NHL players signing in Europe to play in different hockey leagues are Pavel Datsyuk, Dmitrij Jaskin,Ryan Spooner, Nigel Dawes, and more.
Some players continue to play in smaller leagues after they take their retirement from the NHL. This allows the players to make some earnings and, at the same time keep their love for hockey alive.
Sometimes, the NHL players are forced to find alternatives due to lockouts, failure of contract extensions, and other reasons. During such times, overseas plays are undoubtedly the best option for them.
A significant number of players in the National Hockey League come from European countries including Russia, Finland, Germany, France, and more. When they face lockouts, they choose to play in other leagues.
There are different hockey leagues in European countries, where NHL players have gone to play. The SM-liiga in Finland is one such league.
Other famous leagues in Europe that attract NHL players during lockouts are:
Slovakia - Slovak Extraliga
Sweden - Swedish Hockey League
Czech Republic - Czech Extraliga
Germany - Deutsche Eishockey Liga
Austria - ICE Hockey League
NHL Players Playing in Europe
Some of the prominent NHL players going to Europe are listed as under:
Pavel Datsyuk played for the Detroit Red Wings from 2001-16. In 2017, the NHL named him one of the '100 Greatest NHL PLayers' in history.
The former NHL star won the Stanley Cup with the Wings in 2002 and 2008. After he retired from the Wings franchise, he returned to Russia and started playing in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). In 2017, Datsyuk won the Gagarin Cup with SKA Saint Petersburg.
Datsyuk was the captain of the Russian ice hockey team at the Olympics in 2014 and 2018. The team won the gold medal in the 2018 Olympics.
Dmitrij Jaskin was the 41st overall pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft made by the St. Louis Blues. Jaskin played 5 seasons with the Blues and one season with the Washington Capitals and Arizona Coyotes.
In 2018, Jaskin chose to pause his NHL career. He returned to Russia and signed a one-year deal with HC Dynamo Moscow of the KHL in 2019.
In his first season in the KHL, he posted a record of 63 points in 58 regular season games with the Dynamo. Jaskin recorded a new franchise single KHL season record with his 31 goals.
NHL Lockout Players Europe
NHL lockout took place during 2012-13 due to a labor dispute between the NHL and the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA).
Before 2012-13, the 2004-05 NHL lockout resulted in the cancellation of the whole season. During the lockout, from the top to the entry-level players had to look for alternatives for that season. Some international players went to their home countries and started playing there.
The American Hockey League (AHL) eligible NHL players were assigned to their AHL clubs leading into the lockout. Some experienced athletes opted to go to European leagues such as the Russian Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), and Finnish League SM-liiga.
A number of NHL players got employment with the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (Germany), the Czech Extraliga (ELH), the Erste Bank Hockey League (Austria), and the Slovak Extraliga.
Some players went to play in different leagues in Switzerland, Norway, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and so on. This made the NHL teams worried as they couldn't be sure about the return of the players back in the team.
However, for players, overseas playing provided them an opportunity to keep playing the game and hence improvements on their skills.
The lockout definitely disappointed all the fans and the players as well. On the other hand, the NHLers really managed to gain some benefits due to the lockout.
Maturity and experience: The young athletes got a chance to experience different environments and people during the overseas plays. It helped them to grow as a player in several aspects.
Returning home to witness a change: When you become an NHL star and the whole city knows it, isn't it exhilarating for the players to play in front of hometown crowds?
Stay in shape and ready to perform: Hockey is one of the most physically demanding games. Without keeping yourself fit, you can't expect a great performance. Overseas games benefitted the players to maintain their fitness as well as their game skills.
NHL Players by Country
The table here shows the European players along with their country of origin, currently playing in the NHL:
Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin
Roman Josi, Nino Niederreiter
Jakub Voracek, David Krejci
The Canadian and the United States players have dominated the NHL. It's expected as the league's teams are based in these two countries.
However, there are many players in the NHL who have a nationality other than Canada and the United States. Besides these two nations, most of the players in the NHL come from Sweden, Russia, and Finland.
Sweden occupies 10.1% of the total active players in the NHL. There are 107 Swedish players currently in the league.
The league saw the first Swedish player, Gus Forslund during the 1932-33 season. However, Forslund migrated to Canada with his family at a young age, not playing much in the league.
Ulf Sterner is officially considered to be the first player from Sweden to have played in the NHL. He played in the 1964–65 season with the New York Rangers. Sterner is also the first European-trained player to play in the NHL.
Some of the active and notable Swedish players in the NHL are:
Currently, the NHL has 5.9% of its total players from Russia. Victor Nechayev was the very first Russian hockey athlete to play in the NHL during the 1982-83 season.
The impact of the Russian players in the NHL is huge because of their extraordinary skills. Despite that, these players often have a bad reputation for being enigmatic.
Alexander Ovechkin is one of the most recognized Russian stars in the National Hockey League. He is the captain of the Washington Capitals.
Ovechkin holds the record of being the first player to win the Art Ross Trophy, Lester B. Pearson Award, Maurice Richard Trophy, and Hart Memorial Trophy in a single season.