Hockey isn’t commonly thought of as an American sport. As a result, the NHL is the least popular of the four major sports leagues. However, that doesn’t mean there is a lack of quality American hockey talent playing in the NHL.
Things are starting to change for American hockey, and it’s happening in a big way. The NHL is becoming flooded with promising young American-born players.
Look at some of the most recent drafted players from the 50 states, Johhny Gaudreau, Jack Eichel, Jimmy Vesey, Zach Werenski, Seth Jones, Auston Matthews, all of whom are players under the age of 23. These American- born youngsters have already made a big splash in the NHL. Good news, especially for a league that features a heavy dose of Canadian, European, and Russian-born talent.
Just take a gander at the 2016 rookie class, as Jimmy Vesey, Zach Werenski, and Auston Matthews all have their names firmly planted on the Calder Trophy list. If any were to win the league’s Rookie of the Year, they would join a list of recent American rookies that includes Tyler Myers ( 2009-10) Patrick Kane (2007-08), Scott Gomez (1999-00), and Bryan Berard (1996-97).
Former Calder Trophy winner, Patrick Kane, a Buffalo, New York native, dominated the NHL during the 2015-16 season, capturing the Art Ross, Hart, and Ted Lindsey trophies. Kane was the first US-born player to win the Hart Memorial Trophy, a true milestone for American hockey. He’s the poster child for hockey in the USA, and is currently the standard for all Americans in the NHL.
Aside from Kane, it’s mind-boggling as to the success American-born stars have had in recent years. Johnny Gaudreau is coming off a 78 point season, Jack Eichel was the number 2 overall selection during the 2015 NHL Draft, Auston Matthews was the top-overall selection during the 2016 NHL Draft, and four American rookies are in the top-10 of rookie scorers.
It’s a good time for the NHL. Not only are the Canadian, Russian, and European players excelling, but American stars are emerging. That’s some extraordinary news for the NHL, as they look to gain a bigger following in America.
With the NHL becoming a globalized sport, international competition will only get better. And It’s likely that all of this new American talent will help lead to greater success on the World’s stage. Whether it be the Olympics or the World Cup of Hockey, the are plenty of current, and future, American NHL stars on the horizon.
It will be very interesting as to how all this new and old talent does in future years, but things are looking up for America. This is the best chance hockey has to compete with basketball, hockey, and football. Hopefully, it emerges victorious.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on Twitter @dgentleman9288