Marian Gaborik and the Top 10 Slovak Players in NHL History
Not only is it in fact a country, it's a country that loves hockey.
Over the last 30 years, this small Eastern European Republic of roughly 5.5 million has produced some of the NHL’s top talent.
As of this moment Slovakia is host to the 75th IIHF World Championships—or as North American hockey fans call it, “that thing that goes on during the playoffs.”
So in honour of the underappreciated, hockey loving country of Slovakia, here are the top 10 Slovaks to play in the NHL.
No. 10: Anton Stastny
NHL Seasons: 1980-1989
Teams: Quebec Nordiques
The youngest of the three Stastny brothers, Anton defected to Canada with brother Peter during the 1980 World Ice Hockey Championships in Austria.
Anton played all nine of his NHL seasons in Quebec City alongside Peter—four of which they were joined by brother Marian—scoring at least 25 goals for eight consecutive years.
While not as fast as Peter, Anton possessed a great hockey sense and ability to read plays and put up 92 points during his third season.
He retired in 1989 with 636 points in 650 career games. A regular playoff producer, he had 52 points in 66 postseason appearances.
No. 9: Miroslav Satan
NHL Seasons: 1995-2010
A speedy and versatile winger with a great shot, Miroslav Satan led the Buffalo Sabres in scoring six times during his eight seasons with the club.
A two-time All-Star, Satan made two Stanley Cup appearances during his career, losing with the Sabres in 1999 before winning with Pittsburgh in 2009.
Satan is 10th on the Sabres’ all-time scoring list and seventh for all-time Sabres goals.
He left the NHL in 2010 with 735 points in 1,050 career games.
Unfortunately, he never played for the Devils.
(Seriously, can you imagine a Devils jersey with Satan on the back?!)
No. 8: Pavol Demitra
NHL Seasons: 1993-2010
Fast and able to play any forward position, Pavol Demitra helped make the St. Louis Blues playoff regulars and Stanley Cup contenders during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Talented at both setting up teammates and finishing plays, Demitra is fifth on the Blues’ all-time scoring list including a 93 point effort with the club in 2002-03.
A three-time All-Star known for his sportsmanship, Demitra was awarded the Lady Byng Trophy in 2000.
He left the league in 2010 with 768 points in 847 career games.
No. 7: Zigmund Palffy
NHL Seasons: 1993-2006
Teams: New York Islanders, Los Angeles Kings, Pittsburgh Penguins
“Ziggy” made a career off putting up consistently high numbers with predictably bad teams.
During the 1995-96 season Palffy led the Islanders with 43 goals and 87 points despite the club’s 22 wins.
A fast skater with great hands and ability to attract the puck, Palffy continued to rack up points with the Kings and Penguins before injuries cut his career short.
A four-time all-star, he retired in 2006 with a career points-per-game average of 1.04.
No. 6: Marian Gaborik
NHL Seasons: 2000-Present
Teams: Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers
With his great speed, hands and one-on-one moves, the “Slick Slovak” can be, when healthy, an offensive force and one of the league’s top scorers.
The all-time Minnesota Wild leader in goals, assists and points, on December 20, 2007, Marian Gaborik became the first player in eleven years to score five goals in one game.
A two-time All-Star with two 40 goal seasons and a goals-per-game average of .44, the highly skilled winger’s career has been marred by recurring bouts of injuries that have severely curbed his potential.
No. 5: Marian Hossa
NHL Seasons: 1997-Present
A skilled sniper, stick handler and playmaker, Marian Hossa is a Calder Trophy nominee and four-time All-Star.
A consistent producer in both the regular season and playoffs, Hossa has three 40 goal seasons under his belt and was the first Atlanta Thrasher to score 100 points in a season.
The first player in NHL history to make three consecutive Stanley Cup appearances with three different teams, Hossa's "curse" came to an end when he finally won with the Blackhawks in 2010.
No. 4: Zdeno Chara
NHL Seasons: 1998-Present
Teams: New York Islander, Ottawa Senators, Boston Bruins
The only defenseman on our list, at 6'9" Zdeno Chara is the tallest player in NHL history.
An aggressive and intimidating shutdown defenseman, the Bruins captain is known throughout the league for his bone crushing hits (just ask Max Pacioretty).
Possessing a booming shot from the point that has been clocked in at a record 105.9 mph, Chara is extremely effective on the power play.
A six-time All-Star, in 2009 Chara became the third Bruin after Bobby Orr and Ray Borque to win the Norris Trophy.
Intense and focused on the ice, Chara is a strong leader who is unafraid to drop the gloves.
No. 3: Peter Bondra
NHL Seasons: 1990-2007
Teams: Washington Capitals, Ottawa Senators, Atlanta Thrashers, Chicago Blackhawks
Before there was Ovechkin there was Bondra.
Drafted 156th overall by the Washington Capitals in 1990, Peter Bondra is the franchise’s all-time leader in goals, points, game winning goals, shorthanded goals and hat tricks.
A lethal sharpshooter, Bondra led the league in scoring in 1994-95 and tied Teemu Selanne for the league lead in 1997-98.
His 52 goals that season propelled the Capitals into the playoffs and to their only Stanley Cup finals appearance where they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.
A five-time All-Star and two-time 50 goal scorer, Bondra retired in 2007 with 503 career goals and 892 points.
No. 2: Stan Mikita
NHL Seasons: 1958-1980
Teams: Chicago Blackhawks
Born in Slovakia and raised in St. Catherines Ontario, Stan Mikita began his professional career at age 19 with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team with whom he would spend all 22 of his NHL seasons.
Alongside Bobby Hull, Mikita helped elevate the club from the league’s worst to 1961 Stanley Cup Champions.
Credited as a pioneer of the curved stick, in 1964 Mikita won the Art Ross Trophy and would do so again in three of the following four seasons.
Mikita began his career as one of the league’s scrappiest players. However, during the 1965-66 season he cleaned up his game and in 1967 became the first player to win three major trophies—the Art Ross, Hart and Lady Byng.
He repeated the feat the following year.
An eight-time all-star, Mikita holds the Blackhawks’ all-time record for points, games, seasons and assists and is second only to Bobby Hull for most goals.
His No. 21 was the first to be retired by the Blackhawks almost immediately following his retirement in 1980 and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983.
Mikita retired with 1,467 career points in 1,394 games.
No. 1: Peter Stastny
NHL Seasons: 1980-1995
Teams: Quebec Nordiques, New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues
We opened with a Stastny and we’ll close with a Stastny.
Peter Stastny burst onto the NHL scene in 1980 at the age of 23 setting a then rookie record with 109 points.
Flanked by brothers Anton and Marian, Stastny broke the 100 point plateau seven times during his first eight seasons.
Second only to Gretzky in scoring in the 1980s, Stastny was the first European-trained player to score over 1,000 points in his career.
A tough, powerful skater and highly skilled playmaker, the six-time All-Star and Calder Trophy winner was one of the first Europeans to achieve superstardom in the NHL.
His success helped open the door for subsequent generations of European-trained players, particularly those from the former Eastern-Bloc.
Stastny retired in 1995 with 1,239 career points in 977 games and was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in November of 1998.
He is the father of current Colorado Avalanche forward Paul Stastny.