Unlike North American junior leagues, there are no regulations restricting European junior players from being recalled and assigned to teams at the various levels within a senior club's developmental system. Therefore, it is common for a talented junior to play with the club's junior, Division II and senior teams in a single season.
The natural progression in European hockey would see a player move from youth hockey to the junior level, then to Division II and then graduating to the senior Elite team. Russia is the only major European hockey nation without a separate junior league. Most Russian juniors play with their clubs's second team. These second teams compete in the Russian third division.
It should be noted that some Division II and junior teams operate independently and without association with a senior club.
Europeans in the NHL Entry Draft
The National Hockey League has seen a dramatic increase of European-trained players over the past two decades. Of the 126 prospects selected in the 1979 NHL Entry Draft, only six were Europeans (4.8%). In 1989, that number grew to 38 of 252 selections (15.1%). The 2000 NHL Entry Draft featured the largest European contingent in the history of the event as 123 players of the 293 drafted were European-born, representing 42% of the Draft.
Following is a listing of the highest-drafted European-trained players:
|Highest drafted European players|
|1st||Roman Hamrlik||(Cze)||Tampa Bay||1992|
|2nd||Andrei Zyuzin||(Rus)||San Jose||1996|
|3rd||Aki Berg||(Fin)||Los Angeles||1995|
|3rd||Olli Jokinen||(Fin)||Los Angeles||1997|
|3rd||Alexander Svitov||(Rus)||Tampa Bay||2001|
|4th||Pavel Brendl**||(Cze)||NY Rangers||1999|
|5th||Darius Kasparaitis||(Rus)||NY Islanders||1992|
|* European-trained Canadian citizen drafted from a North American club|
|** Drafted from a North American club|
Breaking New Ground - European Firsts
1969 - First European Draft Pick
The first European-trained player to be selected in the NHL Entry Draft was Finnish-born left winger Tommi Salmelainen, 66th overall, by the St. Louis Blues.
1974 - First Swedish Selection
Swedish-born center Per Alexandersson was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs, 49th overall, becoming the first Swedish player to be drafted into the NHL. There were five Swedish-born players selected in 1974, including defenseman Stefan Persson (214th overall, NY Islanders). Persson became the first European player to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup (four times, 1980-83).
1975 - First Russian Draft Pick
The Philadelphia Flyers became the first NHL club to select a Russian player, picking center Viktor Khatulev, 160th overall.
1976 - First European Taken in the First Round
The 1976 Draft saw the first European selected in the first round when the California Seals made Swedish defenseman Bjorn Johansson their first pick, fifth overall. Although he only played 15 games in the NHL, Johansson remained the highest European draft pick until 1989 (Mats Sundin, first overall).
1976 - First Swiss Player Selected
Although Switzerland is just beginning to have an impact in international hockey, the country made its first inroads to the NHL in 1976 when the St. Louis Blues selected Swiss center Jacques Soguel, 121st overall.
1978 - First Czechoslovak in the Entry Draft
The Detroit Red Wings made the first selection from former Czechoslovakia, drafting left wing Ladislav Svozil, 194th overall.
1978 - First German Pick
The first German players were also drafted into the NHL in 1978, with the Atlanta Flames' selection of goaltender Bernard Englbrecht, 196th overall, and St. Louis' choice of forward Gerd Truntschka, 200th overall.
Other European Draft Notes:
|Year||Int'l Drafted||Total Drafted||Int'l%|