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Poll: Who is the best active American hockey player?

Jul 4, 2011, 4:46 PM EDT

Tim Thomas, Phil Kessel AP

This might be the greatest time ever for U.S. born goalies, but it’s a pretty special time for American hockey in general. Since this is the Fourth of July, we have the old red-white-and-blue on our minds, so we thought we’d take a look at the best active American hockey players and then ask you which one is the greatest of them all.

Feel free to use whatever criteria you want, with one exception: consider them at this moment in time instead of their full-fledged careers. (Otherwise semi-active Mike Modano would dominate to the point of boredom.)

Here’s a quick list of the top candidates. You can write-in your own choices in the “other” category in the poll if your favorite isn’t represented.

Patrick Kane

While they play different styles (one was a physical player, the other plays much more on the perimeter), Patrick Kane is the spiritual successor to Jeremy Roenick. They’re both charismatic high draft picks for the Chicago Blackhawks who often have funny things to say and oodles of on-ice flair. Each guy has had his off-ice moments, but they’re mostly beloved in the hockey community … and with good reason.

Tim Thomas

In the last three seasons, Thomas amassed two Vezina Trophies, one Conn Smythe and a Stanley Cup. His unorthodox style occasionally prompts people to throw him under the bus but he just contorts his body out of danger time and time again. As I said before, Thomas is the American Dream in hockey pads.

Ryan Miller

He’s not as hot a topic in the moment as Thomas is, but Miller might be just as much of a household name because of his great 2010 Olympic performance and 2010 Vezina Trophy. It’s quite possible that Miller is staring at his greatest opportunity to win the Cup since Danny Briere and Chris Drury bolted for big bucks.

Zach Parise

Will an injury-plagued season hurt Parise in the eyes of voters? It shouldn’t because he’s a high-scoring player (one 94 point season, one 82-point campaign) who racked up crazy plus/minus numbers on his way to becoming one of New Jersey’s most devilish first round draft steals.

Ryan Kesler

He might have burnt some bridges by swearing his semi-allegiance to Canada and the Vancouver Canucks, but Kesler’s do-it-all mentality makes him appealing to Americans nonetheless. The 2011 Selke Trophy winner is a favorite among hockey connoisseurs but he can score quite a bit too, crossing the 70-point barrier in two straight seasons.

Phil Kessel, Dustin Brown, Bobby Ryan, Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, Joe Pavelski, David Backes, Paul Martin, Ryan Suter, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Jonathan Quick, Jimmy Howard and Craig Anderson

From dynamic goal scorers (Kessel and Ryan) to more balanced guys with offensive potential (Callahan, Dubinsky, Backes, Brown and Pavelski), there are plenty of other strong forward choices. Suter, Martin and Erik Johnson are among the best American born blueliners while Quick, Howard and Anderson are top goalies on NHL teams. Any number of these guys could capture the hearts of hockey fans even if they’re not necessarily on the marquee level (although Ryan is awfully close).

To keep the poll reasonable, 10 of the players listed in this post will be named as choices but you can fill in your own choice in the “Other” category if those nominees aren’t good enough. The contestants are listed in alphabetical order.

  1. kingjoe1 - Jul 4, 2011 at 5:42 PM

    Calm down people. TIm Thomas has had a really good three year run. However, his stats are a reflection of the system he plays in, with Boston. Last season is proof of this. Tuuka Rask had a 1.97 GA last year in 49 games for Boston, and really whatsa Tuuka Rask right?

    Ryan Miller is a far better goalie overall.

    Right now Patrick Kane is the best American Player, but in the next few years he will have a lot of competition from guys like Parise and James Van Riemsdyk

    • warpstonebc - Jul 4, 2011 at 8:32 PM

      Well said. Thomas is a great goalie. But outside of maybe the Bruins or Predators disciplined play, he would get lit up playing for any other team.

      Ryan Miller on a rebuilt Sabres team should outplay Thomas next year.

    • islandersfan - Jul 4, 2011 at 8:55 PM

      Agreed, but I’d take Parise over Kane (though not by much :) )

    • daveydawg - Jul 5, 2011 at 7:54 AM

      Right, just like Tom brady.

    • homelanddefense - Jul 5, 2011 at 11:22 AM

      actually Tuuka Rask was one of the highest rating goaltending prospects a few years ago. The only reason he isnt a starter for Boston is because Thomas is blocking him

  2. blinkevan - Jul 4, 2011 at 6:53 PM

    JVR, this year he embarrasses the league the way he did in the playoffs. we will all bow to his greatness

    • icelovinbrotha215 - Jul 4, 2011 at 9:30 PM

      I’m hoping so. JVR would drive me up a wall with how soft he was playing. But how he played in the playoffs is impressive. He keeps that up: 20-30 goals per year.

  3. nolanorth - Jul 5, 2011 at 1:09 AM

    Really James? Why has Kesler burned bridges? Because he likes his hockey team, that has nothing to do with your country!

    Your a hack always trying to stir up national hate in your articles. You should be working for FOX not NBC. All you do is insight negative comments about national pride instead of being a unbiased journalist!

    • warpstonebc - Jul 5, 2011 at 9:52 AM

      I was kind of confused about this too. During the Olympics Kessler was unequivocal about how much he wanted to beat Canada in particular to clinch the gold medal. He’s a competitor, how could any fan not like that?

  4. demons87 - Jul 5, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    You can’t say the defensive system was the difference when Boston gave up the second most shots this year. I would say more often then not, they abandoned him and he made the difference. That didn’t change in the playoffs either as he set records for most saves in a finals and most saves in the playoff year.

    He also has 2 of the top 3 best save precentage seasons in history.

  5. nickr214 - Jul 5, 2011 at 7:08 PM

    Well said by demons87. Without Timmy the bruins wouldn’t of been able to win. He was the backbone of the team

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