Article Prepared by Dan Adkisson
Bjørn Skaare was the first player from Norway to play in the NHL, although he only played a single game in the 1978-1979 season. Skaare helped to pave the way for other Norwegians to eventually join the NHL. Here is our selection of the three greatest Norwegian NHL players of all time:
At 6-foot-2 in height and weighing 210 lbs, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen proved that Norwegian hockey players were just as tough as their American counterparts. The defenseman could hit hard and he wouldn’t hesitate to scrap, either. He began his career at the age of 16, playing for Norway’s Lillehammer team. At the age of 18 in 2002, Tollefsen was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets. But he spent most of the season with the American Hockey League’s Syracuse Crunch, where he managed to rack up 115 penalty minutes over 64 games. He upped those numbers to 155 penalty minutes over 55 games during the 2005-2006 season. Tollefsen soon became a permanent NHL blueliner, playing 70 games for Columbus. Yet his finest moment came outside of the NHL, when he was selected to play for Norway at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Tollefsen may now be retired, but there are plenty of other established and upcoming NHL players to keep your eye on. If you enjoy sports betting, you can easily stay up-to-date with all the latest news, games, and odds for the NHL and your other favorite sports by checking out the online Casumo betting Sportsbook.
Oslo-born Espen Knutsen is known in Norway by the nickname Shampoo, though his clean performances have nothing to do with the moniker. Knutsen’s father was a former hockey player and also a hairdresser, which earned him the nickname Soap. Thus, Espen followed in his father’s footsteps by being given the affectionate name Shampoo.
Although the Hartford Whalers drafted Knutsen in 1990, the Norwegian remained in Europe, playing for his hometown club Vålerenga, and later Sweden’s Djurgården team, until 1997. He made his NHL debut with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim that year. Knutsen then returned to Djurgården for the 1999-2000 season, where he was the highest-paid player in the league. In 2000, the center gained a second chance to play in the NHL when he joined the Columbus Blue Jackets. Knutsen had a great first season, and in 2002 became the first Norwegian to ever play in an NHL All-Star Game. In 2004, he returned to Djurgården. Knutsen is also notable for being the very first Norwegian to score a goal in the NHL. He may have only lasted parts of five seasons in the NHL, but Knutsen was undoubtedly one of the greatest Norwegian players the league has ever known.
Mats Zuccarello is unquestionably one of the best Norwegian offensive talents seen in the NHL, having scored more goals, assists, and points than any other player from Norway. Born in Oslo in 1987, the winger began his professional career playing for the Swedish Elite League team Modo Hockey. In 2010, he was awarded the annual Golden Helmet award, which is given to the Swedish Hockey League’s Most Valuable Player. In the NHL, Zuccarello has played primarily for the New York Rangers, as well as two games with the Dallas Stars. Playing for the Rangers, Zuccarello also became the first Norwegian to play in the Stanley Cup Final.
In 2019, he signed a five-year contract worth $30 million with the Minnesota Wild. Zuccarello has already amassed 114 goals, 241 assists, and 355 points over his time with the Rangers and Stars. With several seasons still yet to go with Minnesota, it looks more than likely that Zuccarello will eclipse the 200-goal and 500-point mark relatively easily.
FILE UNDER: Dan Adkisson, Contributing Author