(Ed. Note: Welcome to the Puck Daddy 2013 summer project, the National Hockey League of Nations. We’ve recruited 30 writers/blogs to identify the best player in their favorite team’s history for each major nationality that creates the fabric of our beloved NHL: Canada, USA, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Sweden, Finland and The Rest of The World. It’s their criteria, as long as they can justify it. Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN.)
By Jonathan McLeod of Oil on Whyte
Canada: Wayne Gretzky
The Oilers have a long list of great Canadian hockey players. In fact, the Oilers of the ‘80s could have iced a Canadian All-Star team: Mark Messier (LW), Gretzky (C), Glenn Anderson (RW), Paul Coffey (D), Kevin Lowe (D), and Grant Fuhr (G). That’s five HHOFers! And the other guy has six—count ‘em, SIX!—Stanley Cup rings! (That’s more rings than can fit on one hand, folks.)
But it would be crazy not to go with Gretzky as the Oilers’ Canadian representative. After all, “The Great One” is the NHL’s all-time points leader, the winner of nine Hart Trophies, and the holder or sharer of 61 NHL records.
Need more be said? Oh yeah, he was also the most notorious non-participant in an international hockey shootout.
Finland: Jari Kurri
In Kurri’s rookie season, Oilers coach Glen Sather was desperately looking for a linemate for Gretzky. Finally, he gave Kurri an opportunity, and there was instant chemistry. The two went on to become one of the most dynamic duos in NHL history.
Kurri scored an amazing 601 goals and finished his NHL career having the most points (1,398) by a European born-and-trained player (since surpassed by Jaromir Jagr). He was also considered to be one of the best defensive forwards of his day.
USA: Doug Weight
Weight was the star of the Oilers in the 90s. He arrived in Edmonton after being traded from the Rangers for fan favorite Esa Tikkanen (who came in second in the Finland category). Weight eventually became the Oilers’ captain and led the team in scoring seven times. His best season was 1995-96 in which he amassed 104 points, giving Weight the distinction of being the last Oiler to record a 100-point season.
Most Oiler fans will probably forgive Weight for being a member of the Hurricanes’ team that defeated the Oilers in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals—especially since he got sandwiched by Chris Pronger and Raffi Torres in Game 5 and missed the rest of the series with a shoulder injury.
Sweden: Tommy Salo
You’re probably thinking, “Isn’t there a better Swede in the Oilers’ history?” Surprisingly, the answer is no. That is, unless you think one of the following is more deserving of the honor: Willy Lindstrom, Mats Lindgren, Fredrik Olausson, Robert Nilsson, Magnus Paajarvi.
When fans think of Salo, they probably think of the terrible goal he allowed in the 2002 Olympics. But he was actually a two-time All-Star and also holds the Oilers’ goaltending records for the lowest career goals against average (2.44) and the most career shutouts (24).
Russia: Nail Yakupov
Throughout their history, the Oilers have lacked a Russian star (unless you count Nikolai Khabibulin, and, if you do, you’re insane). But that began to change last season when Yakupov burst onto the scene. The Twitter sensation led all NHL rookies in scoring and also gave us one of the all-time best goal celebrations. However, Yakupov didn’t get a spot on the All-Rookie Team because, as Mark Spector will tell you, goals in the last three games don’t count.
By the way, it’s interesting that Edmonton has recently become a popular destination for Russian hockey players. (Should we start calling Edmonton “Moscow West”?) Since last year’s draft, the Oilers have added six Russians: Yakupov, Daniil Zharkov, Anton Belov, Bogdan Yakimov, Anton Slepyshev, and Denis Grebeshkov. Is Craig MacTavish exploiting a market inefficiency in the NHL: the reluctance of teams to acquire Russians?
Slovakia: Miroslav Satan
It was close between Satan and Lubomir Visnovsky, but Satan gets the nod since he was a homegrown talent (drafted 111st by the Oilers in 1993). After playing only 126 games with the Oilers and scoring an impressive 35 goals, Satan was traded to the Sabres.
The return? Barrie Moore and Craig Millar. Who? Exactly. A terrible trade.
After leaving Edmonton, Satan went on to score 328 NHL goals. The moral of the story? Think twice before giving up on promising young players. (And with Satan banished to the abyss of Buffalo, think of all the puns Gene Principe missed out on! Yeah, that’s probably a good thing.)
Czech Republic: Ales Hemsky
The “Pardubice Prince” has played in Edmonton his entire career, and (despite GM Craig MacTavish’s attempts to trade him this summer) is expected to suit up for the Oilers again next season. Some people forget that before the arrival Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Yakupov, he was the most offensively-skilled Oiler.
In 2005-06, Hemsky tallied 19 goals and 58 assists. And no one should forget this goal against Detroit to give Edmonton the victory in round one of the 2006 playoffs. Recently, injuries have slowed Hemsky down, but Oiler fans (the smart ones, at least) won’t be surprised if he still has a few more good seasons left in him.
REST OF THE WORLD CATEGORY
Norway: Patrick Thoresen
When Thoresen began the 2006-07 season with the Oilers, he became only the fifth Norwegian to play in the NHL. He struggled to contribute offensively but did provide a solid two-way game.
More than anything else, Thoresen is remembered most for this blocked shot while playing for the Flyers.
Read, debate and enjoy! If you want to do so on Twitter, it's #NHLoN