What Percentage of NHL Players Are American?

Posted on April 22, 2022 by Dan Kent

Even though the NHL is based in North America, there are many players who weren’t born anywhere close to America or Canada. If you’re a U.S.-based NHL fan, you may wonder how many players in the league are actually from your country and what percentage they make up of the total rostered players.

Though hockey is commonly known as a Canadian game, players in the NHL can hail from all over the world. In recent seasons, the United States has boasted around 28% of the total NHL roster. The gap between American and Canadian players has been slowly decreasing over the years, with American-borne NHLers on the rise.

Where Do Most American NHL Players Come From?

ice hockey player
Photo by davidgsteadman licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

There are certain geographic pockets that NHL players commonly hail from — usually cold climates where hockey is already a popular and ingrained sport in the culture. However, players have been known to come from warmer southern states but often move to a city with a larger hockey presence in place as they build their skills as they develop.

Most NHL players originating from the United States come from the state of Minnesota. Minnesota boasts upwards of 57 active players in the league, with Michigan trailing close behind with 39 players. New York and Massachusetts have 27 and 25 players each, respectively.

There are certain cities that are deemed hotbeds for producing future NHL players, with Toronto leading the way by a large margin.

For American cities, Minneapolis and Boston are top producers for future major league hockey players. Detroit and Chicago are also ranked relatively high. Cities such as St. Louis and Los Angeles which have had an NHL presence for decades are beginning to see a rise in up-and-coming NHL players, with more likely expected in future years.

American Vs. Canadian Percentages

Detroit Red Wings
Photo by Ken Lund licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

While hockey may have originated in Canada, the United States has been slowly catching up in terms of the percentage of active NHL players on the rosters. In 1970, Canada accounted for over 95% of all NHL players, with the US at a measly 2%.

As of 2019, Canadians held a little over 43% of the roster with the United States reaching a high of 28.6%. This is a significant difference and shows how much the popularity of the sport has grown in the states over the years.

The gap between the Canadian and American percentages is steadily closing. If the current trend continues, the NHL may even have more Americans than Canadians by the year 2028.

The next closest country is Sweden, but they account for less than 10% of the players in the league. However, this number could continue to rise as well as hockey gains traction across the world and as other countries learn how to develop their players to a higher level.

Notable American NHL Players

There have been many great American NHL players over the years, both past and present. Some players of note include:

While most of these states have brutally cold winters, Auston Matthews is the outlier. He was born in California and grew up in Arizona — where he was a fan of the Coyotes and often went to see their games as a young child.

Though he was in a warmer climate and Phoenix isn’t usually thought of as a major hockey city, he grew up to become one of the highest-paid NHL players of this decade. This goes to prove that expanding NHL teams into unexpected places may inspire the next generation of future hall of famers.

Strong American Presence in the NHL

The 2019 draft boasted the strongest showing of American-borne players yet — and it was the year Jack Hughes was selected as the number one overall pick by the Devils. He was born in the hot and humid climate of Florida, which boasts two NHL teams.

That year, six other American men were among the top 15 picks. In fact, many of the players were a result of USA Hockey’s developmental program located in Michigan. Clearly, something is working and America has found its stride in developing elite players.

The Canadian dominance is slowly fading, however, there will no doubt continue to be a significant and powerful Canadian presence in the hockey world. The diversification of the league is a good thing as it brings hockey to other corners of the world and increases the popularity of the sport.

The Rise of Hockey in America

Photo by Amanda licensed under CC BY 2.0

Over the years, ice hockey has become more and more popular in the United States. With more NHL teams and minor league teams, children have a higher probability of being introduced to the sport at a young age.

This introduction may very well spark a passion in them and lead them to pursue a professional career as they get older.

The hockey development program in the US has strengthened and shows no signs of quitting. In fact, the number of female players is higher in the United States than it is in Canada — which is also shown by the fact that the US women’s team is constantly ranked number one in the world.

The caliber of players being produced stateside is high and the numbers are likely to surpass those of Canada in upcoming years. However, it’s unlikely that hockey will ever be deemed anything other than “Canada’s game,” as the two are inextricably linked.

America Catching Up to Canada

While the United States still hasn’t hit the 30% mark of active NHL players, that number isn’t far off and it’s likely to be reached within the next year or two. The American presence has slowly increased and found its stride over the past decade and will likely continue to do so.

The newer generation of hockey players has been developed from a young age and they’re proving to be an elite group of young men who are ready and eager to compete at the NHL level.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada, Stocktrades.ca.

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