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Where 10 of the Best American NHL Players Could Have Played College Hockey

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Where 10 Best American NHL Players Could Have Played College Hockey

Patrick Kane
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

While the majority of American born NHL players play college hockey, a growing number play Canadian Junior Hockey and forfeit their NCAA eligibility. Thinking about where some of the elite American born CHL produced talents would have played college hockey is at the very least intriguing. Some of the players were committed to said schools before taking their talents to junior hockey while others are pure speculation.

10. John Carlson: University of Massachusetts-Amherst

John Carlson
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

10. John Carlson: University of Massachusetts-Amherst

John Carlson
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals’ rising star was committed to the Minutemen before ultimately taking his talents to the London Knights of the OHL. The New Jersey native surely would have been among the elite defenseman to pass through Hockey East in recent years.

9. Dustin Byfuglien: University of Minnesota

Dustin Byfuglien
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

9. Dustin Byfuglien: University of Minnesota

Dustin Byfuglien
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

“Big Buff” went to the WHL after not having the grades to play college hockey. If things were different the Minnesota native surely would have played for Don Lucia and the Golden Gophers. His size and ability to play both forward and defense would have made him a great fit in Minneapolis.

8. Dustin Brown: Clarkson University

Dustin Brown
Kirby Lee- USA Today Sports

8. Dustin Brown: Clarkson University

Dustin Brown
Kirby Lee- USA Today Sports

The two-time Stanley Cup champion played for the OHL’s Guelph Storm, but if he had gone to college there would have been plenty of options for him in his home state of New York. Clarkson would have been among the best fits for Brown as the school also produced fellow American power forward Erik Cole.

7. Ryan Callahan: Boston College

Ryan Callahan
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

7. Ryan Callahan: Boston College

Ryan Callahan
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The former New York Rangers captain and current member of the Tampa Bay Lightning grew up in the same neighborhood as former Eagles great Brian Gionta. Having that kind of influence surely would have led the gritty winger to joining Jerry York’s elite program at Boston College.

6. Brandon Saad: Michigan State

Brandon Saad
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

6. Brandon Saad: Michigan State

Brandon Saad
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The Pennsylvania native went to the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit after two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program. Had he chosen the NCAA route, the Spartans would have been a great fit as his gritty, two-way style of play would have made a truly elite player in the CCHA/Big 10 Conference.

5. Bobby Ryan: University of New Hampshire

Bobby Ryan
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

5. Bobby Ryan: University of New Hampshire

Bobby Ryan
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The big winger played for the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack before going No. 2 overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. While every program in the nation would have loved to have Ryan in their lineup, the New Hampshire Wildcats and Coach Dick Umile would have likely been the front-runners for the New Jersey native’s services.

4. Tyler Johnson: University of Denver

Tyler Johnson
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

4. Tyler Johnson: University of Denver

Tyler Johnson
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The undersized but ultra skilled member of the Tampa Bay Lightning played for his hometown Spokane Chiefs of the WHL. Given there are no Division 1 programs on the West Coast, he’d have to go a little bit further away to play NCAA Hockey. The University of Denver would have been the best fit for Johnson given its proximity to Washington and track record of producing NHL talent.

3. Keith Yandle: University of Maine

Keith Yandle
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

3. Keith Yandle: University of Maine

Keith Yandle
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Massachusetts native was committed to the Black Bears before academic problems sent him to the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior League. His skating ability and offensive prowess would have made a standout player in Orono for a program with a stellar track record of producing NHL talent.

2. Seth Jones: University of North Dakota

Seth Jones
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

2. Seth Jones: University of North Dakota

Seth Jones
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Plano, Texas native came down to choosing between North Dakota and the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks before choosing the latter. Jones would have been the rare 17-year-old freshman who surely would have benefited Dakota in the same way playing there would have benefited his development.

1. Patrick Kane: Boston University

Patrick Kane
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

1. Patrick Kane: Boston University

Patrick Kane
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL’s best American player lit up the OHL as a member of the London Knights before joining the Blackhawks at age 18. Kane was rumored to be looking at Jack Parker’s BU Terriers where he have joined the likes of Chris Drury and Tom Poti as elite American players to suit up at BU.