Before I start this list of the top 10 Finnish hockey players of all time I should state that these top 10 Finnish hockey players make the list because of their NHL accomplishments. There are no doubt several great Finnish hockey players that never played in the NHL that could potentially crack the list, but since they never played in the NHL they are ineligible for this particular list. Without further ado, here are my picks for the top 10 Finnish hockey players of all time:
10 – Petri Skriko
Though some might be scratching their heads right now, trying to remember this guy’s career, he was, at one time, a relatively prolific scorer in the NHL. During the late 80s Skriko had 4 straight seasons of 30 goals or better as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. He played only 541 career games, but managed to amass an impressive 405 points during that time.
9 – Jyrki Lumme
Another former Vancouver Canuck makes the number 9 spot on the list of the top 10 Finnish hockey players of all time. This deceptive defensive might have driven coaches and fans nuts with his refusal to take slapshots, but his slick stick-handling and his strong wristshot made him an offensive weapon just the same. He is Vancouver’s all time leader in assists and points among defensemen, and played nearly 1000 games during his NHL career.
8 – Risto Siltanen
Though he only played 562 games in the NHL, this diminutive defenseman certainly made an impact during his time in the league. He was a part of the young Edmonton Oilers team that made the transition from the WHA to the NHL in the 1979-80 season. at 5’9″ and under 160 pounds he was far from a prototypical NHL defenseman, but his tremendous strength allowed him to more than hold his own against much larger opponents. He also had some offensive talent, racking up 355 points in his brief career, including a 63 point season with the Oilers.
7 – Saku Koivu
This former Canadiens’ captain would be a lot higher up the list of the top 10 Finnish hockey players of all time if he hadn’t run into so many health problems in his career. Though he is tremendously skilled he is known more for his grit and determination, routinely outbattling much larger defensemen in his dogged pursuit of the puck. He has overcome cancer, a serious eye injury, and a host of other afflictions during his NHL career, amassing well over 800 points along the way.
6 – Jere Lehtinen
Though he only cracked the 50 point barrier twice in his career, few can dispute this talented forward deserves a high spot on the list of the top 10 Finnish hockey players of all time. Though his offensive numbers might not rank him with the top scorers in the league they aren’t terrible either. 514 points in 875 games isn’t too shabby for a defensive forward. Did I mention he won the Selke trophy as the league’s best defensive forward 3 times? Goals aren’t everything, but then again, he did pop 10 during the 1999 playoff run that saw his Dallas Stars win their first Stanley Cup.
5 – Teppo Numminen
Numminen played 8 seasons with the Winnipeg Jets and almost hung around long enough for a second stint with them. In fact, Numminen was around so long that at the time of his retirement he had played more games than any other European trained player in the history of the NHL, with 1,372 under his belt. During that time he has amassed 637 points, pretty impressive considering he has earned them all from defense.
4 – Mika Kiprusoff
We have our first goalie on the list of the top 10 Finnish hockey players of all time. Finnish goaltenders were a rarity in the NHL up until 10 years ago or so. Now they are everywhere, with more talented prospects coming up through the ranks all the time. They are definitely doing something right in the goaltending schools back in Finland, and arguably their best work plied his trade for the Calgary Flames. In 2004 his incredible goaltending led the Flames to within a whisker of hoisting the Stanley Cup, and he went on to prove he wasn’t just a flash in the pan, going on to capture the Vezina in 2006.
3 – Esa Tikkanen
Although Jarkko Ruutu might be the most agitating Finn in recent memory he didn’t come close to claiming that crown from legendary pest Esa Tikkanen. Sure, Tikkanen was a superpest back in the day, but he could put points on the board too, and his soft hands made him one of the best in the game when facing down goalies on breakaways. He was also a stellar shutdown man, and was often matched up against other teams’ best players. Not only would he limit their offensive output, but he would often outscore them. His versatility made him a key contributor during the dynasty years of the Edmonton Oilers, and he captured 5 Stanley Cups during his NHL career.
2 – Teemu Selanne
The Finnish Flash is a no-brainer for a spot on the list of the top 10 FInnish hockey players of all time. In his rookie season he set a mark that may never be broken, tallying an incredible 76 goals in that inaugural campaign. His 132 points that year is also a rookie record that still stands today. Over his career he was one of the NHL’s most feared snipers, scoring 684 goals, and putting up 1,457 points in just 1,451 career games, both records for a Finnish-born player. Look for him to enter the Hall of Fame the first year he is eligible.
1 – Jari Kurri
This man’s selection at the top spot of the list of the top 10 Finnish hockey players of all time should surprise nobody. Kurri was the first true Finnish superstar to play in the NHL, and is the NHL’s all time leading Finnish born scorer. During his remarkable career he scored 601 goals, and 1,398 points. Some might claim that playing with Wayne Gretzky for most of his career helped inflate those stats. While it certainly can’t be argued that anyone would benefit from playing with the greatest hockey player that ever lived it must be said that Kurri held his own, and many of his goals were the result of his pinpoint accurate shot, not easy tap-ins. Kurri proved his doubters wrong the year following Gretzky’s trade to Los Angeles. He scored 93 points in the regular season, then followed that up with 25 points in 22 playoff games to help lead Edmonton to their 5th Stanley Cup and their first without The Great One.
Featured image by s.yume