NHL @ 100: The Top Players From Sweden

(AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)

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.).

Now that we have chronicled the best from Russia and Finland, then, here is Team Sweden (from goalies to defencemen and then forwards).

20. Tommy Salo, G

Tommy Salo will always be remembered in Sweden for alternately being a savior, and a goat, at the international level. Before King Henrik Lundqvist came along, Salo was the “it” goalie for Sweden, backstopping the national team to glory at the 1994 Winter Olympics by making several acrobatic saves against Canada in the final. But, at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, Salo wore the goat horns when he was beaten for a bad goal in a loss to Belarus in the quarter-final — one of the biggest upsets in Olympic hockey ever. In between those Olympics and after, Salo had a fairly lengthy career in the NHL. Drafted by the New York Islanders in the fifth round (118th overall) in 1993, the native of tiny Surahammar would play in 526 games (second among all Swedish netminders), posting a record of 210-225-73. He had 37 shutouts, a .905 save percentage and 2.55 goals against, playing mostly with the Isles and Edmonton.

(AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy)

(AP Photo/Rusty Kennedy)

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