When André Peloffy suited up for the expansion 1974-75 Washington Capitals, he became the first player born in France to play in the National Hockey League. Originally selected by the New York Rangers in the ninth round of the 1971 Draft, Peloffy never played for the “Blueshirts” and was traded to the Capitals prior to the start of their inaugural season.
His NHL career lasted a mere nine games – all played with the Capitals in the fall of 1974 – and he went pointless throughout. While Peloffy may have been born in France, he was not a product of his country’s development system for hockey. He played his junior career with the Laval Saints and the Rosemont National in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
Peloffy would, however, go onto having a stellar career for France’s Men’s National Team. He played in six World Championships and one Olympics for his country. By the time Peloffy retired after the 1989 season, he was France’s all-time leading scorer in international play with 55 points (28G, 27A) in 42 games.
It would not be until Mar. 10, 1992 when Philippe Bozon debuted for the St. Louis Blues that a player who was French-born and trained would play in the NHL. As a passion for hockey has continued to grow in France in the decades since, six other players besides Bozon would fall into that same category. One would even become a Stanley Cup champion, while three more would earn themselves full-time NHL jobs.
THW ranks for you the top-5 players from France in NHL history. See if you agree with who we selected and where we slotted them on our list.
5) Alexandre Texier
Alexandre Texier has played parts of two NHL seasons before his 21st birthday. Hailing from Grenoble in the French Alps, he is the youngest player to make our list. We also have a feeling that Texier will rise further up our list as the years go along.
Texier grew up in France playing for the same club his father Frabrice played for, Brûleurs de Loups in Ligue Magnus. Internationally, Texier has played for France at both the junior and senior levels. At the 2017 Men’s U18 World Championship, he helped his country win the Division I tournament to earn France’s very first promotion into the Top Division.
When the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Texier with the 45th overall pick of the 2017 draft, he became the first player drafted directly out of France and into the NHL. While he spent some time playing in Finland for KalPa while under contract for Columbus, he would eventually come to North America. The Blue Jackets assigned Texier to their AHL affiliate the Cleveland Monsters late in the 2018-19 season.
Texier would make his NHL debut on Apr. 5, 2019 against the New York Rangers. He would score his first NHL goal the very next day against the Ottawa Senators.
Through his first 38 regular season games between 2018-19 and 2019-20, Texier has tallied seven goals and seven assists for 14 points. He is also 2-1-3 for scoring in 8 playoff games for the Blue Jackets. Those numbers will undoubtedly continue to go upward.
4) Philippe Bozon
We mentioned Bozon at the start. Not only was he the first French-born and trained player in the NHL, but he was also the only one to have legitimized himself as a full-time player in the league before his more recent contemporaries came along. Bozon was proof that players from his homeland could be NHL regulars.
While he excelled in the more defensive aspects of the game, he was able to hold his own alongside St. Louis Blues superstars like Brett Hull and Brendan Shanahan in the early to mid-1990s.
Bozon played parts of four seasons for the Blues. His fullest season came in 1993-94 when he played in 80 of St. Louis’ 84 regular season games, plus all four of their postseason games as well. His 80 games played were second-most on the team that season behind Hull’s and Shanahan’s 81 – no other Blues surpassed 77 contests that season. Additionally, Bozon’s scoring marks of 9-16-25 tied him for seventh place among St. Louis scorers.
Despite the solid showing, Bozon played just one more NHL game after that and returned to Europe following the 1994-95 season in order to finish out his career. He scored 16 goals, 25 assists and 41 points in 144 regular season games. Though his NHL career was rather fleeting, Bozon played a total of 21 seasons of professional hockey between North America and Europe.
It is also important to note that Bozon is a 4-time Olympian and completed in 12 World Championships for France. He is presently the head coach of the French Men’s National Team.
For his role as the first player from France to solidify himself in the NHL, Philippe Bozon earns the fourth spot on our list.
3) Pierre-Édouard Bellemare
Similarly to Texier, Pierre-Édouard Bellemare played in France’s premier men’s league, Ligue Magnus. He has played in a total of 12 World Championships for Team France, as well as four Olympic qualification tournaments. Additionally, Bellemare played four seasons for the Ligue Magnus’ Dragons de Rouen, before eventually jumping over to Sweden where he truly made a name for himself across nine seasons.
Bellemare utilized his time with Leksands IF and Skellefteå AIK to further develop his scoring touch and his level of play. In 238 SHL games, he achieved totals of 64 goals, 61 assists and 125 points. Bellemare’s last season in Sweden – 2013-14 for Skellefteå AIK – was his finest season with 20 goals, 15 assists, and 35 points in 52 games.
The solid SHL performance caught the attention of the Philadelphia Flyers. At the age of 29, Bellemare signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Flyers on Jun. 11, 2014. He has remained in the NHL ever since.
Following three solid seasons in Philly, Bellemare was selected by the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. He played in all 20 of Vegas’ playoff games in 2017-18 season as the first-year club made it to the Stanley Cup Final. Bellemare remained with the team for the 2018-19 season as well.
Signing a new two-year contract on Jul. 1, 2019, Bellemare is currently a member of the Colorado Avalanche. In total, he has gone 38-49-87 in scoring through 454 NHL regular season games. Those 454 contests are the second-most amount of games played in the league by a player from France.
2) Antoine Roussel
Forward Antoine Roussel has played the most amount of NHL games among any player from France. An undrafted forward, he was born in Roubaix, France, but played his junior hockey in the QMJHL for the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. He has represented France in five World Championships and served as team captain for their World Junior team in 2009.
Roussel spent his first two seasons of professional hockey in the minors and earned looks from the Boston Bruins and Vancouver Canucks. Nothing came to fruition until he signed a contract with the Dallas Stars on Jul. 2, 2012. He would split the 2012-13 season between Dallas and their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.
Roussel made his NHL debut on Feb. 1, 2013 and subsequently played in 39 of Dallas’ 48 games that season. He scored his first goal in his first NHL game against the Phoenix (Arizona) Coyotes.
From that point forward Roussel earned himself a full-time position in the Stars organization. He played five additional seasons of 81, 80, 80, 60, and 73 games respectively for Dallas. Never one to shy away from the more physical aspects of the game, Roussel also compiled a total of 806 penalty minutes in his 413 games as a player for the Stars.
After six seasons in Dallas, Roussel opted for free agency and signed a four-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks on Jul. 1, 2018. He set a career-high in points during the 2018-19 season (9-22-31 in 65 games), but suffered a torn ACL in a game on Mar. 13. Requiring surgery, his recovery time forced him to miss the beginning of the 2019-20 season.
Roussel has compiled 80 goals, 105 assists and 185 points in 519 regular season games in the NHL. For his competitive nature, multitude of games and value to his hockey club, Roussel earns the runner-up spot on our list.
1) Cristobal Huet
It should be no surprise that goaltender Cristobal Huet is at the top of our list. Of all the players to come to the NHL from France, he is certainly the most decorated and most accomplished.
After establishing himself as a superb goalie in his homeland for Brûleurs de Loups and in Switzerland for HC Lugano, Huet was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the seventh round (214th overall) of the 2001 Draft. Finding success with the Kings’ AHL affiliate Manchester Monarchs, Huet climbed the charts and eventually showcased himself as a starting goalie in Los Angeles. He suited up for the Kings in both 2002-03 and 2003-04.
As part of a 3-team trade on Jun. 26, 2004, Huet was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in a deal that sent goalie Mathieu Garon to Los Angeles and center Radek Bonk from Ottawa to Montreal. Following the 2004-05 NHL lockout, Huet became the primary netminder for the Canadiens and remained as such until injury and the emergence of Carey Price pushed him aside.
While in Montreal, Huet was the recipient of the 2006 Roger Crozier MBNA Saving Grace Award as the goaltender with the top save percentage in the NHL (0.929). He was also a nominee for the Bill Masterton Trophy that same season. The following season (2006-07) Huet would represent the Canadiens at the 2007 NHL All-Star Game as one of the three goalies for the Eastern Conference.
In late-February 2008, Huet was traded from Montreal to the Washington Capitals, namely to make room for Price. The stay in Washington was short-lived, but Huet performed admirably well as he finished out the 2007-08 season.
On Jul. 1, 2008, the first day of unrestricted free-agency, Huet agreed to terms on a 4-year deal with the Chicago Blackhawks. He would become the team’s number-one goalie, but lost the starting position to Antti Niemi come playoff time in 2009-10. Despite assuming the backup role, Huet had played the majority of the regular season games for the Blackhawks as the team would go on to win their first Stanley Cup since 1961. He became the first and thus far only player from France to have his name inscribed on the trophy.
Huet went to Switzerland following the 2010 championship victory, and finished out his career with eight more seasons in the Swiss leagues.
With a record of 129-90-11-21 in 272 regular season games, Cristobal Huet is our undisputed number-one pick for being France’s first Stanley Cup champion, an NHL All-Star and major individual NHL award winner.
General Manager of the Buffalo Beauts (NWHL). Hockey history writer “The Hockey Writers”. Credentialed media for the NHL Combine and 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships in Buffalo, NY, USA. Born and raised in Buffalo, NY. Lifelong hockey fan for over 40 years. Proponent of the women’s game.