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Top 5 Swedish hockey players of all time
The last few years have been banner ones for Swedish hockey players in the NHL. Just last year Henrik Sedin(notes) took home both the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer and the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player. In 2008, Swede Nicklas Lidstrom(notes) became the first European-born player to captain an NHL team to a Stanley Cup when he led his Detroit Red Wings to championship glory. With Swedish stars like Henrik Zetterberg(notes), Nicklas Backstrom(notes), the Sedin Twins, and Henrik Lundqvist(notes) among the NHL's most dominant players Sweden's presence in the league has never been stronger. But who paved the way for today's star Swedes? Read on as I take a look back at the top 5 Swedish hockey players of all time.
5 - Kent Nilsson
After lighting it up as a member of the WHA's Winnipeg Jets for a couple of seasons, Nilsson joined the NHL at the start of the 1979-80 season as a member of the Atlanta Flames. After recording an impressive 93 in his inaugural season in the league, Nilsson really broke it wide open in his sophomore year. Playing with the Calgary Flames Nilsson scored 49 goals and potted 131 points, becoming the first ever European-trained player to crack the 100 point plateau. He would go on to total 686 points in just 553 career NHL games before leaving North American shores to finish his career in Europe.
4 - Borje Salming
Though Kent Nilsson might have been the first Swede to break the 100 point barrier he wasn't the country's first NHL superstar. That honor goes to former Toronto Maple Leafs' blueliner Borje Salming. Salming was one of the best defensemen of his era, dominating from the back end for more than 1,100 NHL games during the 1970s and 80s, racking up a whopping 787 points. Though it has been more than two decades since his retirement, Salming still holds numerous Leafs team records, and remains the biggest sports icon in Sweden today.
With amazing skill, unearthly determination, and as much grit as any superstar in NHL history, Peter Forsberg was the complete package during his NHL playing days. He was a key component of the powerful Colorado Avalanche teams that won the Stanley Cup in 1996 and in 2001. During his career he twice topped 100 points, winning both the Art Ross and the Hart in 2002-03. Unfortunately, his fearless style of game took a tremendous physical toll on his body, and Forsberg was hampered by injuries through the bulk of his career. In just 706 career NHL games he piled up an impressive 885 points. One is forced to wonder just how high this Swedish star could have flown had he enjoyed the luxury of a long, healthy career.
With more career goals (564) and points (1,349) than any other Swedish-born player it is little wonder that Mats Sundin holds a high spot on the list of the best Swedish players in NHL history. The hulking centerman was one of the game's most dominant players throughout the 90s and 2000s. He started his career as a member of the Quebec Nordiques and enjoyed his best statistical season (47 goals and 114 points) there in 1992-93. However, it was as a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs that Sundin really made his mark. He spent 13 seasons with the club, and became an icon in the hockey-mad city. He is the franchise's all-time leader in both goals and points, and in the minds of many fans is the greatest Toronto Maple Leafs player of all time.
1 - Nicklas Lidstrom
As great as the other players on this list are this selection was a no-brainer. Nicklas Lidstrom has been a machine throughout his career with the Detroit Red Wings. He has helped his team win 4 Stanley Cups, and has a jaw-dropping 6 Norris Trophies under his belt. With 1,054 career points at the time of this writing he is the highest scoring Swedish defenseman of all time, and the fifth highest scoring d-man in NHL history. Though his playing days aren't yet over he has already carved his name alongside Gordie Howe and Steve Yzerman among the greatest Detroit Red Wings of all time.
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