The National Hockey League (NHL) was founded in 1917 and is the premier professional ice hockey league in the world. While it was originally restricted to Canadian and US players, the NHL now has teams in all the major North American sports cities as well as in international locations such as London and Paris. The NHL consists of several professional leagues including the regular season and playoffs. During the regular season, which runs from September to April, each team plays 32 games. The teams that finish last in each conference are automatically qualified for the playoffs, while the remaining eight teams go into a championship round where they play for the Stanley Cup. As you might imagine, with such a physically demanding sport, the NHL is full of talented and skilled players.
The Top Finnish Players In The Nhl
With the world’s best players suiting up for the NHL in the 2019-20 season, it’s a great opportunity to catch up with the Finnish players who are currently plying their trade in North America. Below are five NHL superstitions to keep an eye out for in the upcoming season.
1. Kopitar – Los Angeles Kings
The first thing that might catch your eye is undoubtedly the name on the back of the jersey. You might know him as the captain of the Kings, Anze Kopitar, who is also the league’s most recently crowned champion. Kopitar is one of the most prolific goal scorers of all time and is currently ninth on the NHL’s all-time scoring list with 626 goals. If you’re a fan of the movie Slap Shot, you’ll know exactly what kind of hockey player Kopitar is, as he was the subject of a famous scene when he punched Marty McSorley in the face during a game in November 1995, for comments made about his mother on the ice beforehand. If there’s one place you’ll find Kopitar playing, it’s the Kings. In fact, he holds the record for the most goals scored by a King (271) and the franchise’s all-time scoring leader. He’s also a two-time Stanley Cup champion and a two-time Olympic gold medallist.
2. Alex Tuch – Montreal Canadiens
The first part of this equation, ‘Montréal Canadiens’ is an abbreviation of Montreal Canadiens, the name of the French-speaking team that played from 1924 to 1993 and became one of the most recognizable and successful franchises in NHL history. Like many other teams in the league, the Habs have seen their profile rise as of late thanks to a number of young superstitions who are making their presence felt in the league. The most notable of these is Alex Tuch, the team’s leading scorer this past season. Tuch led the Canadiens in goals (29) and points (53) in just 62 games. He was an important part of the Habs’ run to the 2019 Stanley Cup Final where they fell to the eventual champions, the St. Louis Blues.
3. Aleksander Barkov – Florida Panthers
Another team that’s made a name for itself in the past few seasons is the Florida Panthers. The franchise relocated from Chicago to Southern California prior to the 2014-15 season and have been doing extremely well since their arrival; however, it’s been even more impressive with some of their younger players stepping up and taking the reins. In particular, the emergence of Alexander Barkov as one of the league’s top young stars is a testament to the team’s scouting department and the Finnish Ice Hockey Federation which assisted them in identifying young talent. Barkov was the second overall pick in the 2014 NHL Draft and has since gone on to establish himself as one of the elite skaters in the league. He led all NHL rookies in goals (18), assists (31) and points (49) last season and is currently second in the league in goals, assists and points this year.
4. Mikko Rantanen – Colorado Avalanche
Speaking of the Avalanche, one of the newest members of the NHL, they were founded in 1995 and made an immediate impact, making the playoffs in their first season and then going on to become a perennial playoff team. One of the players who made that impact was Mikko Rantanen, a Finnish forward who led the league in goals (36) and points (64) last season and is currently the franchise’s all-time leader in goals (173), assists (232) and points (395). Like many great players in the league, Rantanen also has a Stanley Cup to his name, winning in 2016 with the Avalanche. The team captain has been a mainstay on the national team since his rookie season and won a silver medal at the 2016 IIHF World Championship.
5. Joonas Donskoi – Nashville Predators
Last but not least, we have Joonas Donskoi, one of the fastest players in the entire NHL and a vital part of the Nashville Predators‘ youth movement. Donskoi was born and raised in Finland, spending most of his time playing ice hockey. In fact, he was such a prolific youth hockey player that he was actually selected for Finland’s 2015 youth hockey team that won the gold medal at the EuroHockey Championships that year. He made the jump to the pro level two years later and has since been on an absolute tear, racking up 26 goals and 37 points in 63 games for the Predators in 2018-19. Nashville will look to continue their excellent standing in the league as Donskoi and the rest of the team’s top prospects look to take the next step forwards in the coming season.
Are There Any Former Finnish NHL Players?
There are a number of former NHL players who were born in Finland but then moved across the pond for a career and established themselves as stars there. The most notable of these is Teemu Selanne, who was picked first overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1989 NHL Draft but then spent the majority of his playing career in the United States. He won the Calder trophy as the league’s top rookie in 1992 and then went on to play 16 seasons for the Jets, Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars, amassing over 1,500 points in the process. Even more impressively, he still holds the record for most points in a regular season (692) and most goals in a regular season (258).
Another great skater who has a lot of success in the US is Jere Lehtinen. Drafted in the second round of the 1990 NHL Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins, Lehtinen made his name in the US playing for the Nashville Predators and New York Rangers, collecting 261 goals and 532 points in five seasons. He also won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers in 1999 and played for the Tampa Bay Lightning in the NHL’s expanded era before retiring in 2013.
Which Current Finnish NHL Player Do You Enjoy Watching The Most?
It’s a funny thing about hockey fans: no matter where you go in the world, you’ll always find fans of the game. This is especially true for Finland, which has produced a number of great players over the years and is still one of the world’s leading producers of hockey talent, even though the sport isn’t as popular there as it is elsewhere. With the world’s best players entering the league this year, it’s a good opportunity to follow and watch the up-and-coming superstitions who will bring their talents to the ice for the 2021-20 season and beyond.