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How Patrick Kane compares to the best American-born forwards in NHL history

Jul 4, 2010, 8:30 PM EDT

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kaneUSA.jpgWith the good old U.S. of A. on the minds of many, I thought I’d put together a couple posts on American hockey. Obviously, when thinking of red-white-and-blue hockey, it’s natural to think of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Looking at the roster for the ’06 Olympic team that failed to impress versus a young, scrappy ’10 team that overachieved its way to a silver medal, it’s obvious that there was a passing of the torch. The old stars including Jeremy Roenick and Mike Modano made way for young up-and-comers such as Patrick Kane and Zach Parise.

If I had to pick one young American forward who might be the next big thing, it would be Kane. It’s been quite a year for the young player, as he went from the ugly taxi cab scandal to NHL ’10 cover star to Olympic near-glory and finally a Stanley Cup winning overtime goal. As much as he’s been through (both good and bad), Kane looks like he’s just begun what could be an outstanding NHL career.

In fact, I couldn’t help but ask myself if he could end up being the best American forward, ever. How does he compare to the last generation of American stars at this point in his career? Much like when I compared Mike Green to some of the all-time highest scoring NHL defensemen, let’s take a look at how Kane stacks up to some of the best American-born scorers in their first three full seasons.

Patrick Kane

Regular Season (three seasons)
Games Played: 244
Goals: 76
Assists: 154
Points: 230
Plus/Minus: +9

Playoffs (two playoffs)
GP: 38
G: 19
A: 23
P: 42
+/-: -11

Notes: Although Kane’s plus/minus seems to plummet in the postseason, he actually scores at more than a point-per-game pace. Most players see a dip in point production when they jump from the regular season to the playoffs, but Kane excels (at least numbers-wise) when the games get bigger.

Jeremy Roenickroenickonsharks.jpg

(Note: he played 20 games in the 88-89 season, but I’ll start his stats off from 89-90 to make for a more comprehensive comparison.)

Regular Season (three seasons)
GP: 237
G: 120
A: 143
PTS: 263
+/-: 63

Playoffs (three appearances)
GP: 44
G: 26
A: 22
PTS: 48
+/-: 12

Notes: Kane and Roenick have some interesting similarities. They both have plenty of personality and can be (mostly playful) troublemakers. They both made a splash at the NHL level just about immediately, and with the Chicago Blackhawks to boot. When you consider the fact that Roenick came into the league in a high flying era, I’d say that his slight statistical advantages just about wash out.

Pat LaFontaine

(Much like Roenick, I’m going to leave out his abbreviated rookie year when he played in 15 games during the 83-84 season.)

Regular Season (three seasons)
GP: 212
G: 87
A: 90
P: 177
+/-: 15

Playoffs (three appearances)
GP: 26
G: 7
A: 9
P: 16
+/-: -11

Notes: Advantage, Kane. LaFontaine surely must have been at least on Buffalo-native Patrick Kane’s radar when he was growing up, but Kane is well ahead of the great American forward at this point in his career. LaFontaine’s career didn’t truly take off until his fifth pro season, but by then, the only thing that could stop him were concussion problems.

Mike Modanomodanostar.jpg

(Note: He played in two playoff games at age 18, but we’ll start from full seasons the next year.)

Regular Season (three seasons)
GP: 235
G: 90
A: 126
P: 216
+/-: -14

Playoffs (three appearances)
GP: 37
G: 12
A: 15
P: 27
+/-: -8

Notes: Advantage, Kane, again.

When comparing Patrick Kane to some of the best American-born forwards in NHL history, the young player bests or equals his predecessors. At least at the three-year mark.

You might give Jeremy Roenick the slight edge – especially since he was a more physical player – but Kane is ahead of Modano and LaFontaine at this point in their careers.

So, perhaps this is the biggest question: is Kane primed to be the best American forward … ever? Could he even end up ahead of Modano on the all-time U.S.-born point scoring list? I’m not sure, but it will be fun to find out.

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