Hockey in the United States tends to be defined by big events, including the gold-medal game at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics, the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" gold-medal game in Lake Placid, and the championship win at the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. There were also silver medals at the 2002 and 2010 Olympics.
The next era in U.S. hockey may be defined by the young talent already making their mark in the NHL. The emergence of players from the Sunbelt and other non-traditional hockey areas should continue to add to that talent base.
Here are the top 12 U.S.-born NHL players who are 25 and under:
John Gibson, Anaheim Ducks
Born: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2016-17 stats: 25-16-9, 2.22 goals-against average, .924 save percentage
The Ducks named Gibson as their starter last summer when they traded Frederik Andersen to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He responded with an NHL career-high 25 wins and finished fifth in GAA and save percentage among goaltenders with at least 25 games. Gibson's only problem has been staying healthy; his 52 games last season were an NHL career high.
Video: ANA@NSH, Gm4: Gibson extends pad to rob Forsberg
Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
Born: Commerce, Michigan
2016-17 stats: 26-19-4, 2.89 goals-against average, .907 save percentage
Hellebuyck helped the U.S. win the bronze medal at the 2015 IIHF World Championship, going 7-1 with a 1.37 GAA, .948 save percentage and two shutouts. He started 53 games for the Jets last season, his first full NHL season, finishing 26-19-4 with four shutouts on a team that finished 27th in goals allowed (255).
Justin Faulk, Carolina Hurricanes
Born: South St. Paul, Minnesota
2016-17 stats: 17 goals, 20 assists, 37 points
Few defensemen can score the way Faulk can; he's scored 15, 16 and 17 goals in the past three seasons. Faulk is especially dangerous on the power play with 23 goals and 50 points in that span.
Video: DET@CAR: Faulk finds twine on drive from the circle
Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets
Born: Arlington, Texas
2016-17 stats: 12 goals, 30 assists, 42 points
Jones' first full season with the Blue Jackets was a success. He set NHL career highs in goals, assists and points while helping Columbus to its best season since entering the League in 2000. Jones came to the Blue Jackets in a rare one-for-one trade of talented young players; he was taken No. 4 in the 2013 NHL Draft by the Nashville Predators but was traded for center Ryan Johansen on Jan. 6, 2016.
Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets
Born: Grosse Pointe, Michigan
2016-17 stats: 11 goals, 36 assists, 47 points
The Blue Jackets had to wait a year for Werenski, their first-round pick (No. 8) in the 2015 NHL Draft. He played one season at the University of Michigan before turning pro and showing why Columbus was so eager to add him to its base of emerging talent. His offensive skills were apparent right away but he also finished plus-17, showing that he's more than a one-way player.
Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres
Born: North Chelmsford, Massachusetts
2016-17 stats: 24 goals, 33 assists, 57 points
Eichel sustained a high left ankle sprain in a fall one day before Buffalo's home opener and didn't make his season debut until Nov. 29. Despite playing in 61 games, down from 81 as a rookie, Eichel finished with the same number of goals and one more point than he had in his first NHL season. He figures to be the key to Buffalo's hopes of qualifying for the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2011.
Video: TOR@BUF: Eichel nets PPG with rocket from the circle
Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames
Born: Salem, New Jersey
2016-17 stats: 18 goals, 43 assists, 61 points
In three full seasons since turning pro, Gaudreau has shown that his lack of size (5-foot-9, 157 pounds) is no impediment to NHL success. He was a finalist for the Calder Trophy as a rookie in 2014-15, had his best NHL season in 2015-16 with 78 points (30 goals, 48 assists) and helped Calgary qualify for the playoffs last season after a slow start. He's more than willing to go into the dirty areas, but also has the speed and skill to evade opposing checkers.
Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
Born: Scottsdale, Arizona
2016-17 stats: 40 goals, 29 assists, 69 points
Matthews more than lived up to the hype that surrounded his selection with the first pick in the 2016 NHL Draft. He set a modern-day League record by scoring four goals in his first NHL game and became the first rookie since Alex Ovechkin in 2005-06 to reach the 40-goal mark. Matthews figures to be a cornerstone player for the Maple Leafs, but he's likely to be a key to the success of the U.S. in international play as well.
Video: TOR@DET: Matthews uses quick hands to bury PPG
J.T. Miller, New York Rangers
Born: East Palestine, Ohio
2016-17 stats: 22 goals, 34 assists, 56 points
Miller, New York's first-round pick (No. 15) in the 2011 NHL Draft, has become one of the Rangers' key players in the past two seasons. He's scored 22 goals in back-to-back seasons, and his 34 assists and 56 points were NHL career highs. Miller has done that without getting much power-play time (20 of 22 goals in 2015-16 and 2016-17 were at even strength) and his plus-17 rating last season shows he's become defensively responsible as well.
Brandon Saad, Chicago Blackhawks
Born: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
2016-17 stats (with Columbus Blue Jackets): 24 goals, 29 assists, 53 points
Saad is returning to the Blackhawks after two seasons with the Blue Jackets when he had 106 points (55 goals, 51 assists) in 160 games. He was a member of Chicago's Stanley Cup-winning teams in 2013 and 2015 before being traded to Columbus for salary-cap reasons. Saad has been a plus player in each of the past five seasons and was plus-23 for the Blue Jackets last season.
Video: CBJ@NSH: Saad tallies from high slot to open scoring