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 east, then, here is Team Russia (from goalies to defencemen and then forwards).
Starting from the net out, the all-time NHL Russian team is a darned solid unit. There is plenty of scoring, finesse and a little grit to go around. With all due respect, again, to Vladislav Tretiak, Bobrovsky gets the nod here as the Russian no. 1. The undrafted Columbus Blue Jackets’ netminder is having an all-star worthy campaign, with a solid 17-5-2 record, 1.94 goals against average and .934 save percentage. Of course, his career stats are sterling too, with a 156-95-27 record, 2.50 GAA, 15 shutouts and .918 save percentage. He’s won a Vezina with Columbus — the first Russian to do so — in 2013 and was also a First Team All-Star.