The best Russian players in NHL history

Profile Picture: Robert Criscola

May 6th, 2020

As of 2018, just 4.3% of NHL players hail from Russia. However, among them are some of the game’s elite, like Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin.

But how do they compare to the generations of Russian players who came before them? Let’s rank the top five Russian players in NHL history.

5. Sergei Fedorov

An integral part of the Detroit Red Wings dynasty of the 1990s, Fedorov was one of the greatest two-way forwards the NHL has seen.

Fedorov won his first Selke Trophy (best defensive forward) in 1994, when he tallied a career-high 120 points and also garnered Hart Trophy (most valuable to his team) and Pearson Trophy (most outstanding player) honors. He won his second and final Selke in 1996, which coincided with his first of three Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings.

Fedorov is the second-leading Russian scorer in the NHL, with 1,179 points.

4. Evgeni Malkin

Malkin is sometimes overlooked as the Ovechkin vs. Sidney Crosby "rivalry” tends to overshadow most things hockey related, which is a shame, because he is an outstanding player.

Malkin is the current leader in points per game by a Russian player in the NHL, with an 1.186 average over 907 games. The 2007 Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) winner has won the Art Ross Trophy (most points) twice, with a Hart and a Pearson from 2012. Malkin also received Conn Smythe (playoffs MVP) honors in 2009, after his first of three Stanley Cup championships with the Penguins.

3. Pavel Bure

Russia’s all-time leader in goals per game in the NHL (0.623), Bure was one of the game’s great talents, regardless of origin.

Bure led the NHL in goals in three separate seasons, including the 1993-1994 campaign, when his Canucks lost the Stanley Cup Finals in seven games to the Rangers. He can’t really be blamed, though, because he scored 16 goals in 24 postseason games that year. “The Russian Rocket” is first among his countrymen in points per playoff game (1.094, minimum of 20 games).

2. Pavel Datsyuk

Datsyuk was a perennial Selke and Lady Byng (sportsmanship) contender in his 14-year career, but he wasn’t called “The Magic Man” for nothing.

One of the most gifted skaters in NHL history, Datsyuk won the Lady Byng Trophy four straight years and won the Selke in three straight seasons. He was along for the ride in 2002, as a rookie on the Red Wings’ championship team, but was a key contributor when Detroit hoisted Lord Stanley’s hardware again in 2008.

Only Malkin and Artemi Panarin have averaged more assists per game among Russian players than Datsyuk (0.634, minimum of 300 games).

1. Alex Ovechkin

Still just 34 years old, Ovechkin ranks eighth in NHL goals (706) and is outpacing Wayne Gretzky in goals per game (0.613, compared to the 0.601).

He has practically taken ownership of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Award (most goals). He has paced the NHL in goals eight times and is poised to win it again, depending on what happens with the remainder of the 2019-2020 season.

Russia’s all-time leading goal scorer in the postseason (65) finally won a Stanley Cup in 2018, so detractors can’t hold that against him any more. Ovechkin is also the all-time leader in points by a Russian in the NHL (1,278).

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