There are so many talented former NHL players playing in Europe and that can be a bit disappointing for us North American hockey fans. Sometimes our favourite players to watch growing up simply cannot keep up with the NHL and are sent away to the other side of the world to try to save their careers. That can be a bit sad for both sides, especially when you consider the fact that some less talented players may still be on NHL rosters.
With this list, we will be looking at fifteen former NHL players that need to be brought back to the league from overseas. So many players on this list still have the ability to compete with many of the players in the NHL today and should have the opportunity to prove it. Although many of these players most likely will not have the chance to, it still is interesting to consider why they should come back to the NHL.
Here are 15 for NHL players who should be brought back from overseas.
15 Jonas Hiller
At one point Jonas Hiller was a top goalie in the NHL for the Anaheim Ducks. Today he is playing in Switzerland. This is an intriguing case because as soon as he went to the Calgary Flames, his play dropped dramatically and he found himself out of an NHL job.
In my opinion, Hiller is a goaltender who very well could fit into a backup role for teams who are weak in the goaltending department. The Boston Bruins desperately need to find a backup for this season and it would be fascinating to see them bring Hiller onto their squad.
14 Maxim Afinogenov
It is highly unlikely that Maxim Afinogenov will ever play another game in the NHL, but it would be amazing to see it nonetheless. During the early 2000s, Afinogenov was one the most intriguing players to watch because of his blistering speed and puck handling skills.
Buffalo fans would love to see this beauty come back to the league, even if it is only under a PTO or a depth role. Afinogenov’s NHL career was definitely cut a short due to injury, but from a hockey lover’s standpoint, it would be so cool to see him back in the NHL.
13 Nikita Filatov
Nikita Filatov is an unfortunate case because he was known to have serious attitude problems when he was a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the late 2000s. The former 6th overall pick never lived up to his expectations and he primarily has himself to blame for that.
It would still be nice to see Filatov try to make an NHL team again. He is still fairly young and has a lot of time left at the professional level. Although it is unlikely that many teams would take the bait with him, Filatov in the NHL again would be very interesting.
12 Mark Arcobello
Mark Arcobello was the perfect example of an NHL journeyman during his stint with the league and that ultimately may be the reason why he is without an NHL job today. Arcobello has the skill and defensive ability to be a 4th line centre in the league and should be back here soon.
Every NHL team needs depth forwards and Arcobello would fit that criteria perfectly. Although he was never a superstar with teams like the Edmonton Oilers, he had moments when he was a very reliable player and displayed that he did have a place in the league.
11 Sergei Kostitsyn
Sergei Kostitsyn had a fairly short career in the NHL, but ultimately was a solid third line winger. It is a bit surprising that he did not last long in the NHL because he did have all the tools to blossom into a star in the league. Sadly he never could get his game together on the big stage.
Kostitsyn is a player who very well could get a second chance in the NHL if he plays his cards right. At age 30, he still has time to develop his game and possibly land a PTO with an NHL team. He will however need to show that he still can be a reliable sniper.
10 Andrei Kostitsyn
Sergei’s brother, Andrei also finds himself in the KHL today and he can only blame his off ice antics for that. During the 2012 playoffs, Andrei and teammate Alex Radulov were at a bar until 5 AM the night before a game and were then benched for the rest of the series.
Andrei was a very talented hockey player, but his lack of work ethic and decision making is why he is not in the NHL. However it may be time for him to try to redeem himself and join an NHL team again. If Radulov was able to have a solid career again, there is nothing stopping Andrei from trying to do the same.
9 Alex Frolov
It has been a long time since we have heard the name Alex Frolov during an NHL game and that is a bit surprising. Frolov was once a star for the Los Angeles Kings, but saw him game drop dramatically when he joined the New York Rangers.
Although it has been a long time, Frolov could easily find his game again in the NHL if he is given the opportunity. Frolov was a very talented sniper and goal scoring is a gift that never seems to fade away from a star’s game.
8 Kyle Chipchura
Kyle Chipchura was a very talented penalty killer and fourth line role player during his tenure in the NHL and for that, he should have another chance to play in the league. NHL coaches always stress that they are always looking for two-way forwards, so Chipchura should get a second look.
Chipchura is not necessarily a game changing player, but his hard work and sound defensive ability is what makes him deserve a PTO. He is still young enough to resurrect his career as well, so maybe we will see him back with an NHL club again.
7 Gilbert Brule
At one point in time, Gilbert Brule was a top prospect for the Edmonton Oilers. Yet due to rushing his development Brule quickly found himself out of the NHL. Although he never reached his full potential in the NHL, he potentially could with a second chance.
Gilbert Brule has quickly grown into a star center in the KHL and for that reason alone he could end up landing a PTO with an NHL team sooner rather than later. He is definitely still in his prime as well so nothing is beyond reach for the once highly touted prospect.
6 Linus Omark
Linus Omark is such a strange case when it comes to his NHL career because in his one full season with the Oilers he actually put up solid numbers. Yet after that he was sent down to the AHL and barely played in the NHL again before moving to Europe.
Omark is a special player when it comes to dangling and offensive skill, so he could easily play in the NHL again one day. He is quick enough to last in today’s NHL as well so if he continues to do well in Europe, he should get some calls from NHL teams for his services.
5 Jonathan Cheechoo
Arguably the coolest last name in NHL history, Jonathan Cheechoo is still an active player in Europe. Everyone will remember Cheechoo for his 50 goal season with the San Jose Sharks when he played with Joe Thornton. After that season, he suddenly fell off in production and the rest is history.
Oddly enough, Cheechoo has actually found his game again in Europe and could be good enough to land at least a PTO with an NHL club. Although this is incredibly unlikely, it would be very intriguing to see Cheechoo back in the NHL. Maybe he can magically score 50 goals again.
4 Nigel Dawes
Nigel Dawes is currently tearing it up in the KHL, which is a bit surprising considering how his NHL career went. Dawes was never necessarily a bad player in the NHL, but he simply did not have many chances to shine. Now looking at him, I bet his former teams regret that.
Dawes should one day find his way back to the NHL and show that he can be a talented sniper in North American hockey. Dawes appears to have been a late bloomer in terms of development because he is a top tier player in Russia and with that, should find an NHL contract one day.
3 David Booth
David Booth was once considered a very talented player in the NHL, but sadly, he dropped in skill due to injury. After moving to the KHL for the past two seasons, Booth appears to have found his game and could be back in the NHL shortly.
This offseason, Booth signed a PTO with the Detroit Red Wings and that is excellent news for the names on this list. It shows that former NHL players still can have the chance to make it back to the top league in the world. Here’s to hoping Booth makes a good impact with the Red Wings and makes the squad.
2 Pavel Datsyuk
Although Pavel Datsyuk has made it clear that he will not be returning to the NHL, everyone hockey fan wants to see it. Datsyuk was the face of the Red Wings’ franchise for almost two decades and left when he was still a very useful player.
Maybe I am being a bit greedy here, but Datsyuk coming back to the NHL would be excellent for the game. It will be similar to when Jaromir Jagr came back to the NHL after a handful of seasons playing in Europe. Regardless, a fan can dream to see Datsyuk back on the Red Wings, right?
1 Ilya Kovalchuk
Ilya Kovalchuk almost came back to the NHL this offseason and that would have been epic. Kovalchuk was an absolute superstar during his stints with both the Thrashers and Devils. However, due to his atrocious contract with the Devils, he decided to book it to the KHL.
Now that his contract will be off the books, he has the opportunity to return to the NHL freely as a UFA next offseason. This will be huge because the NHL will be getting back one of its top players. All Kovalchuk has to do now is join a team that can actually win and not be stuck in a rebuilding phase like he was for the entirety of his NHL career.