NHL Rosters by Nationality: The NHL is one of the most international sports in the world. From the SHL to the KHL, quality pro leagues dot the Northern Hemisphere. However, most of the world’s top talent concentrates in the NHL.
When tallying the number of players per squad in the NHL from the Big Six (including Canada, the US, Russia, Czechia, Sweden, and Finland), most players come from Canada. A dive into the NHL rosters from the 2022-23 season shows that just over 40% of the entire league hails from Canada, followed by the US with just under 30%.
In both countries, fans are hyper-engaged with the league. The fact that the US and Canada are also opening their doors to sports betting has helped boost interest in the NHL and beyond. For example, if a sports bettor uses a free bets offer from FanDuel or a similar sportsbook, they can head straight for the hockey section to bet on their favourite sport.
For NHL fans that haven’t explored the SHL or KHL, this is a great chance to wager on a new league, exploring new talents and teams. As interest in the sport broadens beyond North America, more and more fans are noticing just how international the league’s rosters are and not all international stars hail from the Big Six.
A Focus on the Big Six
That being said, the majority of players in the NHL come from the Big Six… to the point that the average team in the league has only 3 players represented beyond the US, Canada, Russia, Sweden, Finland, or the Czech Republic.
The Minnesota Wild have the largest number of players from outside of these countries. Marco Rossi comes from Austria and Mats Zuccarello comes from Norway, which means two players out of a 23-man roster represent hockey interests from outside the Big Six. But keep in mind that this season is a bit thinner than usual.
At the start of the 2021-22 season, the New Jersey Devils had a total of six players on their 23-man roster from outside the Big Six an unusual concentration for the NHL.
A Focus on North America
The bulk of NHL teams have players from the US and Canada, with an emphasis on the Great White North. However, this isn’t always the case. This season, in keeping with last year’s trend, the New Jersey Devils have a total of 12 non-North American players on their roster. But they aren’t leading the league when it comes to multinationality.
The Detroit Red Wings lead the NHL as the team with the most non-North American players at 13. Only four other NHL teams this year have ten or more non-North American players, including the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers.
However, not all NHL rosters are so inclusive. The Vegas Golden Knights, for example, have only one non-North American player: Sweden’s William Karlsson. Also Read – Top Tallest NBA Players in Basketball History
Toronto & Sweden
Above, we mentioned that the Toronto Maple Leafs have one of the NHL’s largest non-North American rosters. The majority of the team’s international players, a total of seven, come from Sweden, including stars like William Nylander and Pierre Engvall. This makes it the largest concentration of players from Stockholm and neighbouring cities.
Dallas & Finland
Like Sweden, Finland tends to export a lot of top players to the NHL. This year, many of them ended up on the Dallas Stars roster for a total of five Finns—and they’ve been some of the league’s most exciting players to watch. This includes names like Miro Heiskanen, Roope Hintz, and Esa Lindell. Along with developing their talent on the ice, they’ve also become one of the franchise’s most intriguing and lovable aspects.
Boston & Czechia
Boston may have historical roots as a destination for the Irish, but the Bruins have stronger roots in the Czech Republic this year. The team’s roster has a total of six Czech players, including stars David Pastrnak and Pavel Zacha, who are sometimes referred to as the ‘Czech Line’.
Toronto, Dallas, & Boston: Case Studies
So far, we’ve outlined which NHL teams from the 2022-23 season had the most and fewest international players. Like New Jersey Devils retained a large amount of non-North American names for the second year in a row. Is it sheer chance that international players end up on certain NHL rosters? Or is there a methodical approach behind this trend?
Let’s take a look at each team’s recent success. The Boston Bruins, though they’ve been a force to be reckoned with in recent years, haven’t been able to flip its Czech Line into a successful playoff run this season. However, the Dallas Stars look like they may well be on their way to a Stanley Cup Finals run. The same goes for the New Jersey Devils.
Still, the Vegas Golden Knights are also in contention for the 2022-23 Stanley Cup. And with only one Swede on the roster, there’s no clear indication that having an international roster leads to a stronger playoff push. But what about rookie leagues that funnel into the NHL, like the AHL and CHL—how are players selected internationally?
AHL, CHL, & Multinationality
The American Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League organize amateur leagues in both North American countries. Though some players get their start competing in the NCAA, most future NHL stars spend time on rookie rosters in the AHL and CHL while they cut their teeth. The AHL is used as the primary developmental league, as each team has an official NHL affiliation.
However, the CHL has an import draft, which allows teams to select international players born outside the US and Canada. Teams are allowed to make two selections each, which are considered pivotal opportunities for players from the Big Six (outside North America) to make the jump abroad. As of 2022, the CHL has imported over 2,000 players, the majority of whom went on to grace NHL rosters.
But the AHL sees more coverage from sports publications. Analysts are more likely to follow up-and-coming stars in the AHL over the CHL. That’s because many are already on NHL rosters and are awaiting a call-up. Of the twenty most promising AHL players to watch this year, twelve come from outside North America.