Depending upon which part of North America you come from, your natural tendency is to support either Canadian or American hockey players as the best in the world.
For decades the NHL has been ruled by Canadian players and teams, but is this still the case? When the great Mike Modano retired in 2011, the NHL probably lost the best ever American-born hockey player. And even a Canadian would be pushed to argue against a seven-time All-Star player.
But who is currently the best American player in the NHL who can hold a candle to the Canadian players in terms of skill and determination? To be truthful there are not many contenders, but there have been some Americans that have certainly made their make further north. And here are the leading contenders for some of the best American players ever to have played in the NHL.
Kesler made his name playing for the Vancouver Canucks and his goal scoring record is more than impressive. In 2011 he scored a massive 41 goals and easily skated away with the Selke Trophy. At the time this was no easy task as the likes of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews were playing. Kesler was renowned for his toughness, and this was highlighted when he carried on playing with a severe hip injury in a Stanley Cup Final against Boston.
Dustin Byfuglien originates from Bloomington Minnesota and is a man mountain. Byfuglien was one of the toughest players ever to watch and patrol the blue line and he has showed this skill for every team he has played for including the Winnipeg Jets and the Atlanta Thrashers. Byfuglien has had his problems off the ice, but he should be judged by his talent when he has his skates on.
It takes a rather special player to be nominated as captain for the Montreal Canadiens and very few American players have ever captained a Canadian team. But that is exactly what Brian Gionta did, and rightfully so. His captaincy came from his true professionalism both on and off the ice, and of course his great leadership skills when he played. His grit and determination made his playing truly consistent and a player you could always rely on to perform.
Many people criticize Phil Kessel for being too one dimensional, but if you study his game then you will realize this is simply not true. His goal scoring record speaks for itself although the modest player never brags about this part of his game. His true potential was seen by the Toronto Maple Leafs where he scored 98 goals in three seasons.
All these American born players made their mark playing for Canadian teams and there is no doubt whatsoever that their skills were good enough to compete against the best Canadian players they came up against. The bitter argument over which nationality has the better players will rage on forever and may never ever be resolved.