20 NHL Players Doing Well Around the World
All Around the World
The ongoing NHL lockout has affected players in many different ways, including throwing a wrench into their development processes. Nothing compares to the grind of a full NHL season when it comes to achieving milestones in a player's development and, hopefully, helping them become better and more successful hockey players. That goes without saying.
But the lockout has forced players to take a look around the world and consider where they could possibly go to at least get some game action under their belts during this work stoppage. Anything is better than nothing.
As a result, a diaspora of players to leagues all over the world—mostly in Europe, though—has happened. Although many players are returning to North America due to the expiration of their short-term contracts and the hope that the lockout may end soon, the experiences they gain during their time overseas can be very beneficial.
Here is a list of 20 players who are doing or have done well in other hockey locales. Some of them are young guns who need all the playing time they can get to bolster their development. Others are goalies, who often have trouble finding replacement work due to the fact that a team doesn't need as many goalies as they do forwards or defensemen. Even others are guys who are getting on in years but can still use the rigor of playing. Then there's one guy who is probably better known for his off-ice activities, a guy who is actually earning valuable offensive experience in a city better known for being where "Doctor Who" is filmed.
Check out the 20 players who have been doing well in other places.
Eberle would normally be scoring goals and providing assists at a healthy clip for the Edmonton Oilers, but instead he is doing exactly the same for the AHL Oklahoma City Barons. Adjusting to a new, warmer locale hasn't been a problem for him—in 32 games so far with the Barons, he has 24 goals and 25 assists, enough to place him safely atop the league's scoring leaders. By comparison, his 78-game production with Edmonton last season was at 34 goals and 42 assists.
The lockout gave Hall time to recover from the shoulder surgery he had to undergo in early 2012, which had an estimated recuperation time of five to six months. Now that he has a clean bill of health, he's joined his friend and teammate Eberle down in Oklahoma. Hall has 13 goals and 20 assists in 24 games played with the Barons, which puts him sixth in the AHL for points.
Here's another young Oiler doing good work in Oklahoma City. Nugent-Hopkins has put up eight goals and 12 assists in 19 games played there. He's also been getting some leadership experience as the captain of the Canadian team at the 2013 World Junior Championship, where he was named Best Player of the Game in his first showing as captain. He has three goals, eight assists and a +6 rating ahead of the team's decisive final game.
Note: I was unable to find any photos of Schultz from the sources we may use, so please enjoy this photo of the Cox Convention Center, where the Barons play, instead.
Anaheim Ducks fans have a good reason to feel slighted by Schultz's change of heart earlier in the offseason, when he decided to go to Edmonton instead, because he has also been a big part of the Barons' success this season. His 17 goals and 28 assists make him the second highest scorer in the AHL, behind only Eberle—keep in mind, though, that Schultz is a defenseman.
Seguin recently ended his run with EHC Biel in the Swiss National League A, but in that time, he played in 29 games, put up 25 goals, added 15 assists and scored three separate hat tricks. As Biel's top scorer, he was even given a special flame-adorned helmet and sweater to wear. To put the cherry on top of his semester abroad, he reunited with Boston Bruins teammate Patrice Bergeron to help Team Canada win the Spengler Cup.
Brunner signed an entry-level deal with the Detroit Red Wings in July 2012, but has been playing in familiar territory since then as part of the Swiss EV Zug team. (He's been with Zug since 2008-09.) So, while he's still part of a familiar crew, Zug has brought on NHL players Linus Omark, Rafael Diaz and Brunner's future Motor City teammate, Henrik Zetterberg (pictured above). Brunner is in possession of the league lead in scoring with 56 points to his name (25 goals and 31 assists) in 32 games played. As the Red Wings look to find their post-Nicklas Lidstrom identity, Brunner could become a huge asset.
Malkin was the go-to guy for the Pittsburgh Penguins last season and did his job admirably, winning the Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy. Now he's continuing his philosophy of “I am score” over in the KHL with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. In 35 games to date, he has 19 goals and 40 assists, stats that put him near the top of the league for points and goals as well as making him tops for helpers. He was also chosen to represent the Eastern Conference in the 2013 KHL All-Star Game.
Chara came to a KHL team, HC Lev Praha, that was mired in issues and struggled to just win a game. Their fortunes seem to come and go—they did manage to string together some short winning streaks—but that has been good for Chara too. His leadership experience with the Bruins can be of great help to Lev because he's been through some rough patches of games in Boston as well. Another selection to the KHL All-Star Game, Chara also has four goals and six assists in 25 games and served as Lev's captain for a time.
Switching the focus to goaltenders, and to a potential solution to the goaltending woes of the Washington Capitals, Holtby has been plying his trade for the AHL Hershey Bears again in the meantime. This season, his 12-10-1 record, .932 save percentage and 2.15 goals-against average to date make him one of the top netminders in the whole league. He's also put together four shutouts.
When Rask became Boston's new number-one goalie over the summer, he signed a one-year deal meant to test the waters of his skill and see if a longer extension would come in the future. Those plans are on hold, but if his stint with HC Skoda Plzen in the Czech Republic is any indication, Bruins fans need not worry. He played in 17 games, putting together a .925 save percentage, 2.11 goals-against average and a shutout. His backstopping helped Plzen get to the top of the league standings, where it still is today. He's actually still in the top 10 for goalies as of Jan. 4, though he left Plzen in late November.
Varlamov's first year with the Colorado Avalanche may not have been to his liking. He put up a 26-24-3 record, a 2.59 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage. But when he decided to mind the net for the reborn KHL Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, that has improved his production. He now has an 8-4-3 record, a .946 save percentage and a 1.74 goals-against average and has been named a KHL All-Star for the Western Conference.
One more goaltender who is performing well overseas, Bobrovsky is currently with SKA St. Petersburg, where he is fronted by a team that includes Ilya Kovalchuk. Bobrovsky holds a 17-3-2 record, a 2.03 goals-against average and a .928 save percentage. Considering that his trade to the Columbus Blue Jackets sent him to an organization in desperate need of quality netminding, this experience in the KHL could be invaluable.
After not seeing much time at all behind Pekka Rinne with the Nashville Predators, Lindback was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning over the summer. To get his game up for when the Lightning eventually retake the ice, Lindback played in the Finnish SM-liiga with Ilves Tampere. Despite the fact that Ilves isn't exactly the odds-on favorite to win the league's championship, Lindback earned good experience there, playing in 13 games, getting a 2.33 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. Though he's left the team now, he's still in the top five for SM-liiga goalies in terms of save percentage and shutouts (three).
Crabb, who is currently part of the Capitals organization but has yet to play with them due to the lockout, was among the list of a few players who decamped to the ECHL Alaska Aces after the start of the stoppage. Located in Anchorage, the Aces won the league's Kelly Cup in 2011. This year, the team has given Crabb the chance to put up 15 goals and 21 assists in 33 games so far. It's also given the Anchorage native an opportunity to be in familiar stomping grounds.
Dubinsky joined Crabb up in Anchorage, which is also his hometown, to be with the Aces. As part of the big-ticket deal that sent Rick Nash to the New York Rangers and made Dubinsky's new NHL port of call Columbus, he'll need to show that he can actually put the puck in the net to be a healthy part of a team starving for goals. He has exactly 15 points in 15 Aces games right now—nine goals and six assists.
The third of a group of four Anchorage natives to get homeward bound when the lockout began (Nate Thompson is the fourth), Gomez is scoring goals with the Aces, to the delight and maybe the surprise of Montreal Canadiens fans. In 10 games played in the ECHL's northernmost locale, he has scored five goals and added seven assists. That's three more goals than he had last season with the Habs, when the idea of him scoring a goal was so monumental that an entire website was devoted to alerting people when it happened.
Speaking of Blue Jackets currently playing for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, Anisimov (another portion of the Rich Nash trade) joined his hometown team to help them and earn some more experience. He's played 35 games with Lokomotiv so far, scoring 12 goals and adding 18 assists. So, he is already very close to exceeding his goal and assist totals from last season—when he had 79 games to get those numbers together.
Briere and his fellow Philadelphia Flyers alternate captain Claude Giroux decided to go to Eisbaren Berlin of the German league to keep playing during the lockout. Briere has played more and benefited more from the time in Deutschland, putting up 10 goals and 24 assists in 21 games played. He is among Eisbaren's best in terms of points and is getting good experience, which is especially important considering he is 35 years old, so he can't really afford to just do nothing.
Jagr's return to the NHL from the KHL was a huge story at the time—anyone remember #JagrWatch?--especially when he eschewed Pittsburgh in favor of Philadelphia. Now he is part of the Dallas Stars organization, but for now he's returned to very familiar stomping grounds in the Czech Republic. Namely, he's playing for Rytiri Kladno, a team he actually owns. Rytiri has been a go-to lockout sure thing for Jagr, who played there in 1994 and 2004 as well. To date, Jagr has put up 24 goals and 27 assists in 31 games for his hometown team. He's in second place for points now, too. Not bad for a guy who celebrated his 40th birthday in 2012.
Believe it or not, Bissonnette is having a big time over in Wales with the Cardiff Devils. He's only played 11 games with the Devils, but has six goals and 15 assists in those 11 contests. That eclipses his entire production for the Phoenix Coyotes in the span from 2009-10 to 2011-12. Plus, he's continuing his hobby of using Twitter, which also serves as a way of showing people the sights of Cardiff.