The NHL is by far the best professional league for hockey players to play in. The NHL is the home of the best hockey players in the world. What happens however, when you are a good player but not good enough for the NHL?
There are many other top leagues around the world (mainly in Europe). Deutsche Eishockey Liga, National League A, and the Swedish Hockey League have long been the home for NHL players who are past their prime and also for young Europeans who haven’t made their mark in the NHL yet.
In 2008 the Kontinental Hockey League was founded. It helped change the game. Elite players in their prime like Jaromir Jagr and Ilya Kovalchuk left the NHL to join the upstart league. The KHL is still operating in numerous European countries now as it tries to establish itself as a solid 2nd option to the NHL. However with the Russian Ruble taking a hit, the financial stability of the league is on shaky ground.
For the purpose of this list players like Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk will not appear. Most hockey fans know of those players playing overseas. So without further adieu let’s start this countdown of 15 ex-NHL players you didn’t know were still playing overseas with…
15. David Booth
David Booth had a lengthy career in the NHL. He was drafted 53rd overall by the Florida Panthers in 2004. He would make his NHL debut during the 2006-07 NHL season. David Booth reached career highs during the 2008-09 NHL season with 31 goals and 29 assists. His career was plagued by injuries. Booth was traded to the Vancouver Canucks in 2011. Booth continued to struggle in Vancouver, and the Canucks used their last compliance buyout on Booth in 2014. He signed a one year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2014 but he struggled to only 13 points in 59 games.
After a failed PTO with the Panthers in 2015, Booth joined Admiral Vladivostok of the KHL. He made one more failed NHL attempt in 2016 (with the Anaheim Ducks). Booth returned to the KHL this time with Avangard Omsk. Thus far this season, Booth has 7 points in 16 games.
14. Kyle Chipchura
Kyle Chipchura was a huge draft bust for the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens selected Chipchura 18th overall in 2004. He made his NHL debut during the 2007-08 NHL season. He would only play 68 games and only scored 14 points over three seasons with the club. He was traded to the Ducks in 2009 and carved a role as a checking forward. The Ducks let him go as a free agent after the 2010-11 season. Chipchura would play the next five seasons with the Phoenix/Arizona Coyotes franchise. He hit career highs during the 2013-14 season with 20 points in 80 games. Kyle Chipchura left the NHL after the 2015-16 NHL season. He signed a deal with HC Slovan Bratislava. Chipchura has 11 goals and 13 assists in 57 games this season.
13. Derek Roy
Derek Roy had a great career in the NHL. Roy was selected 32nd overall by the Buffalo Sabres in 2001. He would play 738 games in his NHL career scoring 189 goals and adding 335 assists. He reached career highs during the 2007-08 NHL season with 32 goals and 49 assists in 78 games. Roy played eight seasons with the Sabres. After leaving the Sabres, Roy became a bit of a nomad. Roy played three seasons after leaving the Sabres with five clubs. He last played in the NHL with the Edmonton Oilers in 2014-15. Roy had 22 points in just 46 games with the Oilers.
After a failed PTO with the Capitals, Roy joined SC Bern in 2015 where he won the Swiss championship. In July of 2016, Roy signed with Avangard Omsk. He now plays for Traktor Chelyabinsk, where he has 22 points in 53 games.
12. Cristobal Huet
Cristobal Huet had an up and down career in the NHL. He was drafted 214th overall by the L.A Kings in 2001. Huet would play for the Kings, Canadiens, Capitals and the Blackhawks. He had 26 wins during the 2009-10 season with the Chicago Blackhawks. He struggled down the stretch of the 2009-10 season and was replaced by Antti Niemi. The Blackhawks loaned Huet to HC Fribourg-Gotteron due to salary cap issues. After the 2011-12 season, Huet’s contract expired and his loan to the club was over making him a free agent. Huet has played with Lausanne HC since 2012. Cristobal Huet is having his best season in Europe this year. He currently has a record of 22-13-0.
He’s proven that players can carve out a nice career for themselves overseas.
11. Steven Reinprecht
Steven Reinprecht had horrible luck in the NHL. Every time he seemed to get things going he would suffer an injury. In 11 seasons in the NHL (split between the L.A. Kings, Colorado Avalanche, Calgary Flames, and the Coyotes), Reinprecht would only play 663 games and have 382 points. Reinprecht spent one season in the AHL before moving on to the DEL in 2012. Steven Reinprecht has been one of the best players since joining the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers. Reinprecht had 70 points in just 49 games during the 2013-14 season. This season, Reinprecht is among the top scorers in the league with 40 points in 42 games thus far.
Perhaps his body is just better suited to playing for the less rigorous DEL.