It’s pretty much a well-known fact that the National Hockey League is the creme de la creme of the hockey world, every young fan from around the world watches the NHL, even if it’s alongside their own local or regional leagues. Not only that, but young players around the globe also aspire to play in the NHL. And why wouldn’t they? The Stanley Cup Final brings in millions of viewers worldwide, as team’s compete for one of sport’s most treasured trophies.
While the NHL may be the very top tier, it’s safe to say that there’s a huge hockey following around Europe, as well. For example. the KHL brings in a good amount of viewers and there are a lot of big name players coming from places like Norway, Sweden and Finland. With a more global view in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best European players. Specifically, the Top 5 European players in the history of the Los Angeles Kings franchise. As per usual, we’ll list our Top 5 and then break the list down one-by-one. Lets get into it.
• Anze Kopitar
• Žigmund Pálffy
• Lubomir Visnovsky
• Mattias Norström
• Jari Kurri
Outside of the big three on this list, there is plenty of room for debate. Some people will argue that players like Marian Gaborik, Tomas Sandstrom or even Alexander Frolov deserve to be on his list. It all depends on the basis for which you’re selecting the players. On one hand, Ilya Kovalchuk could top all of the names just mentioned from a statistical basis. While he didn’t exactly set the league on fire as a member of the Kings, there’s no doubt Kovalchuk is one of the greatest European players to ever play in the National Hockey League. With 876 points (443 goals and 433 assists) in 926 NHL games, largely as a member of the Atlanta Thrashers (now the Winnipeg Jets) and New Jersey Devils, he did also briefly play for the Kings and was one of the biggest European names in the game.
However, when making the final cut here, Kurri gets the nod for spot five. Known more for his long run with the Edmonton Oilers, the former right wing was a lethal goal scorer back in the day. After being selected in the fourth round of the 1980 NHL Entry Draft, Kurri ended up playing over 1,200 games in the league and scored 601 goals. With five seasons in Los Angeles, beginning in 1991, he belongs on any list of the best Europeans ever to suit up for the Kings.
For spot No. 4, though, Mattias Norström gets the honor. Ironically, he came to the Kings in a trade for Kurri. A second round draft pick of the Rangers in 1992. Norstrom played less than 50 games total in NY, spread over three seasons, before arriving in LA. A hard and heavy blueliner, Norstrom only averaged about a goal or two a season during his 10-year run in LA. But he wasn’t around for points. He was a shutdown guy and also served as team captain from 2001–07. Some say he is the best player to ever wear a Kings uniform who doesn’t have his number retired. A native of Stockholm, Sweden, Norstrom played over 900 games in the NHL and has extensive international experience on his resume.
Before moving on, we do have an Honorable Mention worth noting. As with the aforementioned discussion surrounding the final forward to make this list, Jaroslav Modry just missed the cut when we were coming up with the final defenseman to name. A ninth round pick at the 1990 NHL Entry Draft for the New Jersey Devils, Modry had a solid career as a defensive defenseman. He had solid numbers as a member of the Kings, including in 2001-02 when he scored 42 points, a career high. He also represented the team at the 2002 All Star Game in Los Angeles. Modry eventually spent more than half of his NHL career with the Kings and scored more than half of his career points total (164 out of 250 points) during his time with the organization. Oddly enough, Modry was acquired by the Kings when the traded Norstrom to the Dallas Stars in 2007.
‘Lubo’ as he’s often referred to, was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft as a 4th round pick, 118th overall. Visnovsky was a small and mobile defenseman, as well as a solid skater and great passer of the puck, resulting in him accruing a fair amount of points from the blue line. His stay with the Kings lasted seven seasons, earning him an alternate captaincy in his final year with the franchise. Racking up some fairly respectable accolades and some impressive statistics during his time in Los Angeles.
In his rookie season, Visnovsky was named on the NHL All-Rookie team and in 2006-07 he was invited to the NHL All Star game. One of his standout seasons was 2005-06, where he amassed a crazy 67 points, a total more associated with a totals for a productive forward. His 67 points as a defenseman was rather unusual! He finished his stay in LA with a total of 279 points over 499 games. Absolutely cementing himself as one of the greatest European players in franchise history.
Ziggy Palffy was a second round pick, 26th overall in the 1991 Entry Draft, picked up by the New York Islanders. Palffy was a strong and quick skater with a quick shot that helped him rack up a crazy amount of goals. The Kings traded for Palffy prior to the 1999-2000 season. Over the next five years he was consistently better than a point-per-game player, only dipping below that mark once, when he put up 59 points in 63 games over a shortened season. Palffy finished his stay with the Kings after notching 340 points (150 goals and 190 assists) in 311 games — again, averaging more than a point-per-game in total, making Palffy the most successful point scoring Slovakian in franchise history. This guarantees his spot as one of the greatest European players of all-time for the Kings.
Kopitar is head and shoulders above any other European player in Kings franchise history. While we’ve listed several other names in this article, not a single one even comes close to the number one spot, a place firmly held by the team’s current captain.
Originally selected by the Kings as the 11th overall pick at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar proudly represents Slovenia on this list. After starting his hockey career playing in the Slovenian system, he then spent a few years playing in and around Western Europe’s Swedish leagues.
To date. Kopitar has scored exactly 1000 points in 1,129 NHL games. He’s also won two Selke Trophies (awarded annually to the NHL forward who demonstrates the most skill in the defensive component of the game.) and won the Stanley Cup twice. You don’t really need to say much more than that.
So there we have it, my Top 5 European players in Kings franchise history. Some might say Kopitar is among the greatest European names in NHL history, and he’s definitely up near the very top. Although the Kings have had a few down years, some Sportsbooks are tipping them to be back to their terrifying best in the coming seasons. It may take some roster maneuvering this summer to make it all work, yet they’re definitely on the right track. What do you think? Who would you put in your Top 5 European players in Kings history? Let us know!
RESEARCHED AND WRITTEN BY: Dan Adkisson