For this week’s Top 10 we’re continuing our semi-regular look at the NHL’s best players by country. A couple of weeks ago we began with the Top 10 Czechs, and this week we count down the best Swedes currently in the NHL.
10. Henrik Sedin, Center, Vancouver
The lesser of the Twins is having a good season, but he just doesn’t score enough. Of his 48 points, 39 – or 81 percent – are assists; it’s a lot easier to pass the puck than to score with it. Averaging the second most ice-time amongst Swedish forwards is what pushed him onto this list.
9. Loui Eriksson, Left Wing, Dallas
The third-year NHLer is having a breakout season with the Stars. His 25 goals leads all Swedes and are good for eighth in the NHL. If he continues to score as often the next few seasons, he’ll move up the list quickly.
8. Mats Sundin, Center, Vancouver
Sundin began slowly, but has finally found his legs – maybe Whistler wasn’t such a bad idea – and has four goals and seven points in his past three games. He turns 38 Friday – ironic considering Friday happens to be the 13th and he wears No. 13 – but at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he’s still tough for defenders to handle anywhere on the ice.
7. Patrik Berglund, Center, St. Louis
Berglund is just eighth in scoring among Swedes this season, but he’s also just 20 years old and an NHL rookie. The 6-foot-4, 187-pounder sits second on the Blues in scoring and, most impressively, leads his team in plus-minus by a wide margin. The sky’s the limit.
6. Daniel Alfredsson, Right Wing, Ottawa
The 36-year-old Senators captain is beginning to slow, but he’s still the most complete player on his team. He’s tallied 15 goals and 46 points this season, plays near 21 minutes per game and is the emotional leader for lowly Ottawa, sometimes the only Senator showing any emotion.
5. Daniel Sedin, Left Wing, Vancouver
The third Canuck to make the list is the best Canuck on the list – unless Sundin bulls his way through the rest of the year. Daniel has 23 goals and 51 points to sit second in Swedish scoring. He’s also plus-12 on the year and has five game-winners.
4. Nicklas Backstrom, Center, Washington
The highest-scoring Swede this season is this super sophomore. The 21-year-old, fourth-overall pick in 2006 has 13 goals, 55 points, eight power play tallies and is plus-11. He is the leader of the next great wave of Swedish NHLers.
3. Henrik Lundqvist, Goalie, New York Rangers
“King Henrik” is having a down year – for him – but is still the only Swedish NHL goalie of note and will be the backbone of Team Sweden at the 2010 Olympics. The Rangers are dead last in the NHL in goals-per-game, but still hold down a playoff spot thanks to Lundqvist. He’s also easily the best shootout netminder in the world.
2. Henrik Zetterberg, Left Wing/Center, Detroit
Zetterberg just signed a 12-year, $73-million contract extension and is one of the few NHLers who might be worth such a deal. In 49 games this season, the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner has 20 goals, 49 points and is plus-15. He also wins about 54 percent of his faceoffs, plays nearly 20 minutes each night and is one of the best all-around players in the world.
1. Nicklas Lidstrom, Defense, Detroit
Simply put, Lidstrom is the king. THN named the six-time Norris Trophy-winner (and three-time runner-up) the best European player of all-time last season – something Alex Ovechkin may have something to say about in 12 to 15 years. But even if we hadn’t, Lidstrom’s nine goals, 37 points, plus-21 rating, six power play markers, three game-winners and 25 minutes of play per night for the defending Stanley Cup champions would have made it impossible to have him anywhere but No. 1 on this list.
The THN.com Top 10 appears Wednesdays only on TheHockeyNews.com.
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