Not too shocking, most of the players mentioned on this list were one dimensional type of dudes. In this day and age, you need the total package, speed, skill and vision are all mandatory components. You can thank the youth movement taking place in the league for that.
With the youth taking over, the older players now have an even lesser shelf life in the league: 30 is now the new 40, it appears. With the standard and expectations increasing, more and more players have decided to take their talents elsewhere, primarily overseas in Europe whether it be in the Finnish, Swedish, Czech or Russian leagues. In this article, we examine 15 players that not only made the jump, but players you likely had no clue are still playing. Some of you might be shocked given their age, while others, you simply haven’t heard a thing about in the last couple of years leading to the assumption that they might have changed crafts. We're here to tell you that they have not, and are still alive and well on the ice elsewhere!
Enjoy the article and like always, be sure to share the article with a buddy, he’ll get a kick out of this one! Without further ado, here are 15 pictures of former NHL stars you won’t believe are still playing. We start with a player that was drafted in the 90s! Let’s begin.
15 Pavel Brendl – HKM Zvolen
Drafted in the late 90s, yes, one Pavel Brendl remains active today! At the age of 36, the forward is keeping the dream alive back in Europe playing in the Slovak Extraliga. Turning back the clock to almost two decades ago, Brendl was a pretty big deal and scouted as a massive prospect before stepping foot on NHL ice. He tore up the WHL with the Calgary Hitman scoring 73 and 59 in back-to-back seasons. With such numbers, the Flyers took a shot at him early in the ’99 Draft picking him up fourth overall. The draft was weak in general with Patrik Stefan going out first, so the pick wasn’t as bad.
Brendl would turn into a journeyman playing all over Europe when he finally decided to leave North American following the ’05-’06 season. After stops in Sweden, Russia Finland, Switzerland and Czech Republic, it looks like Brendl’s spending his final days over in Slovakia as a member of the HKM Zvolen.
14 Anton Volchenkov – Admiral Vladivostok
Looking back, the Russian defenseman made the correct decision to leave the NHL while he still had some value a couple of years ago. Today, Anton’s type of game is slowly becoming extinct as the role of a stay at home defenseman is no longer sought after. Teams around the league are now looking for a 200 foot type of d-man that can get it done defensively, while also, showing a degree of offensive vision as a puck mover, starting a rush for the offense. Anton was certainly not that guy as he made his name be known around the league for playing a hard-hitting, defensive style.
After quietly leaving the league in 2015, Volchenkov took his talents back home to Russia. At the age of 35, the former Ottawa Senator’ is still playing entering his second season with the Admiral Vladivostok.
13 Gilbert Brule – HC Traktor Chelyabinsk
Similar to the previously mentioned Pavel Brendl, the Edmonton native entered the league as a red hot prospect with huge upside. Brule tore up the WHL with the Vancouver Giants, his play certainly put him on the map as he was selected in the top six of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Looking at how loaded that draft was, the Jackets likely lost some sleep on the potential of having taken the likes of Kopitar, Rask, Oshie, Vlasic, Neal and Letang to name a few, all of which, were still available at that point in the draft.
Riddled with injuries and constantly in and out of the lineup, Brule’s NHL career was mostly forgettable. To his credit, he’s kept the dream alive in the last couple of years hoping for a fresh new start in Russia. Gilbert’s currently in his fourth season in the KHL playing for his fourth different team...
12 Branko Radivojevic – Bili Tygri Liberec
This is a player you likely remember for his name alone, let’s face it, saying Branko Radivojevic is actually quite fun. Trying saying his name five times though, it’s one hell of a tongue twister. Okay, nonsense aside, the dude is still keeping the dream alive as he’s trending towards his 40s at the age of 36, set to turn 37 in November.
Branko was one of the many players on this list that just couldn’t translate their junior success onto the NHL surface. After six lackluster seasons, he left the league for good taking his talents overseas for the last decade. Before entering the Czech league three years ago, Branko made a brief pit-stop in the Slovak League along with six seasons in the KHL. He recently added a league championship to his resume, so at least we assume the 36 year old is having fun!
11 Zack Stortini – Charlotte Checkers
This one might be one of the few on the list that you actually knew about given the fact that he’s still playing in North America as a member of the American Hockey League. Although Zack looks like he’s in his 40s and living on the street, the dude is surprisingly still relatively young at the age of 31, set to turn 32 in a couple of days.
Like Volchenkov earlier, Zack’s another player who’s seen his role slowly become extinct in the last couple of years. The enforcer type player is no longer relevant, as teams are now looking to youth and speed as a cheaper option. For that reason, the veteran has spent his last six seasons in the American Hockey League loading up on penalty minutes. With the AHL also slowly evolving into more of a skilled game as well, Zack’s career might come to an end sooner rather than later.
10 Brandon Yip – HC Kunlun Red Star
Yip is another player you likely only remember for his unique name, though very few would believe the player is still keeping the dream alive overseas nowadays. Yip made waves in the NHL but more so for his ethnicity than his actual play, Yip was ¾ Chinese and a quarter Irish, you can’t make this stuff up folks.
Known more for his defensive play as a forward, his lack of goals was truly his downfall. Being a positional player isn’t enough in the league and that led to Yip’s AHL demotion. He departed for Europe during the ’14-’15 campaign joining the DEL League. He recently changed league this offseason joining the KHL. He’s currently playing his first season as a member of the Russian Red Star team.
9 Jiri Sekac – AK Bars Kazan
Okay, so this one isn’t all that shocking given the fact that he’s still a youngster at the age of 25. However, the sheer randomness of this player is enough to surprise the casual reader, seriously though, how many of you thought about this player recently? Very few, very few.
He had the size and skill which excited Montreal fans, however, he just couldn’t fit the bill with the Habs. The team wasn’t the problem as he encountered the same results playing alongside Getzlaf in Anaheim, when you can’t get it done with Ryan, chances are your just not going to get it done with anyone. Still young and entering his prime, Sekac quietly left the league in 2016 joining the KHL team AK Bars Kazan. He’s off to a decent start this new season putting up four points in the first six games.
8 Jeff Tambellini – Free Agent (Recently Played In The SEL)
This is another player from the 2000s that diehard NHL fans feel a certain degree of nostalgia when hearing the name. Jeff Tambellini was another high end prospect selected in the first round by LA Kings. You know your careers plagued when LA draft’s you, seriously aside from Kopitar and Doughty, the team’s recent draft history has been pretty bad but that’s a convo for another time.
Jeff spent his entire NHL career as a glorified AHL player. The dude put up multiple 30 goal seasons down in the American Hockey League, even scoring 38 during one campaign, however, he never put up double digits in the goal column during his NHL seasons.
Looking for a fresh new start, going overseas was a good choice for the veteran as he piled up a couple of championships overseas. Jeff played in Sweden last season and is currently assessing his next move. Retirement bells might be looming for the former first round pick.
7 Ville Leino – Vaxjo Lakers
Red Wing fans haven’t been too pleased with the Detroit’s difficulties in dealing with players when it comes to negotiations; take the case of AA for example. Though, the Wings deserve some big time praise for letting this player go, the Sabres signed Leino to a ridiculous four years, $28 million dollar deal. Even then, the contract was viewed as ridiculous.
What followed was predictable; Leino was unable to meet his contract requirements not even scoring a goal in his final year in the league. The poor guy is still playing today at the age of 33. After bouncing around the KHL and Swiss League, he’s finally settled over in Sweden during his last two campaigns. Not sure if it’s the Swedish air, but he looks a lot like his former teammate Henrik Zetterberg nowadays.
6 Karri Ramo – Jokerit
Seriously speaking, we could have done an entire article on former Calgary goalies alone and where they are now. The team just hasn’t been able to settle on a permanent fixture in the pipes. From Joni Ortio to Karri Ramo, the wheel seems to be always turning when it comes to the position.
The Finnish goalie actually put up decent numbers, though the biggest problem was he never truly grabbed the reigns as a number one. After a couple of years in the AHL, Ramo opted to go back home most recently, ending last season in the SM-liiga. The 31 year old is starting fresh this season close to friends and family back home as he’s now dawning the Jokerit Helsinki jersey in the KHL (the team just left Finland and joined the Russian league due to attendance issues).
5 Ben Scrivens – Salavat Yulaev
Yup, we do in fact live in a world where the goalie to potentially represent the greatest hockey nation on the planet is a dude that many didn’t even know is still playing today. No disrespect to the 30 year old, but in truth, thinking about Scrivens rocking the Canadian leaf is a bit of a nightmare...
Nightmare’s aside, we credit Scrivens for continuing his playing days overseas and to his credit, he’s in line for an opportunity of a life time at the upcoming Olympic Games. For now, he continues on in the KHL, he was excellent last season and is off to another great start this year winning his first three out of four games. He’ll need to take his game to another level this year and hey, if he does well on the big stage maybe than can mean a return to the NHL?
4 Dustin Boyd – Dynamo Moscow
You might notice another familiar face in the picture above, that’s Nigel Dawes, the former teammate of Boyd back in Russia. Both players have re-launched their careers overseas after lackluster NHL campaigns.
Almost netting 50 in junior along with a brilliant rookie campaign in the AHL, the Flames had lots of reasons to get excited about the big forward joining their team. The expectations quickly fizzled however and after years of inconsistent playing time, Boyd wisely headed overseas. The decision has been a good one as he’s called Russia home for the last seven seasons. His numbers have been very consistent, though he recently departed from his former team Astana Barys, for a fresh new start this season with Dynamo Moscow.
3 Tom Kostopoulos – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
How can you not cheer for a guy like Tom Kostopoulos? If you refuse to, check your pulse. At the age of 38, not only is the journeyman still going strong down in the American Hockey League but he’s also putting up remarkable numbers and if you can believe, career numbers! Seriously though, this is movie quality stuff. As a member of Pittsburgh’s AHL team, Tom notched 24 goals and 30 assists last season - yeah, if you remember his game that’s truly unbelievable. A big part of his success is the PIMs number going way down, it looks like Tom finally kept his mitts on and focused on the new era of the game that pertains to skill.
Wearing the “C” on his jersey, we applaud Kostopoulos and his extraordinary journey!
2 Maxime Talbot – Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
As the seasons went along, Talbot’s game grew slower and slower as he tried to keep up with the youth of the league. With limited offensive flare to his game, Talbot became an afterthought in a league surging with youth. Many thought Max’s AHL demotion be the end of his career, however, he chose to continue his journey overseas joining the KHL team Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
To his credit, the Quebec native put up stellar numbers. His defensive game was on point as a + 16 player, he also got it done offensively finding the back of the net 15 times along with 36 points. He’s currently in his second season with the team, set to turn 34 next year; this might be the veteran’s final season.
1 Cristobal Huet – Lausanne HC
We saved the best for last. At the age of 42! Yes, 42, the net-minder of French descent Cristobal Huet is still at it playing the role of back-stopper overseas in the Swiss National League.
To give you an idea of how long this guy’s been around, he started playing professional junior hockey in France back in 1995. In 1998, he joined the Swiss League and it’s there in where NHL scouts found the goaltender. He put up a memorable season in Montreal along with a decent year in Chicago, but aside from those two campaigns - his run in the league was forgettable.
He departed in 2010 and has played in the Swiss league ever since. Huet is set to enter his sixth season as a member of Lausanne HC.
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