The NHL has 17 individual and four team awards that it hands out for achievements every year. The majority of winners throughout league history have been from Canada, with other countries claiming their spot over the last three decades.
According to games played statistics on NHL.com, there have been 7,303 players to dress in at least one contest throughout the league’s history. Only 336 players have migrated from Sweden, making up 4.6% of the league’s nationality pie chart.
Even though he grew up in Ontario, Gus Forslund was the first Swedish-born player in the NHL when he played 48 games for the Ottawa Senators in 1932-33. Further research will point to Ulf Sterner, who made his debut on Jan. 27, 1965, as a member of the New York Rangers. Sterner is considered the first Swedish-born player in the NHL and paved the way for his countrymen to cross the pond and leave their mark.
Based on his excellent shutdown game, Toronto Maple Leafs’ defenseman Börje Salming is the most recognized name among the early Swedish players. Salming may not have won any awards during his Hall of Fame career, but he proved all the doubters wrong – European players born and trained overseas can excel at the North American game.
Before we dig deep into the achievements of Swedish-born players, we should point out that there are still a handful of trophies that have yet to be won by someone from the Nordic country. As of 2020-21, no Swedish-born player or executive has won the Jack Adams Award (Coach of the Year), Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award, Maurice Richard Trophy (Top Goal Scorer), or the Frank J. Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward). Those absences mean that there are 13 trophies left to review, and here is the breakdown of Sweden’s successes in year-end awards.
2013 – Henrik Zetterberg
The league created the NHL Foundation Player Award in 1997-98, and the trophy was retired after 2017-18. The award closely resembled the current King Clancy Memorial Trophy characteristics, so the NHL felt it only needed one award for accomplishments off the ice. Zetterberg was the only Swedish player and just one of five non-Canadian players to win during its 20-year existence.
1985 – Pelle Lindbergh
Lindberg only played seven NHL seasons before a car accident claimed his life at 26. During his tenure, he was one of the league’s best goalies, winning the bronze medal at the 1980 Olympics and leading the Philadelphia Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1985. He became the first Swedish player in league history (along with Anders Hedberg, 1985) to win an individual award.
2012 – Henrik Lundqvist
Lundqvist has had a Hall of Fame career in 15 seasons with the New York Rangers. Consistently labeled as one of the game’s greatest goalies, Lundqvist is only missing a Stanley Cup Championship on his resume. The Olympic Gold Medalist and World Champion achieved everything else a goalie can, with a career-best season in 2011-12, earning him a Vezina Trophy.
1988 – Mats Näslund
Näslund played nine seasons in the NHL and was a nominee for the Lady Byng Trophy in eight of those seasons. Although he only won one individual award during his tenure, he did get his name engraved on the Stanley Cup in 1986 as a member of the Montreal Canadiens.
2018 – William Karlsson
Karlsson wound up selected by the Vegas Golden Knights during their expansion draft and had a resurgence year in 2018. He was a vital member of the organization who lost in the Stanley Cup Final during their first season, scoring 43 goals and a career-best 78 points in 82 regular-season games.
2003 – Peter Forsberg
Forsberg came to the NHL in 1994 after scoring the Golden Goal at the Olympics. Before being voted the league’s most valuable player (MVP) in 2003, Forsberg had already won several awards and two Stanley Cups. He scored over 100 points twice in his 13-year career; the first time was his rookie year (116 points) and second in 2003 (106 points).
2010 – Henrik Sedin
Henrik and Daniel Sedin were the faces of Vancouver Canucks hockey for 17 years. The twin brothers had a sixth sense to their game, and their career numbers are nearly identical. Henrik scored a career-best 110 points during the 2009-10 season to become just the second Swedish player named the league’s MVP.
2003 – Markus Näslund
Näslund was traded from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Vancouver Canucks in 1995-96, where he blossomed into one of the game’s premier left wingers. With 48 goals and 56 assists, he scored a career-best 104 points, finishing second in scoring behind Forsberg. He became the first Swedish player to be voted best player by his peers.
2011 – Daniel Sedin
Daniel Sedin was one of the best players in the league during the 2010-11 season, posting a career-high 104 points to lead all scorers. A few weeks after losing in the Stanley Cup Final, he cleaned up at the award ceremony taking home two of the league’s most prestigious awards.
2008 – Mats Sundin
Sundin was the number one pick in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, becoming the first Swedish player with such an honor. He is one of the greatest players in Toronto Maple Leafs’ history, serving as their captain for nine seasons. Thanks to his dedication to his team and community, Sundin was the second recipient of the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award.
2013 – Daniel Alfredsson
Alfredsson was another captain of an Ontario-based NHL team, the Ottawa Senators, who spent countless hours working with the community. As one of the franchise faces, he averaged 70 points a season, leading his team on and off the ice.
2019 – Robin Lehner (Sweden) & Thomas Greiss (Germany)
2021 – Robin Lehner (Sweden) & Marc-Andre Fleury (Canada)
Lehner started his career with the Senators and then moved to the Buffalo Sabres. Personal issues haunted the 6-foot-4, 240-pound goalie until he went to the New York Islanders and became one of the game’s best goalies in 2019. He moved onto Chicago before finding a new home in Vegas, where he continues to be a backbone for his team, with career numbers of 2.69 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage.
1985 – Anders Hedberg
Hedberg played in the World Hockey Association (WHA) for several seasons, winning the Avco Trophy twice. He was considered one of Swedish’s first great success stories in North America. After the WHA and NHL merger in 1979, Hedberg played with the New York Rangers, winning his only professional individual award in 1985.
2019 – Robin Lehner
As mentioned previously, Lehner had some dark days while playing with the Sabres. After seeking professional help to overcome his troubles, Lehner bounced back and had a career-defining season in New York in 2019.
2021 – Oskar Lindblom
The Philadelphia Flyers drafted Lindblom in 2014, and he played his first NHL game in 2017. After a career-defining season in 2018-19, Lindblom missed the majority of the 2019-20 season because he was battling cancer. After a full recovery, Lindblom returned to the Flyers in 2020-21, scoring 14 points in 50 games.
2002 – Nicklas Lidström
Lidström was the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ MVP in 2002, with the Detroit Red Wings crowned champions for the third time in six seasons. Outside of being named the league’s MVP during the regular season, winning the playoff MVP trophy is among the most significant player accomplishments. He became the first Swedish-born player to win the award and just the second player born outside of Canada to win.
2008 – Henrik Zetterberg
Zetterberg was one of the game’s best defensive forwards and was one of the leaders on the Red Wings who captured the Stanley Cup for the fourth time in ten years in 2008. His complete game, covering both ends of the ice, earned him the playoff MVP, following in the footsteps of his captain Lidström. He was the second Swedish-born and non-Canadian to win the award.
2020 – Victor Hedman
Hedman has been a force to reckon with during his time in Tampa Bay. When the 2019-20 season got postponed and resumed in the Canadian bubble environment, Hedman used the opportunity to show the world he was indeed the best defenseman in the game.
2003 – Peter Forsberg
The NHL came into existence in 1918; however, the league didn’t have a trophy to represent the leading scorer until 1948. There have been 72 winners since then, with only three Swedish players on the list.
2010 – Henrik Sedin & 2011 – Daniel Sedin
As mentioned prior in another section, Forsberg was the first Swedish-born player to win the award with 106 points in 2003. The Sedin brothers handed the trophy off to one another, with Henrik scoring 112 points in 2010 and Daniel scoring 104 in 2011. The twins became the first brothers to win the award and the first to win it back-to-back.
1995 – Peter Forsberg
Forsberg burst onto the NHL scene after a trade from Philadelphia to the Quebec Nordiques. In the high-flying days of the 1990s, Forsberg scored 50 points in 46 games en route to his first NHL award.
1996 – Daniel Alfredsson
Alfredsson kept the Calder Trophy in Sweden’s grasp, becoming the second player from the country to win the award with 61 points in 82 games. The 1995 and 1996 seasons marked the first time in league history that players from Sweden had won back-to-back awards.
2012 – Gabriel Landeskog
Landeskog ended a 16-year drought, becoming just the third Swede to win the Calder Trophy in 2012. He scored 52 points in 82 games, had a plus-20 rating, and collected 51 penalty minutes for good measure. The following season, he became captain of the Colorado Avalanche, following previous winners who eventually became NHL captains.
2019 – Elias Pettersson
Pettersson captured the country’s fourth Calder Trophy with an impressive 66 point campaign in 2018-19. As one of the game’s future stars, he produces at a near point-per-game pace and should be a key player for the Canucks as they continue to build towards the franchise’s first championship.
2012 – Daniel Alfredsson
After winning Rookie of the Year in 1996, Alfredsson led the Senators to their only Stanley Cup Final in 2007. Throughout his time in Canada’s capital city, Alfredsson gave back to the community tirelessly, showing his leadership on and off the ice.
2015 – Henrik Zetterberg
Zetterberg used his international star power to help grow charities in Detroit and launch international endeavors in foreign countries that needed assistance.
2016 – Henrik Sedin
Sedin is a local legend in the Vancouver metro area, giving back to the city he started to call home in 1999. Henrik went above and beyond to help the local hospitals and sick patients with donations through various charities.
2018 – Henrik and Daniel Sedin
As previously mentioned, the Sedins made Vancouver their home and used their downtime to help build a strong community. Their biggest claim to fame is raising $42 million for the Canucks for Kids program in 18 years. The 2018 Sedin win is the only time in the trophy’s history that there are co-winners.
2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011 – Nicklas Lidström
When people think of the best defenseman to ever play the game, everyone’s mind usually wanders over to Bobby Orr. He won the Norris Trophy eight straight seasons and has the most wins overall. There are only two other players, Doug Harvey and Lidström, who won the award seven times.
Lidström was one of the game’s best defensemen during his 20-year career (1990-2012), finishing in the top 10 in Norris Trophy voting in 17 of those seasons. At the end of 2020-21, Lidström remains the most decorated Swedish-born player in NHL history, adding four Stanley Cup titles and a Conn Smythe Trophy to his mantle.
2012 & 2015 – Erik Karlsson
Karlsson was one of the game’s premier defensemen in the early 2010s. After two subpar seasons to start his career, Karlsson broke out and captured the Norris Trophy in just his third season. Then when he ascended to the captaincy of the Senators in 2015, he won his second award in six seasons. Karlsson has received votes for the Norris in eight of his 12 seasons.
2018 – Victor Hedman
Hedman has now played 12 seasons in the NHL and is considered one of Sweden’s best globally. Although he has won the best defenseman award once, he’s been a finalist five seasons running. It may be safe to say that winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles means more than individual awards, however as one of the game’s elite, he does deserve more recognition when it comes to his place in award history.
Inside the Numbers
Since the NHL handed out its first award in 1924 (Hart Trophy), there have been 812 winners throughout 97 seasons. Sweden players have won 41 awards, accounting for only 5.04% of the overall winnings.
Lidström leads the way with eight awards, followed by Henrik Sedin with four and his brother Daniel with three. Zetterberg, Lehner, Alfredsson, and Forsberg also have three. Only Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman have two wins on their resume. Players with one trophy a piece include Hedberg, Pettersson, Landeskog, Lundqvist, Markus Näslund, Mats Näslund, Sundin, Lindblom, Lindbergh, and William Karlsson.
When broken down by position, left wingers have the most wins with six, followed by centers with five. Goalies and defensemen tie with three apiece, and right wingers have two. Nine of the players on this list were captains of an NHL franchise during their careers, while many others served as alternates.
Swedish players make up roughly 10.5& of the league’s demographics today, so there is a good chance someone on this list will win an award or two in the upcoming seasons. The Swedish junior program and the Swedish Elite League (SHL) have plenty of talent waiting to make their NHL debuts. There is no telling what these future stars have in store for the league once they arrive.
Ryan Gagne is one of the newest members of The Hockey Writers, covering the New York Islanders. He grew up in a small town in northern New Hampshire, where he idolized the Boston Bruins. Before moving to Canada in 2008, he was the equipment manager for his high school varsity hockey team and a sports journalist for the local newspapers. Ryan has been active in the hockey community, whether coaching, officiating, instructing, or playing. He is the ultimate rink rat with 19 years of experience making ice and driving the Zamboni. An avid fantasy sports player, Ryan created a blog, Keeping the Stats, where he dissects his teams and brags about his 2020 fantasy football championship. Outside of hockey, his life revolves around the New York Yankees, much to his wife’s chagrin.