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NHL - US Sports: Top Five Overseas Stars

16 June 2022 12:14:55 EST
Victor Hedman is a candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy

The NHL has welcomed some highly-talented stars from overseas and we've taken a look at the top five to have graced the ice this season.

Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning)

A pivotal part of the Tampa Bay Lightning's back-to-back Stanley Cup Championship success and bid to three-peat, 31-year-old Victor Hedman is widely considered to be the most valuable defenceman in the NHL.

In each of the past six seasons, the 6'6" Swede has been named a Norris Trophy finalist, awarded to "the defence player who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-around ability in the position." 

A winner in 2017/18, with every year that passes Hedman continues to elevate his game, most recently scoring 20 goals, 65 assists for 85 points from the blue-line, a career-best in all categories.

The Norris nomination streak ties former Detroit Red Wings defenceman Nicklas Lidstrom (1997/98 through 2002/03) as the longest achieved. 

Over 13 seasons with Tampa Bay, Hedman has moved up to fourth in all-time regular-season games played (898), fourth in assists (469) and fifth in points (603). 

In the absence of Steven Stamkos through injury, Hedman stepped up to Captain the Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2020, recording 10 goals, 12 assists during a run which saw him also win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs.  

Over 149 career post-season appearances so far, he has 102 points (21 goals, 81 assists). He is 51.00 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy this season.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (Tampa Bay Lightning) 

Russian Andrei Vasilevskiy isn't just continually proving to be the best active goalie in the NHL, but his record in the Stanley Cup playoffs over the past three seasons has put him in the conversation as one of the greatest of all-time. 

Recording a stunning 46 wins in 65 starts since the start of the 2019 playoffs, Vasilevskiy is aiming to be the first goalie since Billy Smith to win three Stanley Cups in a row as the Lightning face the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final. Smith managed four with the New York Islanders from 1980-83.  

Aside from his jaw-dropping numbers in the past three playoff campaigns; a .927, .937 and .928 save-percentage and 1.90, 1.90 and 2.27 goals-against-average (GAA), Vasilevskiy went 17-0 in games following a defeat, which was ended recently by the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final.  

In those games, the 27-year-old had a .942 save-percentage and 1.47 GAA with five shut-outs. 

On top of that, in Vasilevskiy's past eight series-clinching victories he has given up just two goals on 221 shots, a .991 save-percentage. He has won 11 straight series and is the current holder of the Conn Smythe Trophy. He is 8.00 to retain the award this season.

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Nikita Kucherov (Tampa Bay Lightning) 

Given their remarkable success in recent years, it's little surprise that Tampa Bay Lightning's overseas big-stars hog the top five list. 

Another perennial post-season performer, Russian Nikita Kucherov leads the Stanley Cup Final bound Lightning for points in the playoffs for a third straight season (23; seven goals, 16 assists). He is 13.00 to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of this season's playoffs.

Over the past three years, the 28-year-old has amassed an impressive 89 points in 65 playoff games. Last season, he remarkably registered 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) after missing the entirety of the regular season through injury.  

In the regular season, Kucherov has the second-highest points-per-game average behind Connor McDavid over the past three seasons. He won the Hart Trophy as the league's MVP in 2018/19.    

Leon Draisaitl (Edmonton Oilers) 

Key to Canadian McDavid's success in recent years is German teammate Leon Draisaitl. 

The 26-year-old playmaker has registered over 100 points in three of the last four NHL regular seasons and in 2019/20 was named the Hart Trophy winner as the league's MVP.  

In the most recent season, Draisaitl scored a career-high 55 goals and 110 points in 80 games.  

In the playoffs he amassed a whopping 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) in 16 games, second only to McDavid amongst all players, helping the Oilers to the Western Conference Final. The achievement is a remarkable one with a high ankle sprain sustained in Game 6 of the opening round.   

Alexander Ovechkin (Washington Capitals)

Bidding to become the greatest goal-scorer in NHL history, Russian Ovechkin is on course to break Wayne Gretzky's all-time record of 894 NHL regular-season goals. 

Currently third on the list with 780, Ovechkin has four seasons left to reach the target on the five-year deal that he signed with the Capitals last summer.  

In the most recent campaign, 36-year-old Ovechkin joined Gretzky and Mike Bossy for most 50-goal seasons in NHL history with nine. 

He has won the Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy as the league's leading goal-scorer a record nine times and the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL's MVP on three occasions.  

In 2018 he scored 15 goals (27 points) in 24 games to lead the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup. He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.

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