Leading the way for the 10th straight year was Sweden, which accounted for 97 of that 278 total. That’s down one player from last year, but it also means that Sweden alone accounts for nearly 10 per cent of the NHL.
Impressively, Finland set an all-time record in 2018-19 by having 49 players, eclipsing its previous best of 42 easily. More significantly, this increase came in a year when the Finns won gold at the World Championship, but with only two NHLers in the lineup, suggesting a real surge in the development of world-class players through the Finnish program.
The Czechs had 40 NHLers and Russia 39, both solid and consistent numbers. Disappointingly, Slovakia had but eleven players, their lowest total since 1996/97 when they had but eight.
Of the so-called smaller nations, three stand out as having made impressive gains. Switzerland had 13 players in the NHL, its sixth straight number in double digits and fourth straight year having more players than Slovakia.
As well, Germany had eight and Denmark seven, important numbers that indicate a well-established presence in North America. Austria, France, and Latvia all had three. Norway had two, and Slovenia, Ukraine, and the Netherlands each had one as well as Australia with Nathan Walker.
Canada, of course, led the way with 435 (43.6 per cent) while the United States had 286 (28.6 per cent).
Rookies in 2018/19 proved another significant success story for Europe. Of the 134 players who skated for the first time in the NHL, 41 came from overseas. Although that number is in line with the last two decades or so, the per cent it represents (30.6) is also the highest since 2003/04.
Sweden and Finland both had eleven newcomers, and while Sweden’s total is its lowest in six years, for Finland that number is the highest since 2003/04 (12) and third-highest of all time (13 in 2001/02).
Canada (55 players/41 per cent) and the United States (38 players/28.4 per cent) led the way, and other European nations included the Czechs (seven, their highest in seven years) and Russia (six). Latvia had two rookies, while Denmark, France, Slovakia, and Switzerland all had one.