Euro-NHL transfers stable

60 European players signed with NHL teams

22.11.2016
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The Winnipeg Jets’ Finnish forward Patrik Laine, who was drafted as number 2 overall last summer after becoming the MVP of the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, is currently leading all NHL rookies in points and goals. Photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

The number of European players trying to make the NHL remains stable at a high level. 60 new players either signed their first contracts with their NHL teams or even moved to play in an NHL organizations.

From those 60 players, 46 were with teams in Europe in the last season while 14 came via North American junior or college teams. However, none of the latter group has made the NHL team yet. Those rookies who have remained with the NHL teams at this stage came from European professional club teams from leagues such as the Finnish Liiga, the Russian-based KHL, the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) or the Swiss NLA.

One of them is the Finnish forward in the picture. Patrik Laine, who moved from Tappara Tampere to the Winnipeg Jets, leads all NHL rookies in scoring (18 points) and goals (12).

Since a slow year in 2009 with only 32 signed European players, the number of new arrivals has been consistent between 53 and 62. The class of 2016 thus is one of the biggest groups and up from 56 last year. Additionally, one European player returned from Europe to the NHL, Russian national team forward Alexander Radulov, who moved from CSKA Moscow to the Montreal Canadiens but has played in the NHL before.

Sweden is back as the leading nation in this statistic. After a slow year by recent Swedish standards with 12 freshly signed players in 2015, the number rose to 22 this year. Finland is second and saw its number increase from 12 to an all-time high 13 new players followed by Russia (8) and the Czech Republic (7). The only other two nations with more than one new player are Denmark (3) and Slovakia (2).

For Denmark it’s a comeback with a record number for the country after no player one year ago. All three players went through other countries though. Philip Larsen and Patrick Bjorkstrand played in the KHL last season with a Finnish and Croatian club team respectively while Patrick Russell left home as a 16-year-old to play four years as a junior in Sweden and three years in the U.S. including one as a junior and two in college hockey. Of the trio Larsen is currently the only player left in the NHL having appeared in 13 games for the Vancouver Canucks.

Among those with the biggest decrease are Switzerland (from 5 to 1), Russia (from 12 to 8) and Germany (from 2 to 0). In the last decade Germany only once had no player moving to the NHL, in 2012.

The list also includes two remarkable re-entries. Goaltender Mantas Armalis is the first player from Lithuania to move to an NHL organization since Darius Kasparaitis (1992) and Dainius Zubrus (1996), the only two NHL players from the Baltic country. The Lithuanian national team goalie, who spent his career in Sweden previously, is currently with the AHL’s San Jose Barracuda after having been signed by the Sharks.

Hungary’s first player to sign with an NHL team since Janos Vas in 2005 is a goalie as well. Adam Vay was one of the discoveries of the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in which Hungary got its first top-level victory in 77 years, against Belarus. He moved from Hungarian club team Debrecen to the Minnesota Wild organization but is currently playing for the ECHL’s Quad City Mallards and served as a backup in the AHL. Still, he’s hoping to become the first player raised in Hungary to make the NHL. Fellow goalie Levente Szuper made the Calgary Flames’ game-day roster in 2002/2003 but although he was a backup goalie in nine games, he never played an NHL game.

Yohann Auvitu became the next French player to make the NHL. After eight years in Finland he was signed by the New Jersey Devils and made the team.

Click here for the full list of players.

MARTIN MERK

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