The decline of the Euro
The Hockey News is about three or four issues into its latest reimagination, a redesign that I think has worked pretty well to bring the publication belatedly into the 21st century. Gone are a lot of the more archaic features such as player stats and injury updates, and in their place are more innovative numbers and facts with a great deal of research behind them.
The latest THN to hit my mailbox was 'the European issue,' something that included as part of the numbers pages a look at how players from across the pond have infiltrated the NHL in recent years.
Here's a graphical look at that THN data.
Percentage of Euro skaters:
Percentage of Euro goaltenders:
You can see the results of the Russian and Czech invasion in the early '90s, the bulging of that pipeline — especially from Scandanavia — in recent years, and postlockout the dip due to the lack of a transfer agreement with the Russian league.
The rise of European goaltenders has taken a little bit longer, not hitting the 20-per-cent mark until 2000-01 with the help of top notch Finnish and Swedish 'tenders like Miikka Kiprusoff and Henrik Lundqvist. Prior to 1996-97, there had never been more than 10 European netminders in the league at a time, but last season there were 25.
Some of the other interesting data in the THN issue has stats on which teams have drafted the most Europeans in the past 15 years (Detroit with 44.7%) and the least (Carolina with 15.1%). Ottawa is the franchise that has had the highest percentage of its goals scored by Euro players in that time frame (50.2%), while the Hurricanes have had just 18.1%.
Here's a look at the percentage of drafted players coming from Europe:
It was no secret that NHL clubs turned away from Europeans in the most recent draft in a big way, mainly those prospects in Russia, but that decline is actually a trend that's been happening for quite some time. The average percentage of Euros picked the past three drafts is right down around the 1990-91 levels, which is rather hard to believe.
With the transfer agreement apparently crumbling in other countries, you wonder how long it'll be until that trend shows up to a larger extent in NHL rosters.
In any event, some great number crunching by THN — check out the articles if you haven't yet seen them.