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Kane, Matthews headline ultimate United States-born lineup

NHL.com experts pick best starting six to mark Fourth of July

by NHL.com @NHLdotcom

Thursday is the Fourth of July, a celebration of American independence.

What better way for hockey fans to celebrate the day than debating who are the best United States-born players in the NHL. That's exactly the task we delegated to 11 of our writers, including three from Canada for some variety, to vote for the best possible six-man lineup of U.S.-born players currently in the League.

There were some clear-cut favorites, including two unanimous selections, and some interesting positional battles.

Here are the results (votes in parentheses):

 

Goalie: Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars (6)

Three goalies received consideration for the designation as the United States' best, but it was Bishop who prevailed in the end. The 32-year-old finished second in voting for the Vezina Trophy as best goalie in the NHL last season after going 27-15-2 with a 1.98 goals-against average, an NHL-best .934 save percentage and seven shutouts in 46 games (45 starts). He is 201-112-32 with a 2.30 GAA, a .921 save percentage and 31 shutouts in 369 games with the Stars, St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, Tampa Bay Lightning and Los Angeles Kings. In the past five seasons, his 146 wins and 2.26 GAA are the best of any U.S.-born goalie (minimum 50 games played), and his .921 save percentage is tied for first with John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks.

Others receiving votes: Gibson (4), Jonathan Quick, Kings (1)

Video: DAL@STL, Gm7: Bishop denies bid from Perron

 

Defenseman: Seth Jones, Columbus Blue Jackets (9)

Jones, who turns 25 on Oct. 3, finally is starting to earn the accolades he deserves. He was two votes shy of receiving the maximum 11 as one of the two best U.S.-born defensemen in the NHL. He has finished in the top 10 in voting for the Norris Trophy as best NHL defenseman in each of the past two seasons. During the past three seasons, Jones had 145 points (37 goals, 108 assists), fourth among U.S.-born defensemen, behind John Carlson of the Washington Capitals (175 points), Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins (163) and Keith Yandle of the Florida Panthers (159), and his average of 0.40 goals per 60 minutes during that span was third (minimum 100 games), behind Blue Jackets teammate Zach Werenski (0.43) and Justin Faulk of the Carolina Hurricanes (0.41).

 

[RELATED: McDavid, Price headline ultimate Canada-born lineup]

 

Defenseman: John Carlson, Washington Capitals (7)

Winning the Stanley Cup in 2018 with the Capitals did wonders for the profile of Carlson, who has been a very good defenseman for several seasons. No U.S.-born defenseman had more points over the past three seasons than Carlson, who had 70 last season, making him one of four NHL defensemen, and the only one from the United States, to reach that number. The 29-year-old has 403 points (90 goals, 313 assists) in 688 NHL games, all with Washington.

Others receiving votes: Dustin Byfuglien, Winnipeg Jets (2); Ryan Suter, Minnesota Wild (1); Ryan McDonagh, Lightning (1); Krug (1); Charlie McAvoy, Bruins (1).

 

Right wing: Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks (11)

Kane is the best right wing of his generation. The 30-year-old had an NHL career-best 110 points (44 goals, 66 assists) last season, when only two U.S.-born right wings had more than 80, Blake Wheeler of the Jets (91) and Phil Kessel with the Pittsburgh Penguins (82). Since Kane made his NHL debut at the start of the 2007-08 season, he has 938 points (356 goals, 582 assists) in 903 games for Chicago. That is 144 more points than the next-highest scoring U.S.-born NHL player, Kessel (794).

Others receiving votes: None

Video: Best Cellys of the 2018-19 NHL Season

 

Center: Auston Matthews: Toronto Maple Leafs (11)

Matthews' rise to elite status was swift. After being selected by the Maple Leafs with the No. 1 pick of the 2016 NHL Draft, he scored 40 goals in 2016-17 and won the Calder Trophy, voted as NHL rookie of the year. Today, he is without a doubt the best center the United States has to offer. Matthews, who turns 22 on Sept. 17, had 73 points (37 goals, 36 assists) in 68 games last season, and no U.S.-born center has more points than the 205 (111 goals, 94 assists) he has in 212 games the past three seasons. The scary thing is Matthews likely has not reached his full potential yet.

Others receiving votes: None

 

Left wing: Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames (9)

Gaudreau finished one point shy of reaching 100 for the first time in his five-season NHL career in 2018-19, when he had NHL career bests in goals (36) and assists (63). Gaudreau, who turns 26 on Aug. 13, raised his scoring total each of the past two seasons, from 61 points in 2016-17 to 84 in 2017-18 to 99 last season. The next step would be joining Kevin Stevens as the only U.S.-born left wings with 100-point NHL seasons. Stevens did it twice with the Penguins, with 123 points (54 goals, 69 assists) in 1991-92 and 111 points (55 goals, 56 assists) in 1992-93.

Others receiving votes: Matthew Tkachuk, Flames (2)

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