Hockey is one of the greatest sports because there are so many talented players in the world. Yet, at the end of the day, every player wants to play in the world’s best league, the NHL. However, a lot of players sadly do not have the opportunity because they cannot keep up with the world’s bests and are forced to play in Europe. However, some players benefit from playing in Europe and become good enough to play in the NHL. Those are the most interesting scenarios.
In this article, we will be looking at fifteen specific hockey players who are playing overseas and deserve the chance to play in the NHL. A lot of these players are currently playing in their home country, while others moved to Europe because they could not keep up with the NHL. However, all of these players have proven through strong seasons that they could very well be good enough for another or first chance in the league.
With that, here are the players in Europe who should be in the NHL and where they could play.
15 Broc Little: Arizona Coyotes
Although very under the radar, Broc Little has been one of the best scorers in the Swedish Hockey League for the past few seasons. Little is a natural goal scorer and would be an excellent sniper for any NHL team to add. He is also from the United States, so it is likely he would return if given the opportunity.
Little is from Arizona, so it would be a great dream for him to play for his hometown team. The Coyotes are a team that definitely need offensive help, so bringing in a guy like Little could benefit them if he can carry his success in the Swedish league to the pros. Little could end up being a good fit for them if they go after him.
14 Anton Burdasov: Los Angeles Kings
Although Anton Burdasov does not necessarily dominate the KHL, he would be an excellent addition for any hockey club that is looking for a solid power forward at a cheap price. Burdasov had a spectacular season with Avangard Omsk this past year, so he very well could use that to transition his game to the NHL.
The Los Angeles Kings would be a very good fit for Burdasov because they need help on the wings and always love signing physical players. Burdasov could slot into their bottom-6 quite nicely and add a little bit of scoring touch. Burdasov is a player who is ready to bring his game to the NHL and hopefully will shortly.
13 Nigel Dawes: New Jersey Devils
Nigel Dawes has not been in the NHL since 2011, but his game has grown immensely since he joined the KHL. He has been a top scorer in the league each season he has played there and has truly become a star sniper in the process. It is fair to believe that Dawes could very well become a productive player in the NHL if he were to return.
The New Jersey Devils would be an excellent fit for Dawes because they are a rebuilding team and need help in their top-6. Although it may take a lot of effort to Dawes to make the club, it is fair to believe he would and find success in the process. Dawes is Canadian so it is fair to believe he would like to return to the NHL.
12 Joakim Lindstrom: Carolina Hurricanes
Joakim Lindstrom was once a highly-touted prospect for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but his NHL career never took off to the spot many believe it would. Since then, he has been a superstar in the Swedish Hockey League and was the leading scorer this past season. This could get other teams interested in his services.
Lindstrom could be a strong option for the Carolina Hurricanes because they need help down the middle and he could provide that. Lindstrom is a very talented playmaker and with the wingers they have in Carolina, he could find success with the club. The Hurricanes are on the rise so they should give Lindstrom a chance.
11 Danis Zaripov: Chicago Blackhawks
Danis Zaripov has been one of the best scorers in the Russia since he became a professional hockey player and even at age 36, he is still a force on the ice. Although it is unlikely that Zaripov would leave the KHL, it is clear that he would be a very talented player for any NHL team that is looking for a talented sniper.
Zaripov could be an excellent addition for the Chicago Blackhawks because they are a team that is looking to win now and could use another veteran presence. Zaripov could be used in their top-6 to replace Artemi Panarin and could dominate in the process. Although this will not happen, it would be extremely intriguing to see.
10 David Booth: Florida Panthers
David Booth was once one of the best players on the Florida Panthers and had so much upside with his game. However, his NHL career quickly turned down a bad path with his consistent injuries and the after effects of them. Yet, after a solid first year in the KHL, it is clear that Booth deserves a second chance in the NHL.
Booth should return to Florida if he ever has the opportunity to play in the NHL again. The Panthers are a team that lost a lot of their wingers and Booth could be a solid replacement for them. Florida is where Booth had most of his success as a player, so he would be welcomed with open arms and could very well find his game again.
9 Derek Roy: Detroit Red Wings
Derek Roy was still a productive NHL player during his last season in the NHL and honestly, should have never lost the opportunity to play. In Edmonton, Roy put up 22 points in 46 games and was one of the few bright spots on that atrocious club. Yet, Roy moved to Europe when he was not offered a contract in the 2015 offseason.
The Detroit Red Wings would be a good destination for Roy because they are in a rebuilding phase and could use a veteran in the locker room. The Red Wings are fairly weak down the middle, so Roy could slot into their third line and try to resurrect his career as a solid player. This could be option for the Wings moving forward.
8 Jonas Hiller: Boston Bruins
Jonas Hiller struggled immensely for the Calgary Flames in 2016, but that very could have been a fluke year. Hiller showed signs of still being a solid goalie last season in Switzerland and he very well could be a reliable backup in the NHL. Hiller is no longer an elite goaltender, but he is not necessarily a bad one either.
The Boston Bruins are desperate to find a backup goalie and the Bruins should consider bringing in Hiller on a PTO to see if is capable of filling this hole. It is definitely unlikely that this will occur, but it is an option that the Bruins could end up looking at. Hiller could end up being an upgrade compared to what they have now.
7 Christian Ehrhoff: Tampa Bay Lightning
Christian Ehrhoff was a very reliable two-way defenseman during his NHL career and at one point, was even elite. However, as his career progressed, his production began to dip due to limited ice time. Yet, after playing a year in Germany, Ehrhoff displayed that he can still be productive if played in the right situations.
The Tampa Bay Lightning should look at possibly giving Christian Ehrhoff a PTO because he could be a very strong veteran presence for the club. Because the Lightning are contenders, they always need players who have experienced a lot on the grandest of stages. If all went well, Ehrhoff could be a great addition for the club.
6 Sergei Mozyakin: Washington Capitals
Sergei Mozyakin is a legend in Russia and the KHL, so it is unlikely that he would leave. However, Mozyakin is a player that very well would be a star in the NHL, even though he is getting older at age 36. Mozyakin has not showed any signs of slowing down his production and has led the KHL in scoring the past two seasons.
If Mozyakin ever decided to join the NHL, he would be an excellent fit on the Washington Capitals. The Capitals obviously have Ovechkin so the two Russians could very well have strong chemistry together and put up a lot of goals. The Capitals also need some help on the wings because they lost Justin Williams, so in a perfect world, Mozyakin would be a great replacement.
5 Chris Lee: Montreal Canadiens
Chris Lee has been through one of the weirdest careers, but today, is a legitimate candidate to be an NHL player at age 36. Lee was an undrafted player who spent his American career in the AHL and never played a game in the NHL. Yet, since moving to the KHL, he has become a star defender and last year put up 65 points in only 60 games.
Lee could be a very solid option for the Montreal Canadiens because they lost Andrei Markov and need a replacement. Lee may not put up the same production as Markov, but if he is the same player as he was in the KHL, the Canadiens could end up being a far better team. Lee deserves his chance to play in the NHL for his persistence and effort.
4 Vasily Koshechkin: Calgary Flames
Vasily Kosechkin is an absolute beast of a goaltender standing in at 6’7’’ and weighing 230 pounds. Koscheckin has quickly grown into the best goalie in the KHL and at age 34, still could make a push to play in the NHL. Kosechkin has proven that he is capable of being an NHL goalie and could even be good enough to start.
The Calgary Flames would be the best spot for Kosheckin because, although they acquired Mike Smith this offseason, their goaltending issue still may not be fixed. The Flames have had issues with goalies for years now and it is easy to believe that they could run into this again. It is better to be safe than sorry, so they should look at Kosheckin.
3 Brandon Bochenski: Colorado Avalanche
Brandon Bochenski showed signs of being a productive hockey player during his time in the NHL, but never could find consistency and eventually left to join the KHL. In the KHL however, Bochenski ended up becoming a star and became a point per game player. With this, Bochenski should have one more chance in the NHL.
Bochenski would be a great fit with the Colorado Avalanche because they are rebuilding and he could slot into their top-6. Although the Avalanche would be a bad team in terms of their record, they would give Bochenski the best chance to succeed. Bochenski is from Minnesota so it would make sense for him to return to the NHL.
2 Jan Kovar: Vancouver Canucks
Jan Kovar is one of the top players in the KHL, but also is young enough to end up becoming a star in the NHL. Kovar is still only 29 and in his prime, so it would make sense for him to make the jump to North American hockey. Kovar would instantly help a team offensively because of his incredible passing ability.
The Vancouver Canucks would be an awesome location for Kovar to join because they are a team that is rebuilding and Kovar could end up becoming a part of their core. Although the Canucks would struggle, Kovar would have the chance to play top-6 minutes and could even eventually become the face of their franchise.
1 Ilya Kovalchuk: New York Rangers
Everyone rememebers when Ilya Kovalchuk shocked the hockey world and bolted from the New Jersey Devils to return home to the KHL. Kovalchuk was a superstar in the NHL and without any surprise, carried his success to the KHL. Next season Kovalchuk stated that he wants to return to the NHL and will be one of the top free agents available.
No one will be surprised if Kovalchuk chooses the New York Rangers because it has been stated that he wants to play there. The Rangers are a contender every year and with Rick Nash’s contract ending, they will have the cap space to make it work. Expect to see Kovalchuk in red, white, and blue starting in October 2018.