NHL players comes from across Canada, the United States, and Europe to play hockey at the highest level. Last season, 451 Canadian players suited up for NHL action, according to SportingCharts.com. The United States ranked second with 266 players, followed by Sweden and the Czechs and Slovaks rounding out the top five.
For the purposes of this list, we honed in on Canadian and American players, since the NHL is a North American league. Many players would probably love to play for their respective hometowns, but it doesn’t happen as often as one might think. There was, of course, Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion on the Montreal Canadiens, and Mark Messier on the Edmonton Oilers as two examples. Even Kevin Shattenkirk, born in New Rochelle, New York, recently signed with his local team, the New York Rangers.
This list takes players from their home states, cities, or provinces, and puts them on a hypothetical lineup with other local players. For instance, the Boston Bruins would be made up of Massachusetts natives, and the Maple Leafs would be comprised of players from the Greater Toronto Area.
This is a fun look at where NHL teams would rank if they were made up of that city or state’s homegrown players.
15 Los Angeles Kings
Starting Lineup: Jason Zucker, Matt Nieto, Beau Bennett, Brooks Orpik, Chad Ruhwedel, Eric Comrie
California is home to three NHL teams, not to mention several active NHL players. Unfortunately, it hasn't quite grown into a hockey hotbed at the grassroots level, so this team is pretty weak in our top 15. The team’s top line with Newport Beach native Jason Zucker on his left wing and Matt Nieto on his right. Beau Bennett would round out the line and one would have to be thrown in the middle to play center.
Nieto is a natural left winger who could struggle to adjust to the right wing position. Yet, with a player like Matthews feeding him the puck, it might make that transition a bit smoother. Brooks Orpik is getting up there in age, but still plays a physical style of defense that complements his defensive partner, San Diego native Chad Ruhwedel.
Eric Comrie, the 21-year-old Winnipeg Jets prospect, would backstop California’s team in goal. The Edmonton native moved to Orange County at age nine, and helped Team Canada win the gold medal at the 2015 IIHF U20 World Championships. He earned his first NHL win in his first start for the Jets this past season.
14 Ottawa Senators
Starting Lineup: Jean Gabriel Pageau, Derrick Brassard, P.A. Parenteau, Marc Methot, Brian Campbell, Jared Coreau
Mike Gartner, Rod Brind’Amour, and Denis Potvin all came from the city of Ottawa. The Ontario province itself is home to many current NHL stars and several play for Ottawa, or recently did. Ottawa local Jean-Gabriel Pageau would center the top line of Derrick Brassard and P.A. Parenteau, who both grew up in neighboring Hull, Ontario.
Marc Methot and fellow Ontario native Brian Campbell would hold the blueline on defense, while Jared Coreau, a native of Perth, Ontario would backstop the team in goal. Coreau owned a lackluster 3.46 goals against average in 14 games last season for the Red Wings, but at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, still presents an imposing figure in net.
13 Pittsburgh Penguins
Starting Lineup: Brandon Saad, Vincent Trochek, R.J. Umberger, Matt Barkowski, Steven Johns, John Gibson
The Pittsburgh Penguins became the first back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and 1998. If they had a team made up of Pennsylvania natives, perhaps they would not have repeated as champions. To be fair, that doesn’t mean a team representing Pennsylvania wouldn’t be competitive
The team’s top forward line would consist of current unrestricted free agent and former Flyer R.J. Umberger. The 35-year-old forward hasn’t played since 2016 but also hasn’t officially retired. Joining him would be Pittsburgh native and two-time Stanley Cup champion Brandon Saad. Vincent Trochek, the two-time 20-goal scorer for the Panthers, would round out the top line.
The first defensive pairing would consist of the Flames' Matt Barkowski, and the Stars’ Steven Johns. The Ducks’ John Gibson would provide a solid goalie presence and protect any lead his team provides.
12 *Hartford Whalers
Starting Lineup: Nick Bonino, Max Pacioretty, Cam Atkinson, Ron Hainsey, Tommy Cross, Jonathan Quick
The Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina in 1997 and rebranded themselves the Carolina Hurricanes. However, since we are drafting hometown teams in a hypothetical NHL, let's bring back the Hartford Whalers for this list. Plus, there are only two hockey players from Carolina - Jared Boll and Ben Smith.
The Whalers' top line would have Hartford native Nick Bonino centering Montreal Captain and New Canaan's own Max Pacioretty on his wing. Blue Jackets sniper and Riverside native Cam Atkinson will round out the top line.
The team's defense would have Ron Hainsey with former Boston Bruins second-round pick Tommy Cross, who currently plays in the AHL.
The team's main strength is in goal, where Kings goalie and two-time Stanley Cup champion Johnathan Quick would fill in.
11 New York Rangers
Starting Lineup: Dustin Brown, Nick Foligno, Patrick Kane, Zack Bogosian, Kevin Shattenkirk, Keith Kinkaid
New York is home to many NHL stars. There simply aren't enough in the NYC area to fill out a team, so the state of New York would have to be represented by only one team. A team of New York natives on the Rangers could certainly challenge the top hometown Canadian teams. Dustin Brown would shift from his natural wing position to center Patrick Kane and Nick Foligno.
New York’s backend would be anchored by hard-hitting defenseman Zack Bogosian and powerplay specialist Kevin Shattenkirk. Shattenkirk grew up a Rangers fan and recently signed a four-year deal with the team.
Keith Kinkaid, a native of Suffolk County, Long Island, would backstop the Rangers in net. He has appeared in 69 games for the Devils since the 2014-2015 season, but would don the Rangers sweater in this hypothetical lineup.
10 New Jersey Devils
Starting Lineup: Bobby Ryan, James Van Riemsdyk, Johnny Gaudreau, Trevor Van Riemsdyk, Anthony DeAngelo, Anthony Stolarz
The New Jersey Devils struggled mightily last season, finishing with a lowly 28-40-14 record en route to missing the playoffs for the fifth straight year. They landed the number one overall pick in this year’s draft as a result, and selected talented Swiss center Nico Hischier
The Devils could’ve done better if they actually had a team made up of New Jersey natives. Their top line would consist of the Senators’ Bobby Ryan, the Maple Leafs’ James Van Riemsdyk, and the Flames’ Johnny Gaudreau. The top D pair would match Carolina defenseman Trevor Van Riemsdyk with newly-acquired New York Rangers blueliner Anthony DeAngelo.
Rounding out the starting lineup would be 23-year-old Flyers goalie Anthony Stolarz. He may not be the next Martin Brodeur, but should expect a larger role in Philadelphia next season now that Steve Mason moved on to Winnipeg.
9 Calgary Flames
Starting Lineup: William Nylander, Patrick Eaves, Taylor Hall, Mike Green, Braydon Cobourn, Aaron Dell
The Calgary Flames’ starting lineup may not be as strong as those of the other Canadian teams on this list, but it still boasts formidable talent. Toronto Maple Leafs star William Nylander would center the top line of Patrick Eaves and Taylor Hall. This top line produced 80 goals and 165 points between the three of them last season.
The team’s defense of Mike Green and Braydon Coburn would provide an offensive spark as well. Green scored 14 goals last season, good for eighth among NHL defenseman.
Aaron Dell would serve as starting goalie. Dell, originally from the small Calgary suburb of Airdrie, appeared in 20 games last season for the San Jose Sharks, going 11-6-1 with a 2.00 GAA and .931 save percentage.
8 Detroit Red Wings
Starting Lineup: Ryan Kesler, Justin Abdelkader, Dylan Larkin, Andy Greene, Torey Krug, Ryan Miller
Detroit doesn't call itself "Hockeytown" for nothing. The motor city has a rich hockey tradition, spearheaded of course, by the Detroit Red Wings. At the same time, many NHL stars come from Michigan, and could provide the Red Wings with a formidable lineup that could've saved the team from missing the playoffs for the first time in 25 years this past season.
Anaheim Ducks forward Ryan Kesler would center the team's top line of Justin Abdelkader and Dylan Larkin. Abdelkader and Larkin are Red Wings teammates, so there could be some chemistry between the two. Andy Greene and Torey Krug would be paired on defense and Ryan Miller would start in goal.
If you're concerned about Miller's age, consider Connor Hellebuyck or Jeff Zatkoff as a backup. Michigan has no shortage of NHL talent and this lineup can compete with the best of them.
7 Boston Bruins
Starting Lineup: Jack Eichel, Charlie Coyle, Chris Kreider, Keith Yandle, John Carlson, Cory Schneider
The Bruins would boast a strong forward line of North Chelsmford, Massachusetts native Jack Eichel, fellow Boston University alum Charlie Coyle, and former Boston College star Chris Kreider. If Eichel ends up being the player many of us expect him to be, that would mean the Bruins would be led by a superstar center, which is the first piece in building a cup winner. The defense would feature the offensive playmaking of Keith Yandle and the defensive reliability of John Carlson.
Cory Schneider, another former Boston College Eagle, would backstop the Bruins in goal. This team has a solid balance of speed, offense, two-way defensive play, and solid netminding that could challenge most NHL lineups.
6 Vancouver Canucks
Starting Lineup: Ryan Johansen, Milan Lucic, Evander Kane, Karl Alzner, Patrick Wiercioch, Carey Price
The team’s top forward line would have Nashville star Ryan Johansen centering Milan Lucic and Evander Kane. This forward line adds scoring, snarl, and physicality. Lucic and Kane are two imposing power forwards with a deft scoring touch, while Johansen can dish the puck as well as any center in the NHL.
5 Minnesota Wild
Starting Lineup: Zach Parise, Blake Wheeler, David Backes, Ryan McDonagh, Dustin Byfuglien, Alex Stalock
The State of Minnesota has had a rich hockey history. From the popularity of collegiate hockey, to the legendary North Stars, to recent success of the Wild, the state has known hockey for decades. In 2014 alone, Minnesota ranked first in the United States with over 54,000 players registered at USA hockey, according to TheHockeyWriters.com.
Looking at some Minnesota natives in the NHL, it’s easy to see why. A conceptual Minnesota Wild team would consist of stars like Zach Parise, Blake Wheeler, and David Backes. This top line mixes an elite scorer (Parise), a nifty playmaker (Wheeler) and a tough power forward (Backes).
The team’s top D pairing would consist of New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh and Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. McDonagh’s defensive play coupled with Byfuglien’s physicality and power play prowess makes this pairing arguably one of the best in the league.
Minnesota backup goalie Alex Stalock would assume starting duties on this hometown squad.
4 Winnipeg Jets
Starting Lineup: Johnathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Alex Steen, Duncan Keith, Michael Stone, James Reimer
The Winnipeg Jets have re-ignited the passion of fans across Manitoba since their relocation from Atlanta before the 2011-2012 season. They have only made the playoffs once in their six seasons since, but if they had a team of Manitoba natives, maybe they would fare better.
Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews would center the top line with teammate Patrick Sharp on his right wing and Alexander Steen on his left wing. Sharp has proven to be injury-prone over the past few seasons, so Travis Zajac could fill in if he goes down.
Duncan Keith and Michael Stone would anchor the Jets’ top defensive pairing, while the Panthers’ James Reimer would fill in between the pipes. Golden Knights’ goalie Calvin Pickard could be an option as well, but Reimer has more starting experience.
3 Edmonton Oilers
Starting Lineup: Brian Little, Jarome Iginla, Brenden Gallagher, Dion Phaneuf, Jay Bouwmeester, Chad Johnson
Edmonton bears the slogan “City of Champions” for good reason. In addition to its five Stanley Cup Championships, legends like Mark Messier, Scott Niedermayer, and Grant Fuhr all call the city home.
Captained by Connor McDavid, the Oilers of today are one of the most exciting teams in the NHL. At the same time, a team of Edmonton natives could be just as exciting.
Brian Little, Jarome Iginla, and Brenden Gallagher would make up the team’s top line. Iginla may be in the twilight of his NHL career, but deserves a spot on his hometown team given his Hall of Fame career statistics.
The hometown Oilers would have a strong defense of Dion Phaneuf and Jay Bouwmeester. Both defensemen possess a lethal slap shot which has combined for 212 career goals between them. Phaneuf also makes his name with his hard hits and physical play.
Chad Johnson would serve as starting goalie for the Oilers. The 30-year-old netminder won 18 games for the Calgary Flames last season before signing with the Buffalo Sabres this summer.
2 Montreal Canadiens
Starting Lineup: Patrice Bergeron, Paul Stastny, Alex Burrows, Kris Letang, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Corey Crawford
Despite not winning a Stanley Cup since 1993, the Montreal Canadiens remain one of the most decorated franchises in all of sports. No one can take away from their 24 Stanley Cup Championships and storied history of winning with Hall of Fame players.
A Habs team of Quebec locals could certainly make a deep playoff run. Think of Patrice Bergeron (or Mike Ribeiro in his prime) centering a top line of Paul Stastny and Alex Burrows.
The team’s defense would be anchored by veteran defensemen Kris Letang and Marc-Edouard Vlasic, both Montreal natives.
Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford would fill in between the pipes for the Canadiens. Sure, Roberto Luongo has better career numbers, but has struggled with injuries in recent seasons. Crawford is younger and brings a winning pedigree with his two Stanley Cup championships.
1 Toronto Maple Leafs
Starting Lineup: John Tavares, Steven Stamkos, Tyler Seguin, Brent Burns, P.K. Subban, Steve Mason
Toronto has given us NHL legends like Dale Hawerchuk, Rick Middleton, and Brad Park. Numerous active NHL players call Toronto and its suburbs home. In fielding a team native to the Toronto area, John Tavares would center the team’s top line with Brampton’s own Tyler Seguin on his right wing and Markham native Steven Stamkos on his left wing. Sure, Seguin is a natural center, but he has played the wing position a few times during his time with the Boston Bruins and even in Dallas at times.
This potent forward line would complement Toronto’s top defensive pairing of P.K. Subban and Brent Burns. Both Subban and Burns are Norris Trophy winners, and are among the top offensive defensemen in the NHL today. They can also throw a big hit and aren’t afraid to drop the gloves with opponents.
Steve Mason would assume starting duties for the Maple Leafs. His hometown of Oakville, Ontario, is considered part of the Greater Toronto Area. He may not be the most consistent goalie in the NHL, but with this All-Star lineup in front of him, he’ll pick up his fair share of wins.
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