Hockey is an international game, and the NHL is a fine example of this worldview.
As the 2018-19 season gets going in earnest, here’s a look at the 18 countries that are providing the NHL with players, from perennial hockey heavyweights such as Canada and the United States to off-the-grid puck powers such as Australia, France and the Netherlands.
Note: There were 69 goalies on the 31 NHL team rosters when this was written, and they were all included in this exercise. Skaters, on the other hand, needed to have appeared in at least one NHL game this season to be included. A total of 610 skaters had played at least one game. The information below is through games played as of Oct. 13.
THE BIG SIX
CANADA: 268 skaters / 26 goalies
Notable: No big surprise here. Canada has been the NHL’s leading producer of players since Gordie Howe wore short pants. Even longer than that, in fact. Do the math, and 43.9 percent of the skaters who have suited up in an NHL game so far this season have been Canadian (268 out of 610). For goalies, it’s a little lower, with Canada’s masked men accounting for 37.7 percent of the league’s netminders (26 out of 69). Canada is the leading (or tied) provider of players for 25 of the NHL’s 31 teams. (Boston, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York Rangers, Washington and Winnipeg are the exceptions, with the U.S. being the top source of players for those teams.) St. Louis tops the NHL with 18 Canadian players on its roster, followed by Edmonton and Montreal with 16 apiece. At the other end, the Bruins have just four Canadian players on their roster, while the Capitals and Wild have five.
UNITED STATES: 158 skaters / 16 goalies
Notable: The U.S. accounts for 25.9 percent of the NHL’s skaters (158 out of 610) and 23.2 percent of the league’s goalies (16 out of 69). Boston leads the way with 13 American players on its roster, followed by Minnesota (12) and New Jersey (11). Edmonton, meanwhile has just one U.S. native in its lineup (2017 first-round pick Kailer Yamamoto), followed by Montreal and St. Louis with two apiece.
SWEDEN: 65 skaters / 7 goalies
Notable: Sweden provides 10.7 percent of the NHL’s skaters (65 out of 610) and 10.1 percent of the goalies (seven out of 69). Two of the Swedish netminders play in Vancouver (Jacob Markstrom, Anders Nilsson) and three others play in the New York area (Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers, Robin Lehner for the Islanders, Eddie Lack for the Devils). Detroit and Vancouver lead the NHL with five Swedes on their roster, while there isn’t a Tre Kronor to be found in Florida or Winnipeg.
FINLAND: 31 skaters / 7 goalies
Notable: From Finland comes 5.1 percent of the NHL’s skaters (31 out of 610) and 10.1 percent of the goalies (seven out of 69). Two of those netminders tend net in Nashville (Pekka Rinne, Juuse Saros), while Arizona (Antti Raanta) and Boston (Tuukka Rask) also feature Finns as their No. 1. Montreal and Dallas lead the way with four Finnish players on their respective rosters, with the Canadiens featuring 2018 first-round draft pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi, while the Stars have loaded up on young defensemen with Miro Heiskanen, Julius Honka and Esa Lindell. Eight NHL teams don’t have a Finnish player on their roster (Anaheim, Detroit, Los Angeles, NY Rangers, Ottawa, St. Louis, Tampa Bay and Washington).
RUSSIA: 26 skaters / 5 goalies
Notable: Russia, one of the biggest hockey-playing countries in the world, provides only 4.3 percent of the NHL’s skaters (26 out of 610) and 7.2 percent of its goalies (five out of 69). No doubt the rise of the KHL has a lot to do with that, though it’s worth noting that Russia’s top players generally opt for the NHL over their home league. You know who we’re talking about – the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Vladimir Tarasenko and Artemi Panarin. Hey, even Alex Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk have come back to the NHL. Not to mention, two of the five Russian NHL goalies are viable Vezina Trophy candidates in Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy. Washington tops the NHL with four Russian players (Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Dmirty Orlov, Dmitrij Jaskin), while 13 teams don’t have a single comrade.
CZECH REPUBLIC: 26 skaters / 3 goalies
Notable: Like Russia, the Czech Republic accounts for 4.3 percent of the NHL’s skaters (26 out of 610). And the Czechs are equally represented in net, at 4.3 percent (three out of 69). Chicago, Dallas, Detroit and Philadelphia lead the league with three Czechs apiece, while 12 teams have none.
REST OF THE WORLD
SWITZERLAND: 11 skaters
Notable: Nashville boasts three of the NHL’s 11 Swiss players in Roman Josi, Kevin Fiala and Yannick Weber. New Jersey is the only other team with more than one — the Devils have two, with 2017 first-overall draft pick Nico Hischier and defenseman Mirco Mueller.
DENMARK: 5 skaters / 1 goalie
Notable: Winnipeg’s Nikolaj Ehlers is the headliner, Washington’s Lars Eller is coming off a Stanley Cup, and Frederik Andersen is getting plenty of scoring support as the No. 1 goalie in Toronto. (The other two Danes? Columbus’ Oliver Bjorkstrand and Ottawa’s Mikkel Boedker.)
GERMANY: 4 skaters / 2 goalies
Notable: Half the league’s German skaters – which is to say, two — toil in Edmonton (Leon Draisaitl, Tobias Reider), while the Islanders’ Thomas Greiss and Colorado’s Philipp Grubauer are pushing for the No. 1 goaltending job with their respective teams.
SLOVAKIA: 4 skaters / 2 goalies
Notable: With Zdeno Chara and backup goalie Jaroslav Halak, Boston boasts one-third of the NHL’s Slovak population. The others: Arizona’s Richard Panik, Montreal’s Tomas Tatar, Toronto’s Martin Marincin, and L.A. goalie Peter Budaj.
AUSTRIA: 3 skaters
Notable: By name, they are Thomas Vanek in Detroit, Michael Grabner in Arizona and Michael Raffl in Philadelphia.
FRANCE: 2 skaters
Notable: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare puts in the work on Vegas’ fourth line, Xavier Ouellet skates the blueline in Montreal.
NORWAY: 2 skaters
Notable: Mats Zuccarello is a Rangers fan-favorite, while big Andreas Martinsen plays a depth role in Chicago.
AUSTRALIA: 1 skater
Notable: Washington’s Nathan Walker, NHL trailblazer by way of Oz. We should note, though, that he wasn’t born in Australia — he entered this world via Wales.
LATVIA: 1 skater
Notable: Remember when Latvian hockey fans stuffed the ballot box and sent Buffalo’s Zemgus Girgensons to the 2015 NHL All-Star Game?
NETHERLANDS: 1 skater
Notable: Keep an eye on Daniel Sprong in Pittsburgh, the 16th overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft has been knocking on the door.
SLOVENIA: 1 skater
Notable: You’re going to have to figure this one out on your own. (Hint: He plays for the Kings and he’s really good.)
UNITED KINGDOM: 1 skater
Notable: Arizona’s Brendan Perlini was born in England – his father went there to play pro hockey — but his family moved back to Canada when he was 11.