It happens every time hockey is brought out to the world stage. Whether its the World Championships or the Olympics, you size up your national team against the Russians or the Swedes, and you bear witness to old ghosts from fantasy hockey leagues past. These Ex-NHL players seem to pop out of holes and end up on the top line for the Denmark squad, become key components for the Russian power play, and leave you pondering, "Where the heck did that guy come from?'
In the 2009-2010 season, Alexander Semin gelled well with Alexander Ovechkin, amassing 40 goals and a career high 84 points. He had the talent that made all NHL teams jealous, so in 2013 he signed for $35 million over five years, that would be bought out by the Carolina Hurricanes two years later. Often, he was met with criticism that he lacked that quality character and passion for the game that is to be expected from NHL players. After the buy-out, Semin signed a low-risk, potentially high reward contract worth only $1.1 million dollars with the Canadiens, but didn’t find his place with the club. After clearing waivers last week, he signed a deal with Magnitogorsk Metallurg of the KHL.
With Alex Semin leaving Canadiens coach Michael Therrien’s doghouse and heading over to the KHL, it’s time to look at some of the most notable Ex-NHLer’s who’ve made similar career moves whether it would be returning home after a long NHL career, battling injuries, or telling the NHL "thank you, but no thank you."
15 Brandon Kozun
Current Team - Jokerit Helsinki // KHL2015/2016 stats - 40GP - 13G - 23A - 36PTS
Although he only has played 20 games in his NHL career, this speedy 25 year-old is on fire in the KHL. After battling it out in the LA Kings AHL system, he broke out with a decent start with the Leafs in 2014 showcasing his great foot speed, but was sidelined by a leg injury a few weeks into the season. It was feared that the injury may have caused him to lose a step, however with 36 points in 40 games in the KHL, he could be eyeing an NHL return this coming off season.
14 Mike York
Current Team - Iserlohn Roosters// DEL2015/2016 stats - 25GP - 4G - 18A - 22PTS
Mike York came into the league with a 50 point rookie season in 1999-2000 and had a career high of 61 points in 81 games a couple of years later. His time in the NHL started full of potential, but like many other EX-NHLers, he became riddled with injuries. After a 10 year NHL stint, he would move to the SM-liga after a year playing for the Rochester Americans. Now he has five successful years in the Deutsch league under his belt.
13 Alexei Ponikarovsky
Current Team - St. Petersburg SKA // KHL 2015/2016 stats - 29GP - 3G - 1A - 4PTS
A native of Kiev, Ukraine, this fourth round pick native of the Maple Leafs became an NHL journeyman after playing nine seasons with the blue and white. His career best season saw him scoring 61 points while mostly playing along side Mats Sundin in 2008-09. He played for five different teams before heading to the KHL to play out the remainder of his career. He's currently with St. Petersburg SKA, where's he's been for the last four years.
12 Wojtek Wolski
Current Team - Magnitogorsk Metallurg // KHL 2015/2016 stats - 34GP - 12G - 24A - 36PTS
With a 50 point rookie season, Wojtek Wolski seemed to be on the right track to a great NHL career. It wasn’t until 2010, five years after his NHL debut, when he became another player with great potential to be sidelined with injuries and some inconsistency. He's since moved to the KHL where he has enjoyed some decent success over the last three years. Next to Marius Czerkawski, Wolski is the most successful (and only) NHLer from Poland.
11 Ville Leino
Current Team - Riga Dynamo // KHL 2015/2016 stats - 39GP - 3G - 9A - 12PTS
With a breakout 21 point playoff performance in the 2010 playoffs, followed by a decent 53 point point season, Ville Leino quickily became one of the hottest free agents on the market. He signed a six year contract with the Buffalo Sabres and was only good for 46 points over three seasons for the team, including one pitiful season where he played 58 games and couldn't manage a single goal. His contract is often used as a reference in poor free agent frenzy signings.
10 Steven Reinprecht
Current Team - Nuemberg Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers// DEL2015/2016 stats - 20GP - 9G - 13A - 22PTS
Another victim of injuries, Steven Reinprecht had an 11 year NHL career full of shortened seasons with splashes of moderate success. In his eleven years he has only managed to play a total of 663 games. After playing for five NHL teams and a short stint in the AHL, the 39 year-old is now playing his fourth season in the Deutsch Elite League, where he's been one of the top goal scorers in the league.
9 Sergei Kostitsyn
Current Team - Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod // KHL 2015/2016 stats - 35GP - 9G - 7A - 16PTS
The Sedins, the Staals, the Schenns and the Benns; putting brothers together just seems to make sense in the hockey world. Unfortunately for Montreal fans, the brotherly love scenario didn’t help Sergei earn a permanent spot with the Canadiens. He was then shipped off to Nashville where he achieved a career high of 50 points in a single season before heading overseas in 2013.
8 Andrei Kostitsyn
Current Team - Sochi HC // KHL 2015/2016 stats - 26GP - 10G - 11A - 21PTS
Naturally, the bigger brother comes next on the list. Andrei managed to sustain a longer NHL career and a had a bit more success than his younger brother Sergei. They duo were rejoined in 2012 with the Predators after playing together with the Habs. He only played 19 games with the Preds before leaving to the KHL during the NHL lockout. The Kostitsyn brothers haven't played on the same team since.
7 Maxim Afinogenov
Current Team - Chekhov Vityaz // KHL 2015/2016 stats - 37GP - 12G - 5A - 17PTS
This high flying Russian phenom was always known to Buffalo Sabres fans for his blazing speed, making Rick Jeanneret scream and making Lindy Ruff cringe with his constant turnovers. Many forget that he was actually a decent scorer in the NHL, with his best season seeing him grab 73 points in 77 games. After nine seasons in Buffalo and a year with the Atlanta Thrashers in 2010, Maxim left to join the KHL, where he's played for two different teams.
6 Ladislav Nagy
Current Team - Bratislava Slovan // KHL 2015/2016 stats - 36GP - 6G - 8A - 14PTS
Ladislav Nagy had a fairly decent stint with the Phoenix Coyotes from 2003 to 2007, but only when he was able to remain healthy. After eight years in the NHL with four different teams, Nagy played his last NHL game with the LA Kings before making his move to the KHL in 2008. His most productive season in the NHL saw him put up 56 points in 51 games.
5 Tomas Kaberle
Current Team - Brno Kometa // Czech 2015/2016 stats - 26GP - 1G - 10A - 11 PTS
Originally drafted in the 8th round of the 1996 NHL entry draft, Kaberle evolved into one of the best Leafs defenceman of all time. In the 2005/2006 season Kaberle would register 67 points playing alongside his partner Bryan McCabe. Over the course of 984 NHL games, Kaberle would register 563 points. Though the end of his career wasn't great, with failed stints in Boston, Carolina and Montreal, he's been fairly productive back in his native country.
4 Jonathan Cheechoo
Current Team - Minsk Dynamo // KHL 2015/2016 stats - 35GP - 9G - 13A - 22PTS
Eyebrows everywhere were raised when Cheechoo notched 56 goals in 2006. Then they dropped a little when he registered 37 the following year. Then after losing a step with a leg injury, fans everywhere learned it was time to hop off the ‘Cheechoo train’ as he was relegated to the AHL just four years after his breakout season. It’s a shame as this player seemed to have much to offer. Poor Shark fans. He made the move to the KHL in 2013, where he's been a productive player, notching 24 goals in 49 games last year.
3 Lubomir Visnovsky
Current Team - Bratislav Slovan // KHL 2015/2016 stats - 7GP - 2G - 7A - 9PTS
Lubomir Visnovsky possessed a highly offensive skill set, but this defenceman had a career riddled with injuries. He had two seasons totalling 67 and 68 points respectively, but only had over eighty games played four times in his fifteen year NHL career. The end of his NHL career involved a trade to the New York Islanders where he reportedly refused to be traded and begrudgingly went there anyway. Lubomir played three seasons with the Isles before moving to the KHL.
2 Ilya Kovalchuk
Current Team - St. Petersburg SKA // KHL 2015/2016 stats - 32GP - 11G - 20A - 31 PTS
Drafted 1st overall in the 2001 NHL draft Ilya Kovalchuk was, and still is, a special player. He collected 816 points in 816 NHL games, with a career high of 98 points in 2005 with the Atlanta Thrashers. He's also a Rocket Richard winner, hammering home 41 goals in 2003-04 to take home the title. He’ll be remembered for his elite talent and his record seventeen year long contract that he signed with the Devils, only to back out of it three years into the deal.
1 Alexander Radulov
Current Team - CSKA Moscow // KHL 2015/2016 stats - 37GP - 17G - 28A - 45 PTS
The Nashville Predators rolled the dice when they selected Russian phenom Alexander Radulov 15th overall in the 2004 draft. The case of Radulov still serves as a precedent when picking European players who have a high chance of heading back overseas. He posted a 58 point season in his sophomore NHL year, leaving Nashville fans to always lament not being able to secure this elite talent.