Ranking the 10 Best NHL Players Without an Olympic Medal

Tom Urtz Jr.Contributor IFebruary 19, 2014

Ranking the 10 Best NHL Players Without an Olympic Medal

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    For international players, winning an Olympic medal can be just as important as winning the Stanley Cup. Players grow up one day hoping to play in the NHL, but representing your nation is something surely spectacular. 

    The NHL has allowed its players to participate in the Olympic games since 1998, and since that point many players have won a bronze, silver or gold medal. However, some of the league's current elite players, such as Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin, have not been lucky enough to win hardware for their country.

    With that in mind, here is a ranking of the best current NHL players without an Olympic medal.

Honorable Mentions

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    Forwards: Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers (Canada), Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (Slovenia) and Marian Gaborik, Columbus Blue Jackets (Slovakia)

    Canada's Claude Giroux is one of the NHL's best players, so don't get up in arms over his position here. He is a little inexperienced when compared to some of the other players in this slideshow.

    In 392 games, all with the Philadelphia Flyers, Giroux has an impressive 348 points. He has gotten better as he has matured, and by all accounts he should have been a member of Team Canada this year. Four years from now, Giroux will be 30, and there's no reason why he shouldn't be competing in 2018 if the NHL sends its stars to South Korea.

    Gaborik is one of the NHL's most talented and most frustrating scorers. In 787 games, he has scored 686 points, and he has seven 30-goal seasons to his name. During three of those seasons, Gaborik scored 40 or more.

    He is a very talented player, and if he stays healthy (big if), he will most likely compete in the 2018 games.

    Anze Kopitar just competed in his first Olympic games for his home country of Slovenia. The nation had an impressive showing, but powerhouse Sweden dispatched Slovenia in the quarterfinals. In the NHL, Kopitar is an unsung center who flies under the radar in one of the biggest media markets in the world.

    Kopitar is a solid two-way center with offensive upside, and he has tallied 523 points in 581 games. He was an integral part of the Kings' Stanley Cup win back in 2012, and he is one of the best players in the NHL today.


    Defensemen: P.K. Subban, Montreal Canadiens (Canada) and Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues (Canada)

    Both these blueliners are current members of Team Canada and have a chance to win a medal this year. However, until at least Saturday, they remain medal-less. Subban is a rising star on the Habs' blue line, and he is a physical player with impressive offensive tools.

    Pietrangelo is an up-and-coming offensive defenseman with real promise, and he is a smooth skater who is a key asset on the power play. 


    Goalie: Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars (Finland)

    Kari Lehtonen is an underrated goaltender who has spent most of his career on some poor teams. Since coming to Dallas, Lehtonen has won or was on pace to win 30 games in a season. He has a career record of 203-162-45 with a .915 save percentage and 2.68 goals against average. He has a chance to win a medal as the No. 3 goalie for Finland, but at this time, he has no Olympic hardware to his name.


10. Ray Whitney, Dallas Stars (Canada)

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    Ray Whitney has never had a chance to play in the Olympics, and he will retire without a medal. Whitney has had a long career that has seen him record 1,054 points in 1,312 games. He also won a Stanley Cup in 2006 and has been an adequate secondary scorer his entire career. It is impressive that he can still be a producer in his 40s, and he definitely is one of the game's underrated journeymen.


9. Jonas Hiller, Anaheim Ducks (Switzerland)

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    Jonas Hiller almost single-handedly pushed his nation to the quarterfinals. Ultimately his nation's lack of offense prevented that from happening, and Hiller will have to hope the NHL can participate in 2018 if he wants to have a chance at winning a medal.

    In 315 games, Hiller has a record of 158-106-29 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.49 goals against average. If not for repeated bouts of vertigo, Hiller would likely have better overall numbers. He is a netminder on the rise, and his record of 25-9-4 this season is one of the league's best records.

    Hiller certainly is an underdog netminder who doesn't always get the credit he is due, but he is most assuredly one of the best NHLers without a medal.


8. Tuukka Rask, Boston Bruins (Finland)

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    Tuukka Rask is a netminder on the rise. He has a career record of 91-58-20 and a .927 save percentage and 2.14 goals against average to boot. The Finnish backstop had an amazing performance against Russia on Wednesday, and he will need to win on Friday if he wants the chance to compete for an Olympic medal.

    It may be hard for Finland to unseat a top contender like Sweden during the semis, but it should at least stand a chance against the U.S. or Canada in a potential bronze-medal game.

7. Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators (Sweden)

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    There is a solid chance that Erik Karlsson will be off this list by the end of Sunday, because if Sweden doesn't beat Finland to advance to the gold-medal game, it will be the favorite for the bronze medal.

    Karlsson gets a lot of criticism for his defensive deficiencies, but he's an amazing offensive blueliner. His skating is flawless, his passes are crisp and he has a decent cannon from the point. 

    In 292 games, Karlsson has 218 points, and if not for an injury in 2012-13, he'd be much further along as an offensive defender. He is on pace to finish the season with just under 80 points, and that's an impressive achievement for a defenseman in today's NHL.


6. Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks (Slovakia)

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    Marian Hossa may go down as one of the NHL's best players to never win an Olympic medal. 

    Throughout his 1,073-game career, Hossa has scored 458 goals and has added 527 markers for 985 points. He's had an amazing career to date, and there is a slight chance Hossa will compete for his country as a 39-year-old in 2018.

    It isn't impossible, but Hossa has dealt with injuries that could catch up with him four years from now.

5. Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins (Slovakia)

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    Zdeno Chara has been one of the NHL's top defenders since entering the league, and he likely won't get another chance to win a medal. He is 36 years old, and he may not want to compete in 2018.

    Chara is known for his size, but he has been a decent offensive defensive for the majority of his career. From 2003-12, Chara recorded at least 40 points, including three 50-point seasons. Chara's had an amazing NHL career that includes a Norris Trophy for best defenseman and a Stanley Cup, but odds are that he wanted to win an Olympic medal for his nation.

4. John Tavares, New York Islanders (Canada)

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    John Tavares is one of the NHL's top elite players, and this year he has proven that he should be talked about in the same breath as Sidney Crosby. Tavares entered the league as a playmaker, and his early point totals were low because of his selfless attempts to set up teammates.

    Once Tavares decided to shoot the puck more, his point and goal totals started to rise. In 350 games, Tavares has 315 points, and this year was supposed to be a career year for Tavares. With 66 points in 59 games, Tavares has a 1.12 points per game average, but a knee injury suffered in Sochi could derail his season (h/t beat writer Arthur Staple of Newsday).

    If Canada wins a medal, Tavares will receive one despite injury, but odds are the Islanders' captain would have liked to play a role in the medal round. 


3. Evgeni Malkin, Pittsburgh Penguins (Russia)

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    Evgeni Malkin had a chance to win a medal in his home country, but Russia was upset by Finland in the quarterfinals. Malkin has appeared in three Olympics, and each time his country has failed to medal. That hasn't been Malkin's fault, but at least he's had an impressive NHL career to date.

    In 505 games, Malkin has 618 points, and three 100-point campaigns. The Penguins' star center has also battled injuries, so his accomplishments are certainly impressive. Because of his age, Malkin should have at least two more Olympics to try and win a medal, and it would be surprising if he ended his career medal-less.

2. Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals (Russia)

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    The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi—these were Alexander Ovechkin's Olympics. After all the fanfare and promotion leading up to an event in which Ovechkin was a major ambassador, he will return to Washington a loser. Russia's head coach didn't hesitate in distributing the blame, and the burden falls on Ovie's shoulders.

    Courtesy of Puck Daddy, here is what head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov had to say.

    Tough to explain the loss, of course, why scored so little. Players who score so many goals for their clubs, like Alex Ovechkin who scored 40 goals for his club [didn’t score]… Right now I cannot explain that.

    It is tough to be Ovechkin right now, because by all accounts he let his country down. It didn't help that he only scored one goal, but Bilyaletdinov's distribution of ice time was curious as well (h/t Chris Peters of CBS Sports).

    Regardless, Ovechkin has still been a top performer individually throughout his NHL career, and he has four 100-point seasons and four 50-goal campaigns. Ovie is still relatively young at age 28, so there's a good chance he will have a medal by the time his professional career is over.

1. Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay Lightning (Canada)

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    In a perfect world for Team Canada, Martin St. Louis retires without having a chance to win an Olympic medal. In a perfect world, Steven Stamkos doesn't suffer an injury, and he competes for his nation in Sochi.

    Despite St. Louis' amazing career, players such as Chris Kunitz were given priority over the future Hall of Famer. Due to an injury to John Tavares, St. Louis' place in the lineup should remain safe, and he will have a chance to add the title Olympic medalist to his resume.

    His resume already lists 968 points in 1,037 games including 365 goals and 603 assists. He is also the oldest player in league history to win the Art Ross Trophy, and he's averaged over 20:00 minutes of ice time the last eight seasons.

    No matter how you slice it, St. Louis is a legend, and a medal would be the coda of an amazing career.