51 Europeans sign for NHL

Fewer Euro players cross ocean, but number remains high

29.09.2011
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Sweden, here with Ottawa’s first-round draft pick Mika Zibanejad against Finnish goalie Richard Ullberg at the U18 World Championship, remains the top talent producer in Europe. Photo: Francois Laplante / HHOF-IIHF Images

ZURICH – 51 new European players have either signed an NHL contract or joined their NHL team this year, with a week to go until the start of the season.

Click here for the full list of NHL-Europe transfers.

This is five players, or 9% less, than one year ago, but the number remains high. Looking at the results of the past six years of the study, there have never been more Europeans in the NHL, other than 2010.

Adding to the 51 new players were five returning European players – including veterans Jaromir Jagr and Yevgeni Nabokov – down from seven last year. 13 North Americans (up from 11) returned from European leagues to sign with NHL teams.

Sweden remains the top European talent supplier with 22 players, down from a record 26 players last year. Finland has been a stable number two with a record ten players (2010: 8). Other notable countries are Russia (5), Germany (4), the Czech Republic (3), Switzerland (3) and Slovakia (2). While the numbers from Russia, the Czech Republic and Slovakia went down in the last few years, Germany and Switzerland enjoy increased player representation in the NHL.

Denmark and France have one NHL rookie each. Forward Stéphane Da Costa could become the first French-trained NHL player since Cristobal Huet and the first skater since Philippe Bozon. The three-time World Championship participant left France as a 17-year-old to play junior hockey in the United States for three years and two years of NCAA college hockey. He already played four games for the Ottawa Senators in April after finishing his college season and before joining the French national team.

There were no new player transfers from Belarus, Latvia and Norway this year.

Not all of the new signings are participating in training camp. Some needed to be signed by their NHL teams in order to keep the player rights, but remained on loan in Europe. This trend to let European players develop in top professional leagues rather than in the AHL has come up in the last few years. This year eight Swedes and three Finnish players will play in these Northern European countries on loan.

Not all of the players in the NHL camps will make the final roster. Some were sent to the AHL or junior teams while 20 European rookies remain on the camp rosters as of September 28.

23 NHL players leave for Europe

While there are fewer European NHL rookies than last year, the number of NHL players transferring to Europe has increased.

23 players who have played at least ten NHL games last season signed with European teams including veterans like Alexander Frolov, Alexei Kovalyov, Nikolai Zherdev, Jarkko Ruutu and Rob Niedermayer. 14 out of these 23 were European players and nine North American.

Eleven out of the 23 players signed with clubs from the Russian Kontinental Hockey League (including two with Kazakhstan’s Barys Astana). Three of these players (Ruslan Salei, Karlis Skrastins, Alexander Vasyunov) were victims in the tragic plane crash in Yaroslavl.

The other destinations were Sweden (8), Switzerland (2), Finland (1) and Germany (1). More than 50 players who spent part of or the entire season on farm teams transferred to Europe, including 21 European AHL returnees.

MARTIN MERK


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