Many of the finest hockey players in the world were born and raised in Sweden. At the 2009 Entry Draft, a record seven Swedes were selected in the opening round.
Some even could argue that the best European-born hockey player in the game today happens to be Swedish -- Detroit Red Wings
captain Nicklas Lidstrom
. Certainly the finest and most entertaining pair of twins to perform in the League -- Daniel and Henrik Sedin
-- is Swedish.
So without further delay, here are NHL.com's top 10 Swedes currently playing in the NHL. Noticeable absentees from this list include Mats Sundin
, who still is uncertain on playing in 2009-10, and St. Louis center Patrik Berglund
, who needs to prove his strong rookie season was no fluke before making the cut.
1. Nicklas Lidstrom, D, Detroit:
Let's call him the best European player in the League right now, although Washington's Alex Ovechkin
quickly is closing the gap. Lidstrom, a six-time Norris Trophy winner, has 997 points and a plus-409 rating in 1,330 career games spanning 17 seasons. His 24:49 average ice time per game and plus-31 rating was tops among Swedish players in 2008-09.
2. Henrik Zetterberg, F, Detroit:
The 2008 Conn Smythe Trophy winner turned in his fourth straight 30-goal campaign last season, and he has 405 points in 432 career games -- all with the Red Wings.
3. Henrik Lundqvist, G, N.Y. Rangers:
Lundqvist became the first goalie in NHL history to win at least 30 games in each of his first four seasons in the League; in 2008-09 he went 38-25-7 with a 2.43 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. He was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in each of his first three seasons.
4. Daniel Alfredsson, F, Ottawa:
"Alfie" is a model of consistency, topping 70 points for the eighth straight season in 2008-09. He posted 5 goals and 10 points to help lead Sweden to a gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.
5. Nicklas Backstrom, F, Washington:
The Capitals center led all Swedes with 66 assists, 88 points and 14 power-play goals last season. He also registered 15 points in 14 postseason games last spring.
6. Daniel Sedin, F, Vancouver:
Born six minutes after his brother Henrik, Daniel Sedin
has scored at least 22 goals in each of the last four seasons, including 31 goals (with 7 game-winners) and 82 points -- second among Swedes -- in 2008-09.
7. Henrik Sedin, F, Vancouver:
Henrik equaled his brother with 82 points, including 22 goals, and his 8 game-winning goals were tied for the most among Swedish players. The center also finished third among Swedish-born players with a 49.6 winning percentage on faceoffs.
8. Johan Franzen, F, Detroit:
"The Mule" has improved on his point total in each of his four seasons in the League (16 points in 2005-06, 30 in 2006-07, 38 in 2007-08, 59 in 2008-09). He had a career-high 34 goals (including 8 game-winning goals) last season and has become one of the League's premiere power forwards. He had 12 goals and 23 points in 23 postseason games last spring.
9. Loui Eriksson, F, Dallas:
Eriksson had the highest shooting percentage (20.2) of any Swedish player with 60 or more games under his belt last season, and topped all Swedes in the NHL with 36 goals -- placing him fifth in the Western Conference and 12th overall in goal-scoring. He finished sixth among his countrymen with 63 points while playing all 82 games. He has increased his goal and point totals in each of his three seasons in the League.
10. Niklas Kronwall, D, Detroit:
He's perhaps the hardest hitter of any Swedish player in the game. Kronwall finished with career highs in assists (45) and points (51) last season. He also had 96 hits and 109 blocked shots in 80 regular-season games for the Wings. He led all Swedes in the playoffs last spring with 59 hits and 36 blocks.
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com