Where Do They Come From? A Look at Americans in the NHL

Earlier in the week, I wrote a piece on where the American players listed on Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings were getting scouted from. Today, I wanted to take a look at the Americans currently playing in the NHL, and where they all came from.

We know the vast majority of Canadians play in the Canadian hockey league, and many of the European players skated with local clubs until they were ready for the NHL. For Americans, the options vary greatly.

It seems that the American player is constantly getting pulled in various directions by the NCAA, the CHL, the USHL, NTDP, high school teams and other various entities.

So to get an idea of the current numbers on where players have played seemed like a fun thing to do on a Friday. It’s an important topic that will continue to gain steam over the next several years as the race to develop players continues to intensify.

There’s no analysis on the numbers, just facts. So take a look and maybe develop some of your own theories. I will be breaking down these numbers over the course of the next few weeks to let you in on what I think they tell us.

For now, let’s just take a look at the data, shall we? (After the jump)

As of right now, by my count, there are 192 Americans that have played at least one game in the NHL this season. Of those 192, 150 signed their first pro contract after playing college hockey, while 30 came from the OHL, nine from the WHL and three from QMJHL.

Still, only looking at those numbers doesn’t give us the best idea of where American players got developed during some of their most formative years. So I decided to dig a little deeper and see where these players came from.

Here’s a quick break down of the numbers, based on developmental leagues/teams:

USHL – 53; NTDP – 51; CHL – 42; NAHL – 14; Minnesota H.S. – 14; Massachusetts H.S./Prep – 14; Shattuck-St. Mary’s – 6 13 (Thanks to SSM’s John Sumner for pointing that out); Connecticut Prep – 5; EJHL – 3; Metro Hockey League – 2; OPJHL – 2; BCHL – 1; New York H.S. – 1; New York AAA – 1; Michigan H.S. – 1.

There were also multiple players who can credit their development to more than one league. Some players were counted twice, in the numbers above, due to the fact that they played in multiple leagues in their developmental years. Below is the breakdown of those players and where they split time:

CHL/NTDP – 6; USHL/Minnesota H.S. – 5; CHL/USHL – 4; NTDP/USHL – 3; NAHL/USHL – 2; USHL/EmJHL – 1.

To dissect the numbers a little further, I took a look at where the top 60 Americans, based on points scored this year (no goalies), came from:

NCAA – 42; CHL – 18

Other developmental leagues represented in the top 60 (players that played in more than one league were counted for each league):

NTDP – 20; CHL – 18; USHL – 13; Minnesota H.S. – 6; Massachusetts H.S. – 2; Shattuck-St. Mary’s – 2; OPJHL – 2; NAHL – 1; EJHL – 1; BCHL – 1; MTHL – 1; Connecticut Prep – 1.

It doesn’t hurt to take a look and see where these players were born, as well. Which states are churning out the most current NHL players? Take a look:

Minnesota – 33; Michigan – 29; New York – 27; Massachusetts – 15; Pennsylvania – 12; Wisconsin – 10; Connecticut  – 8; Illinois – 8; Alaska – 5; California – 4; New Jersey – 4; New Hampshire – 3; North Dakota – 3;  Colorado – 2; Indiana – 2; Missouri – 2; North Carolina – 2; Ohio – 2; North Carolina – 2; Washinton – 2; Delaware – 1; Maryland – 1; Utah – 1

(Six players now playing as Americans, were born in Canada — Ontario – 3; Quebec – 2; Alberta 1.)

Lastly, just for fun. Here’s a look at where the Americans selected to participate in the NHL’s All Star Weekend came from (does not include time spent in minors):

David Backes (MN) – Lincoln Stars (USHL) > Minnesota State University – Mankato > St. Louis Blues

Dustin Byfuglien (MN) – Chicago Mission (AAA) > Prince George Cougars (WHL) > Chicago Blackhawks (Now with Atlanta Thrashers)

Patrick Kane (NY) – National Team Development Program > London Knights (OHL) > Chicago Blackhawks

Ryan Kesler (MI) – National Team Development Program > Ohio State University > Vancouver Canucks

Phil Kessel (WI) – National Team Development Program > University of Minnesota > Toronto Maple Leafs

Tim Thomas (MI)  – Davison H.S. (Michigan) > University of Vermont > Boston Bruins

Rookies participating in Skills Competition:

Cam Fowler (MI) – National Team Development Program > Winsor Spitfires (OHL) > Anaheim Ducks

Kevin Shattenkirk (MA) – National Team Development Program > Boston University > Colorado Avalanche

Derek Stepan (MN) – Shattuck-St. Mary’s > University of Wisconsin > New York Rangers

So there you have it. Those are the numbers. Make sure to check back as I take a look at what these numbers tell us over the next few weeks. There are a lot of topics that this data brings about, so expect a wide array of analysis.

Also Coming Soon: I’m in the middle of another study regarding Americans in the NHL Draft over the last 10 years. What’s changed? What’s the same? There’s a lot of interesting data already, so stay tuned for that in the coming weeks. I’ll be covering that topic from now until June.

If you have your own thoughts on the numbers listed here, let me know in the comments. I always like to hear your input.


About Chris Peters

Editor of The United States of Hockey. Contributor to CBSSports.com, USA Hockey Magazine and more. Former USA Hockey PR guy. Current Iowan.
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2 Responses to Where Do They Come From? A Look at Americans in the NHL

  1. John sumner says:

    Mr. Peters you are a bit short on the number of Shattuck-St. Mary’s players who have skated with NHL teams. Right now the number stand @ 22 who have played in the NHL 16 are American born or have dual citzenship.

    John Sumner
    Alumni Office/Hockey Coach

    • Chris Peters says:

      Thanks to John for pointing out my mistake here and further clarifying in email. There are 13 American SSM alumni that have played at least one game this season. It has been fixed in the body of the post.

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