The NHL will officially start celebrations for its 100th anniversary, starting Jan. 1, 2017.
Toronto and Detroit will tangle in the Centennial Outdoor Classic at BMO Field to kick off a year-long festival honoring the game and its roots.
We’ve already gotten into the spirit and published our 100 greatest players of all time. Purely subjective, but we think most would agree the picks were solid.
Since it’s a global game now, we got to thinking, who were the best NHLers to come from each country? Again, a subjective list that excludes greats like Vladislav Tretiak, who would have been a star in the NHL.
Looking at historical representation, Canada leads the list with over 5,000 (5,071 to be exact), naturally. The U.S. has put just over a fifth of that total in the league with 1,145. It’s a sliding scale from there, with talent born in far flung places like Japan and Lebanon.
So, we’ve come up with a pretty fair list that will include a team (two goalies, six defencemen, 12 forwards) each from Russia, Sweden, Finland, the old Czechoslovakia (combined), Europe (all other nations), the U.S. (two teams) and Canada (five teams: Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies, B.C.).
Starting from the first team west of Russia, then, here is Team Finland (from goalies to defencemen and then forwards).
There are only two Finnish goaltenders who have ever won the Vezina Trophy and one is Tuukka Rask. The former first round (21st overall) draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs won his Vezina with Boston in 2014, after posting a 36-15-6 record with seven shutouts, a .930 save percentage and 2.04 goals against average. Rask did win a Stanley Cup in 2011, when he was back-up to Tim Thomas, but didn’t start a game in those playoffs. Still looking for that first title as a starter, Rask has nonetheless provided the Bruins with elite level goaltending since assuming starting duties in 2012-13. In 353 total regular season games, the native of Savonlinna has a 182-108-46 record, 33 shutouts, a .924 save percentage and 2.22 goals against average. In the playoffs he is 28-19 with a .930 save percentage and 2.11 GAA, along with five shutouts.