According to NHL International, more than 33 percent of NHL players spanning 14 countries come from outside of North America. Given that it’s the dog days of August, now is a great time to evaluate the best European-born forwards to play in the NHL.
Teemu Selanne, Finland
Of course, this list has to include the Finnish Flash. What’s to be said about Teemu Selanne that hasn’t already been quipped? The future Hall of Fame forward is beloved in both his homeland of Finland as well as North America. As one of the all-time bests, Selanne played the game well and played it with integrity.
Selanne’s 684 goals is just outside the top 10, good enough for 11th all time. He made an immediate impact scoring 76 goals during his rookie campaign, earning him the Calder Memorial Trophy. The culmination of Selanne’s career came when he finally captured the Stanley Cup in 2007.
Sergei Fedorov, Russia (USSR)
Sergei Fedorov is a childhood favorite. He was one of the game’s most versatile players, able to play as a forward or a defenseman. He translated his dual offensive and defensive prowess into two Selke Trophies as well as a Hart Memorial Trophy.
Fedorov’s 1,179 career points and plus 261 rating was good enough to get him elected into the Hall of Fame in 2015. As part of a very talented Detroit Red Wings team that included the likes of Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan, Fedorov captured three Stanley Cups.
Jaromir Jagr, Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia)
Jaromir Jagr has a spot waiting for him in the Hall of Fame if he ever decides to hang up his skates; he just loves playing the game. It’s that love that keeps him not only playing but thriving well into his 40s. He has a work ethic unlike anyone else.
A prime example was when he arrived in Dallas and asked for a key to the practice facility so he could work out late at night. He also elected to have an extended stay in a hotel near the rink instead of moving into an apartment in a nice neighborhood.
Jagr’s longevity has not only made him the greatest Czech player of all time, but one of the best players of all time – period. He’s one of only four players with 1,800 points and has been a force down low and along the boards for generations.
Stan Mikita, Slovakia (Slovak Republic)
Although Stan Mikita is a Canadian national, he was originally born in Sokolče, Slovak Republic under the name Stanislav Guoth. After leading the Chicago Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup in 1961 with six goals, he emerged as one of the NHL’s best players the following season.
Over the course of his career, Mikita racked up 1,467 points, good enough for 14th all time. He also earned four Art Ross Trophies and two Hart Memorial Trophies.
Mikita and teammate Bobby Hull were known for using extremely curved sticks, which led the NHL to limit stick curvature to half an inch.
Jari Kurri (Finland)
Some like to credit Jari Kurri’s success to playing with exceptional teammates Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky, but nothing should be taken away from his career.
Kurri enjoyed both individual and team success, winning five Stanley Cups and accumulating nearly 1,400 points. Kurri’s best performance was during the 1985 playoffs when he scored 19 goals. Overall, he tallied 233 points in 200 playoff games.
Mats Sundin (Sweden)
One of the most endeared Toronto Maple Leafs in recent memory is Mats Sundin. Although he never captured Toronto’s elusive Stanley Cup, he proved to be a great leader and was a model of consistency.
Over the course of this career, he averaged just over a point per game, tallying 1,349 points in total. That mark is the most of any Swede and Sundin is also the Leafs all-time leading goal scorer (420) and points getter (987).
Peter Stastny, Slovakia (Czechoslovakia)
The young fans of today are probably more familiar with Peter Stastny’s son Paul who plays internationally for the USA. However, Peter was born in Bratislava and was the second highest scorer of the 1980s, trailing only Gretzky.
The Hall-of-Fame forward made an immediate impact in the NHL, scoring 109 points during his rookie campaign, which earned him the Calder Memorial Trophy. He ended up with 1,239 points while playing in less than 1,000 games.
Stastny holds the record for most points in a road game with eight, which he achieved on February 22, 1981 against the Washington Capitals.
Pavel Bure, Russia (USSR)
Aptly named The Russian Rocket, Pavel Bure is one of the most electrifying players to ever lace’em up. He may not have the same career numbers as other players on this list, but he was very effective, averaging more than a point per gamer over his career.
In 2012, he was elected to the Hall of Fame. Over the course of his career, he won a Calder Memorial Trophy and thrice led the league in goals, earning two Maurice Richard Trophies (the award didn’t exist before the 1998-99 season).
Fans most remember him for his highlight reel goals, some of which are featured in the video below.
Peter Forsberg, Sweden
One player who we wish we could’ve seen play more NHL games is Peter Forsberg. Playing in only 708 NHL games, Forsberg amassed 885 points and never had a season where he finished with a minus rating (aside from his brief comeback in 2011 where he only played in 2 games).
Forsberg also excelled in big games, amassing 171 points in 151 playoffs games, on his way to two Stanley Cups.
Forsberg was one of the best playmakers of his generation, and stands ninth all-time in career points-per-game and fourth all-time in career assists-per-game.
Alexander Ovechkin, Russia (USSR)
Although his career is far from over, Alexander Ovechkin already lands on this list. He’s the best scorer of the current era and compliments his offensive prowess with a tenacious physical game.
Ovechkin should blow past the 500 goal mark this season and has already amassed six 50-goal seasons, including a 65-goal campaign. Ovechkin has earned a Calder Memorial Trophy, three Hart Memorial Trophies and Maurice Richard Trophies, in addition to several other accolades.
The only knock against Oveckin is his lack of success in the postseason. However, in spite of his team’s inability to win, he still averages nearly a point per game in the playoffs.
As is always the case with these lists, half of the fun is the debate. Is someone missing? Should someone not be on the list? Comment below with your thoughts.