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Mike Modano leads list of best U.S. players

Leetch, Hull, Chelios, LaFontaine round out top five

by Brian Compton @BComptonNHL / Deputy Managing Editor

The United States of America is celebrating its 240th birthday Monday. Citizens will spend the day celebrating their freedom with friends and family.

Keeping in the holiday spirit, looks at the top 10 American NHL players of all time:

1. Mike Modano, C -- Arguably the best U.S.-born player in NHL history, Modano spent two decades with the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise and led it to the Stanley Cup in 1999. Modano played 1,499 regular-season games, and his 561 goals and 1,374 points are more than any player born in the U.S. He also had 58 goals and 146 points in 176 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Modano was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2014.

2. Brian Leetch, D -- Leetch broke into the NHL with the Rangers late in the 1987-88 season and won the Calder Trophy in 1988-89 with 23 goals and 48 assists in 68 games. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy and helped the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup championship in 54 years in 1994 and remained in New York for another 10 seasons. Leetch finished his career with stops with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins. In 1,205 regular-season games he had 247 goals and 781 assists. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.

3. Brett Hull, RW -- Hull, who was born in Canada but has dual citizenship and played for the United States in international competition, scored 741 NHL goals, including a career-high 86 with the St. Louis Blues in 1990-91, fourth-most in League history. Hull's overtime goal clinched the Stanley Cup for the Stars in 1999, and he won the Cup again with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002. Hull had 1,391 points in 1,269 games with the Calgary Flames, Blues, Stars, Red Wings and Phoenix Coyotes, and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.

Video: 1999 Cup Final, Gm6: Brett Hull's triple OT GWG

4. Chris Chelios, D -- The most durable U.S.-born NHL player, Chelios entered the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens during the 1983-84 season and finished with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010. His 1,651 regular-season games are fifth-most in League history. One of the toughest two-way defensemen to play the game, Chelios had 185 goals and 763 assists in 26 seasons with the Canadiens, Chicago Blackhawks, Red Wings and Thrashers, and 144 points in 266 NHL playoff games. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.

5. Pat LaFontaine, C -- LaFontaine could have been the all-time leading scorer among U.S.-born players had injuries not forced him to retire in 1998. He averaged 1.17 points per game during his 15-season career with the Islanders, Buffalo Sabres and Rangers (1,013 points in 865 games). He had six straight 40-goal seasons between 1987-88 and 1992-93, including two 50-goal seasons. His best season was 1992-93, when he had 53 goals and a personal NHL-best 148 points with the Sabres. LaFontaine was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.

6. Joe Mullen, RW -- A New York City native, Mullen had more goals (502) and points (1,063) than any U.S.-born player when he retired following the 1996-97 season. Mullen helped the Calgary Flames win the Stanley Cup in 1989 (he had 16 goals in 21 playoff games), and won the Cup two more times with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992. He played 1,062 games over a 16-season career with the Blues, Flames, Penguins and Bruins. Mullen was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000.

7. Phil Housley, D -- The second-leading scorer among U.S.-born players, Housley played 1,495 games with the Sabres, Winnipeg Jets, Blues, Flames, New Jersey Devils, Washington Capitals, Blackhawks and Maple Leafs. His 338 goals and 1,232 points are fourth-most among NHL defensemen regardless of birthplace. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2015.

Video: Ruuttu's between-the-legs pass sets up Phil Housley

8. Jeremy Roenick, C -- Roenick spent 20 seasons in the NHL with the Blackhawks, Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks. In 1,363 games he had 513 goals and 703 assists, and 53 goals and 122 points in 154 playoff games. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2010. 

9. Patrick Kane, LW -- Some may scoff at Kane's name on this list considering he's 27 years old, but he has helped the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup three times. Last season he had 46 goals and a League-best 106 points and became the first U.S.-born player to win the Art Ross and Hart trophies. Kane has 663 points in 658 regular-season games and 121 points in 123 playoff games. He is a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame should he continue close to this pace the rest of his career.

10. John Vanbiesbrouck, G -- Vanbiesbrouck played in (882) and won (374) more games than any U.S.-born NHL goalie. Vanbiesbrouck spent 11 seasons with the New York Rangers, and then was taken by the Florida Panthers in the NHL expansion draft in 1993. Three years later he led them to the Stanley Cup Final. He later played for the Flyers, Islanders and Devils before retiring after the 2001-02 season. Vanbiesbrouck was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007.

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