his moments, registering a pair of hat tricks with the Capitals in 1995-96.
Honorable Mention: F Trevor Lewis
Standing alone atop the Vermont hockey mountain is one of the most dominant power forwards of his generation. LeClair, at 6-foot-3 and 226 pounds, was a beast in his prime, bagging 50 goals in back-to-back-to-back seasons. And he followed up those three golden years with campaigns of 43 and 40 goals.
Honorable Mention: N/A
Talk about longevity. Weinrich survived six NHL trades, stretching out his stay on the blue line to nearly 1,200 games. He provided teams with stability and durability. Scott Darling (longtime minor leaguer) and Scott Lachance (Olympian) are nice stories, but not quite at Weinrich's impact level.
Honorable Mention: G Scott Darling, D Scott Lachance
It's safe to say Oshie is a 50-point guy. The pride of Everett has been within striking distance of, hit, or surpassed 50 in the seven campaigns he has dressed for at least 60 games. Tyler Johnson (two 50-point seasons and a 70-pointer) is right there with him. Tie goes to Stanley Cup champion Oshie.
Honorable Mention: F Patrick Dwyer, F Tyler Johnson
Gary Suter leads an excellent group of Wisconsinites. A quick career synopsis: Ryan's uncle went in the ninth round of the 1984 NHL Draft, picked up the Calder Trophy in 1985-86, recorded 91 points in his third season, helped lead the Flames to a Stanley Cup in his fourth, and then played 13 more.
Honorable Mention: F Phil Kessel, F Joe Pavelski, F Drew Stafford, D Ryan Suter
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)