NHL Draft 2019: Auston Matthews and Patrick Kane among top five American-born No. 1 picks in NHL Draft history
A look at some of the best U.S. prospects to go first overall in the NHL Entry Draft
When thearrives, Jack Hughes could very well become the latest American-born player to go No. 1 overall.
The Orlando, Florida native is a consensus elite prospect, widely projected to come off the board at the start of the night -- a tantalizing pairing for fellow center Nico Hischier with the New Jersey Devils. If taken first, he'd also be only the eighth No. 1 pick to hail from the United States in NHL history, following the Toronto Maple Leafs' selection of California's Auston Matthews three years ago.
With that in mind, here's a look at the top five American-born No. 1 picks, with a Hockey Hall of Famer headlining the list:
Mike Modano (1988)
Brian Lawton was the first American to go first overall, five years earlier, but Modano was and remains the best to represent No. 1 picks from the U.S. The Michigan native entered the league with the Minnesota North Stars, and he remained with the franchise for two decades -- long after it relocated to become the Dallas Stars. He didn't just occupy a roster spot, either. He shattered records. A physical powerhouse, Modano racked up 561 goals and 1,374 points in 21 NHL seasons -- all but one with the Stars -- while helping to lead Dallas to the 1999 Stanley Cup, popularizing hockey in Texas and finishing as the top American-born scorer in league history.
Patrick Kane (2007)
If anyone comes close to rivaling Modano's legacy among American-born No. 1 picks, it's got to be Kane. A superstar of his generation, the New York native not only became the first U.S. player to win the Hart and Art Ross trophies but has played a pivotal role in three different Stanley Cup wins with the Chicago Blackhawks, taking the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2013. A staple of his franchise, Kane has been as steady and durable as ever entering his 30s, and he approaches 2019-20 with career marks of 356 goals and 938 points -- plus 50 goals and 123 points in the playoffs.
Auston Matthews (2016)
The surest sign of future hope for American-born stars in the NHL, Matthews took the league by storm after a one-year stint in the Swiss National League A, but was born in California and raised in Arizona. The 21-year-old phenom has yet to totally elevate the Toronto Maple Leafs in terms of Stanley Cup contention, but he's been nothing but an elite scorer since hitting the pros. The three-time All-Star easily captured the Calder Trophy in 2017, when he opened his NHL career with 40 goals, and has piled on since then, totaling 111 goals and 205 points after just a trio of seasons with the Maple Leafs.
Erik Johnson (2006)
The Colorado Avalanche's longest-tenured player, Johnson is from Bloomington, Minnesota, and has been arguably the steadiest piece of the Avs' blue line for the better part of a decade. A 2015 All-Star, the defenseman spent the first three years of his career with the St. Louis Blues, missing one of them due to a knee injury, before being dealt as part of the Blues' deal for Kevin Shattenkirk. Since then, Johnson has played more than any of Colorado's defensemen and headlined the penalty kill, matching his career-best points total (39) in 2013-14. Despite 2018-19 postseason struggles, he remains the team's most experienced D-man.
Rick DiPietro (2000)
A Massachusetts native, DiPietro is perhaps more known for his off-ice accomplishments, becoming just the second goalie in league history to go first overall and later landing the longest contract in NHL history -- a 15-year behemoth inked in 2006. He still turned in more than a decade at the professional level, however, peaking with an All-Star appearance in 2008 and a 32-19-9 record for the New York Islanders the year before. Injuries ultimately limited DiPietro over the final half-decade of his career, but he was a Vezina Trophy candidate in 2006-07 and appeared in more than 300 games for the Islanders starting in 2002.
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