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SB Nation Top Five: American Pittsburgh Penguins

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With the fireworks barely behind us, here's a glance at the top five Americans to play for the Penguins.

Post-Independence Day, what better way to honor the country than look at the best Americans to ever play for the Pittsburgh Penguins? 

Before we get to the players, though, it's worth noting that Pittsburgh has had a lot of great luck with Americans in its front office.

"Badger Bob" Johnson: A coaching legend who led the Pens to their first-ever Stanley Cup in 1991 in his only season as their head coach. Unfortunately, he would pass away months later after battling a brain tumor.

Craig Patrick: Oversaw the Pens as a GM and sometimes coach for 17 years from 1989-2006, winning two Stanley Cups. His influence can still be felt on the present-day team, since eight players he drafted remain on the team, including Marc-Andre Fleury, Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. The team made the playoffs 11 straight seasons under Patrick's guidance.

Herb Brooks: The legendary "Miracle on Ice" coach from the USA 1980 national team was a Pens employee for many years as well. He was the Pens head coach for 58 games in the 1999-2000 season, and then stayed on as something of a "consultant" who mentored young players. Guys like Colby Armstrong and Brooks Orpik have credited Herb Brooks as an influence on helping their games and get to the NHL.

Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma: The modern-day general manager/coaching combo land the final spots on our American honor role. Shero did everything from player personnel to installing internet coverage in the coach's office. Bylsma changed the Pens from slumping underachievers to Stanley Cup champions in less than four months on the job.

Now, on to the five top American players in Penguins history. This list only takes into consideration their Pittsburgh contributions, so while John LeClair is one of the finer US hockey players around, his disappointing late-career stint with the Penguins keeps him off this list. You'll notice the list includes many recent players: Canadians dominated the NHL in its early years and not too many Yanks made impacts with Pittsburgh.

#5 - Ryan Malone (2003-2008)

The first Pittsburgh-born and -trained NHL'er to play for the Pens, Ryan Malone was with the franchise at arguably its lowest point. His play helped bring the team all the way back to the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals before he left town for a free agent deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Malone is 41st all time in franchise scoring with 169 career points, and was the last Penguin before Crosby or Malkin to lead the team in goal scoring.

#4 - Brooks Orpik (2002-present)

Named after Herb Brooks and born shortly after the 1980 Olympics, Orpik completed the circle when he played for the US team's silver medal team in the 2010 Olympics. As a Penguin, Orpik's 449 career games ranks him second in most games played as a defenseman in team history (Ron Stackhouse's 621 is No. 1).

#3 - Joe Mullen (1990-95, 1996-97)

A native of New York City, Joe Mullen became one of the most decorated American players ever: he was the first Yank to crack the 500 goal and 1,000 career point marks, both of which he did in a Penguins jersey.  Mullen only played six years of his 17-year career with Pittsburgh, which is why he finishes third in our list.  Mullen currently ranks 19th on the Pens career scoring ledger with 325 points and 379 career goals in the black and gold.  His scoring touch was an instrumental part of the '91 and '92 Stanley Cup winning teams. Mullen was inducted to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2000.

#2 - Kevin Stevens (1987-95, 2000-02)

At his peak, Kevin Stevens was the premiere power forward in the NHL. Over a four year span from 1990 to 1994 he scored 153 goals and 218 assists for the Pens. The 30 total goals "Artie" scored in the '91 and '92 playoffs were more than anyone on the Pens, save of course Mario Lemieux. 

Look over the Pens' offensive record books and Stevens is close to the top in every category: fifth in goals (260), eighth in assists (295), sixth in points (555), tied for second in power play goals (110) and first in franchise history in penalty minutes (1,048).

In a truly American story, Artie would have a downfall, getting arrested with drugs and prostitues in his hotel room in 2000, when he was with the Rangers. Redemption would come for Stevens, who battled his demons and eventually ended his career with two seasons with the Penguins. He now works as a pro scout for the Pens.

#1- Tom Barrasso (1988-2000)

Taking the cake for the top American Penguin is Boston's Tom Barrasso, the goalie who backstopped the team in its first two Stanley Cups. A look at the Pens' goalie franchise leaders is really just a look at Barrasso's career stats: first in games played (460), first in wins (226), first in shutouts (22), first in shots faced (13,485), first in penalty minutes (251). Of course, he's also the career leader in goals allowed (1,409) and losses (153), which comes with the territory of playing that many games.

Barrasso is also one of the most decorated U.S. goalies: he was the first to 300 wins (and he's now second with 369 career W's) and he won the silver with Team USA in 2002.

Near the end of his Pittsburgh career, Barrasso's attitude soured toward the local media and to young goalie J.S. Aubin, with whom the veteran did not have a good relationship. The Pens traded Barrasso in 2000, and he bounced around the league before signing a one-day contract with Pittsburgh and retiring as a Penguin in 2003.

Honorable Mentions: Phil Bourque (1984-92), Kevin Hatcher (1997-99), Rob Scuderi (2004-09), Ryan Whitney (2006-09)

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.