Players don’t need to be suiting up in the NHL to make a memorable impact at the Olympics. Look no further than these 10 players who have been standouts at the competition despite playing outside North America.
With the absence of NHL talent from the Olympics, the players highlighting the 2018 Winter Games won’t include any of the familiar faces that we’ve become accustomed to at the tournament. However, the Olympics have a rich history of non-NHL players taking their game to another level at the best-on-best competition.
Dating back to the 1980 Olympic Games in Lake Placid – anyone remember how that ended? – here are 10 players from leagues outside the NHL who put together outstanding Olympic performances:
Ville Peltonen, Finland — 2006 Turin Olympics
Peltonen was no stranger in North America when he stood out at the Turin Games. He had parts of four NHL seasons under his belt, and during what was then his final foray in the AHL, he had scored 27 goals and 60 points in 53 games for the Nashville Predators’ minor league affiliate. Peltonen had left the NHL and AHL for Finland in 2001-02, though, and was plying his trade for Switzerland’s HC Lugano when he got the call the Olympic team. His four-goal, nine-point tournament made him the fifth-highest scorer in Turin, and his performance earned him a shot with the Florida Panthers the very next season.
Philippe Bozon, France — 1998 Nagano Olympics
Finishing in a tie for fifth in the scoring race with seven points might not scream standout performance, but Bozon was spectacular for France at the 1998 Olympics. At the time, he was more than three years removed from his last NHL action — he played 144 games with the St. Louis Blues from 1991-92 to 1995-95 — but he was the catalyst behind France’s modest success at the Games. His five goals accounted for half of the French goal-scoring across the tournament and his 1.75 points per game was the second-best mark among all players, just a shade behind leader Teemu Selanne.
Miroslav Satan, Slovakia — 1994 Lillehammer Olympics
Heading into the 1994 Games, Satan was only months removed from being selected in the fifth round, 111th overall, by the Edmonton Oilers in the 1993 draft. He had been an absolute star for the Slovaks at the World Junior Championship earlier in the year, but it was his performance in Lillehammer that really turned heads. Slovakia was an offensive powerhouse at the tournament, scoring 35 goals in four games, and Satan lead the charge with a competition-best nine goals. Somehow, that wasn’t enough to earn him a shot at the NHL the next season, but he went on to score 363 goals and 735 points in a 1,050-game NHL career.
Jarmo Myllys, Finland — 1994 Lillehammer Olympics
From 1988 to 1992, Myllys took the crease in more than 40 NHL contests. His performance in those games, however, wouldn’t have led many to believe he had much to offer. Arguably his best NHL campaign saw him suit up in 27 games with the San Jose Sharks, over which time he managed a 5.02 goals-against average and an ugly .867 save percentage. Again: that was his best year in the NHL. But at the 1994 Olympics, Myllys was a wall and he has the scintillating stats to prove it – 0.60 GAA and .966 save percentage. He allowed no more than one goal against in any of his five starts, and shut out Norway in the preliminary round before blanking Russia in the bronze medal game.
Corey Millen, USA — 1988 Calgary Olympics
Millen was a standout at the University of Minnesota, registering an impressive 119 goals and 241 points in 149 games during his college career. And even though he had been drafted in the third round, 57th overall, by the New York Rangers in 1982, Millen ended his time at Minnesota and headed to Switzerland where he torched the Swiss League for two seasons before heading back to North America. In the middle of those two years, though, came the 1988 Calgary Games, where Millen was dynamite for Team USA. He scored six goals and 11 points as the tournament’s highest-scoring player from a nation other than the Soviet Union.
Vladimir Krutov, Soviet Union — 1988 Calgary Olympics
Really, if you wanted to go back far enough, this list could simply be dominated by Soviet players. However, as we’ve made the choice to go back no further than 1980, let’s pinpoint Krutov’s performance as one of the best by a non-NHL talent. He paced the 1988 Olympics by scoring six goals and 15 points in eight games en route to posting a competition-leading 1.88 points per game. His performance made him that much more appealing across the pond, where he eventually joined the Vancouver Canucks for the 1989-90 season. He would leave the NHL after just one season.
Erich Kuhnhackl, Germany — 1984 Sarajevo Olympics
If the name looks familiar, there’s good reason. Erich is the father of Pittsburgh Penguins winger Tom, and while the younger Kuhnhackl plays a grinding, bottom-six role, the senior Kuhnhackl was a scorer through and through. At a tournament that included the likes of Slava Fetisov and Pat LaFontaine, Kuhnhackl was the offensive standout, netting eight goals and 14 points in six games for a bonkers 2.33 points per game for West Germany. Amazingly, Kuhnhackl failed to ever get a taste of life in the NHL. He did, however, finish his career in the German top flight with 691 goals and 1,353 points in 715 games. He was the German Gretzky, basically.
Nikolai Drozdetsky, Soviet Union — 1984 Sarajevo Olympics
The nod for the best performance by Soviet player at the 1984 Games could realistically go to Fetisov, but let’s tip the cap to Drozdetsky instead. Unlike Fetisov, Drozdetsky never made the jump to North America, but his tournament in Sarajevo was outstanding. Though always a steady scorer in the Soviet League, Drozdetsky took his game to another level and was white-hot offensively. In seven games, he scored 10 goals and 12 points for the gold medal-winning Soviet side. His performance was such that he led the tournament in goal-scoring.
Jaromir Sindel, Czechoslovakia — 1984 Sarajevo Olympics
Another entrant from the 1984 Olympics, and quite possibly the most brilliant performance of the entire tournament. Sindel was spectacular for Czechoslovakia in Sarajevo. After Jiri Kralikn ceded the crease following an opening win over Norway, Sindel took over and was almost unbeatable. He allowed just five goals against in six games, shutting out Austria, Canada and Sweden, and was never beaten more than twice in a single contest, including the gold medal game against Soviet Union, where he turned aside 31 of 33 shots. It was the only game of the entire tournament in which the Soviets were held to less than four goals.
Milan Novy, Czechoslovakia — 1980 Lake Placid Olympics
There was no offense that could keep pace with the Soviets at the Lake Placid Games, as the star-studded team averaged upwards of 10 goals per game en route to the silver medal. The Czechoslovakians were closest, though, scoring 40 goals in four games at the competition. And some quick math tells you all you need to know about Novy’s performance. His seven goals put him second in goal-scoring on the team, as he accounted for slightly less than one-fifth of the Czechoslovakian goal total, but with 15 points he was in on more than one-third of the total offense. And despite the Czechoslovakians playing two fewer games than the Soviets, Novy was the scoring leader at the tournament.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.