International hockey continues to provide the NHL with an impressive number of players. In 2014/15, some 243 players were born and trained in Europe. Given that 974 players skated in at least one game, the European factor is 24.9 per cent, up slightly from the previous year when 23.7 per cent (233 of 983) were European.
Incredibly, that’s a larger number than what the Americans provided. Some 237 players were born in the U.S., 24.3 per cent.
Similar trends from the previous year repeated themselves. Sweden led the way with 77 players, down one from 2013/14, but the sixth year in a row it led the European contingent. The Czechs were well back in second place with 39, up by two from a year ago. Rounding out the top nations, Russia and Finland both had 35 players in the NHL.
Slovakia declined again, down one player to 13. At its height, the small but fervent hockey-loving nation had 35 players in the NHL, in 2003/04. Incredibly, Switzerland set a record with the same number as Slovakia, 13. Germany, with 10, also set a record for most players ever in the NHL in one season, and for the third year running Denmark had an impressive 8 players.
Austria held steady with three, while Belarus, France, and Latvia all had two. One player came from each of Croatia, Lithuania, Norway, and Slovenia.
Canada led the way with 494 players, or 50.7 per cent of the total NHL population.
As far as rookies are concerned, many of the same trends played out. There were a total of 132 players who skated in their first NHL game in 2014/15. Canada led the way with 60, followed by the U.S. with 32. After that, the Swedes, with 12, were the top European nation again, the eighth straight year they led the way in rookies.
In all, ten nations were represented. Russia and Finland each had six rookies, the Czechs five, Germany and Switzerland three. Austria had two and three nations had one new player: Belarus, Croatia, and Latvia.
Of particular note is that lone Croatian player, Borna Rendulic. He played eleven games with the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the first player born and trained in Croatia ever to play in the NHL. In all, 16 European nations were represented in the NHL during the 2014/15 season.
Number of NHL players by nationality:
1. Canada 495
2. USA 237
3. Sweden 77
4. Czech Republic 39
5. Finland, Russia 35
7. Slovakia, Switzerland 13
9. Germany 10
10. Denmark 8
11. Austria 3
12. Belarus, France, Latvia 2
15. Croatia, Lithuania, Norway, Slovenia 1