With the Stanley Cup Finals underway and a potential for four new Russians to be immortalized, we here at FRWG decided to take a look back to see how the comrades of yesteryear ranked amongst one another. Criteria included a minimum of 500 NHL games, at least one cup, stats of the non fancy variety, and a whole lot of eternal struggle.
Note this list is not set in stone and a will likely look very different following the conclusion of the careers of today’s Russian stars.
When thinking of Russians in the NHL, the immediate thought is offense. The number of Russian forwards doubles that of their blue-liners since the early 90’s. Russian netminders however, are even more few and far. Only 13 Russian-born players have ever tended net in the NHL, while only 8 have played more than 50 games. Just two have ever lifted Lord Stanley’s Mug.
The Tampa Bay Lightning would likely still be searching for their first franchise Stanley Cup if not for Nikolai Khabibulin. Acquired in 2001 from Phoenix, the Bulin Wall would help Tampa make their first post-season appearance within two seasons for the first time since 1996.
Tampa advanced as far as the second round only to be eliminated by the eventual champion New Jersey Devils. One year later, Khabibulin would tie an NHL record for most shutouts in the playoffs in one series with three against the New York Islanders.
Tampa would ride their veteran goaltender all the way to their first cup appearance and eventual berth against the Calgary Flames. Khabibulin would become the first Russian goalie to lift the cup. He would finish second in both save % and goals against average for that run while leading all goalies in shutouts.
In addition to being a four-time all-star and an Olympic gold medalist, Khabibulin ranks second all-time amongst Russian goalies in both wins and shutouts while appearing in the top 30 all-time in both categories. He is also 15th in all-time games played being just one shy of 800.
A case could be made for him being the winningest Russian keeper as Evgeni Nabokov (ranked first) was born in Kazakhstan under the Soviet flag.
If there ever were a hockey dictionary with hockey terminology, under enigmatic Russian you would find a picture of Kovalev.
Kovalev was the first Russian to be drafted in the first round of the NHL draft. He would help the New York Rangers earn their first Stanley Cup in 54 years finishing third in scoring during the run. Alongside Alexander Karpovtsev, Sergei Nemchinov and Sergei Zubov, the foursome were the first Russians to have their names engraved on the trophy.
Over his career, Kovalev would eclipse the 20-goal mark 12 times and the 50-point mark 11 time, however when we look at overall games played compared to Sergei Fedorov, Kovy’s 51 games in-hand leave him 150 points shy of Fedorov which could be attributed to his attitude. Kovalev was traded four times in his career and played with five different clubs. There are even whispers of his return to the NHL.
Despite his lack of drive at times, Kovalev ranks first in games played, 5th all-time in goals, and 3rd in assists and points. He is just one of three Russians to eclipse the 1,000 point plateau.
Easily the most decorated Russian hockey player to ever lace a pair of skates, Slava Fetisov came to the NHL at the age of 31 and would continue his winning ways in North America for the next 10 years with the New Jersey Devils and later the Detroit Red Wings. Fetisov notched a career high 42 points in his rookie campaign in New Jersey but failed to eclipse the 30-point mark the following four years before being traded to the Detroit Red Wings in 1995.
He would appear in his first cup final later that season against none other than the Devils, for whom he had some choice words for in the papers. New Jersey would go on to sweep Fetisov’s Wings’. He would match his NHL career point total of 42 at the age of 38 in his first full season with Detroit. One year later he would lift his first cup as well as become a member of hockey’s triple gold club. Detroit would repeat the following season after which Fetisov retired as a player.
He would return to New Jersey as an assistant coach in 1998 and win the cup for the third time in 2000.
Days after winning gold in the 1989, Alex Mogilny outsmarted the KGB to defect to the Buffalo Sabres. His arrival to the NHL allowed fellow Russians to follow suit as the early 90’s saw an influx of quick and dangerous forwards. Mogilny’s point total rose in every category for his first four seasons, including his 127 point season which he scored 76 goals. He would reach the 100-point mark again in 1995 in his first season with Vancouver where he was re-united with former line-mate Pavel Bure.
Mogilny would reach the 30-goal mark eight times over his career along with nine seasons of +50 points. He was a dynamo in every sense of the word and would be rewarded with hockey’s greatest prize in 2000 with the Devils. He is third all-time in goals scored (having recently been passed by Alex Ovechkin), sixth assists, and second in points.
Where to begin with one of hockey’s greatest talents? Fedorov blew onto the scene with Detroit with a 79-point rookie campaign, three years later, his 120-point season earned him the Hart Memorial Trophy as well as his first Selke Trophy, becoming the only player to win both in one season. He would also become the first European player to win the Hart Memorial.
He would win the Selke again in 1996 finishing with 107 points. Fedorov would score +30 goals ten times over his career while eclipsing the 50-point total 13 times. From endorsements with Nike to three Stanley Cups, Fedorov was the total package both on and off the ice. He ranks first in goals, assists, points and +/- amongst Russians. He holds the record for most overtime points all-time with 27.