Okay, allow me to introduce you all two more of these over-achieving athletes that became so useful for their respective teams.
This will be an all-European section. In the '80s and '90s, unless the prospect was thought to be a "can’t miss" NHL player, Europeans were usually drafted in the later rounds because of the unpleasant possibility that those players would decide not to come over to America.
Even now it’s still a problem, with the KHL in place, it might be even worse. The KHL can offer some very lucrative contracts to players that would play in the AHL here.
We all know what happened with Alexander Radulov (who, as per Russian news, is trying to nullify his contract and come back to the NHL next year).
The same happened with Pavel Valentenko earlier this year, a Montreal Canadien’s defense prospect, who supported his entire family back in Russia on AHL salary (about $30,000 to $35,000) and couldn't keep it up. So he left the club for "family reasons" and signed a lucrative three-year contract in Russia.
In the light of these problems, I can understand how general managers are hesitant to draft European players. Alexei Cherepanov, who recently made news for unpleasant reasons, was thought to be a top five pick by the International Scouting Services, but was taken 17th overall by the Rangers.
So here are the two European over-achievers…
(Don’t worry, there aren’t just two! More are coming!)
In 1989, the Detroit Red Wings picked Sergei Fedorov with their fourth round pick, 74th overall. To my surprise, Fedorov is another one of those players who defected from the Soviet Union to play in the NHL. CSKA Moscow was playing a game in Seattle, he left his hotel room and escaped to Detroit.
I can still remember how dominant Fedorov was. Unfortunately he left hockey for a couple years and then slowed down a lot since. But I can still remember seeing highlights from him almost every night.
Fedorov quickly became a regular 30 goal scorer. He is playing in his 19th season this year and has scored 30 goals or more 10 times. Remove injuries and the half-season lock-out in 1994-95 and you could add three more 30 goal seasons.
To me, Sergei Fedorov is the original version of Pavel Datsyuk. You want to know what Sergei looked like in his prime, Datsyuk is your man! They have similar styles and both are awesome two-way players. Fedorov won the Selke twice in his career (1994 and 1996).
The 1993-94 season was easily his best, he finished second in scoring (120), just 10 points behind legend Wayne Gretzky, third in goals (56) behind other legends Pavel Bure and Brett Hull, and won the Selke, Hart and Pearson trophy.
Fedorov won so many awards and has so many records that I don’t know where to start. So I’ll just list them all to show how dominant he was (because let’s be honest, he’s getting old and he’s nowhere near what he used to be)
Named to the NHL All-rookie Team in 1991
Played in the NHL All-Star Game in 1992, 1994, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2003
Won the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 1994 and 1996
Won the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1994
Won the Lester B. Pearson in 1994
Won a silver medal in the 1998 Winter Olympics
Won a bronze medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics
Won the 2005 Primus Challenge Bowl for World'Stars
Won gold medals in the 1989, 1990 and 2008 Ice Hockey World Championships
First European player to win the Hart Ross trophy
First Russian player to reach 1,000 NHL points
Fourth in Red Wings history for points
Three-time Stanley Cups Champion in 1997, 1998, 2002, all with Detroit
Most goals scored by a Russian born player with 476 at this point.
Some interesting trivia about Sergei Fedorov:
-When he was a kid, he struggled to chose between tennis and hockey, where he had world class talent in both. But luckily for us, he chose hockey!
-Apparently, he was married to tennis star Anna Kournikova from 2001 to 2003 although she has denied it.
-He experienced legal trouble in 2001 when he was arrested for driving while impaired. It has been resolved since. But apparently he is still being sued to this day for unpaid loans for over $2 million.
At this point in his career, he has 1209 games played, 476 goals, 679 assists for 1155 points. Detroit has some amazing European scouts! That’s darn impressive for a fourth round pick!
My second European player of this All-Euro article is the original "Russian rocket", Pavel Bure. I’ll admit it right away, he’s my all-time favorite player! You can feel the admiration when I talk about him. I still get chills watching how easy it was for him to score.
Pavel was drafted by the Canucks, in the sixth round, 113th overall. He was later traded to the Florida Panthers because of a contract dispute in the trade that brought Ed Jovanovski to the Canucks.
Bure was a “steal” because the Canucks drafted him a year ahead of his eligible draft year. But Canucks scout Mike Penny, at the time, pulled a rabbit out of his hat, and discovered that Bure had played in enough international games to make him eligible a year earlier than expected.
He also won the Calder as the best rookie with 34 goals and 60 points in 1991-92, edging out Niklas Lidstrom and Tony Amonte.
Pavel Bure was poetry on ice. His skating and stick-handling skills had no equal at that time. He was so fast he could easily out-skate defensemen and go on break-aways. Honestly, I think he had at least one per game.
For Bure, 40 goals was easy, 50 goals was decent...but 60 goals was his goal as he was a frequent 60 goal scorer. There hasn’t been many of those since. He did it twice "technically," in two consecutive years in 1993 and 1994. And in both of these seasons he put up over 100 points.
I said "technically " because on two more occasions, Bure came very close. He scored 58 goals in 74 games in 2000 and 59 goals in 82 games in 2001.
His 59 goals in 2001 is all the more impressive if you look at the other players on the team. Bure finished the season with 92 points, the closest being Viktor Kozlov with 37 points! A staggering 55 points behind Bure!
Pavel Bure WAS the Florida Panthers back then. He won the Rocket Richard trophy twice and also led the league in scoring in 1993-94 when there were no awards.
Unfortunately, many injuries cut his career short. It was such a disappointment to me when he decided to retire due to knee problems, but for a star like Bure, known for his speed, not being able to skate is an awful thing.
Immediately after he retired, in 2005, he was named general manager for Russia's Olympic hockey team. He ended his career with 702 games played, 437 goals, 342 assists for 779 points, good for fourth on Vancouver’s all-time scoring list.
You like what Alex Ovechkin does? Go take a look at Bure. As far as snipers go, he was the best. Watch him drop the puck to his skates on a break-away. It’s the only time I’ve seen such a move!
Trivia about Pavel Bure :
-Pavel played along side Alexander Mogilny and Sergei Fedorov (mentioned earlier) back in Russia with the CSKA Moscow.
-Like Sergei Fedorov, he also dated Anna Kournikova and has been involved in many lawsuits following his break-up for defamation.
-Bure’s family made precious watches for Tsar Alexander III. Pavel presented the last three gold-replica models from the company to president Boris Yeltsin.
-Bure’s father, Vladimir Bure, was an Olympic swimmer. In the 1972 games, he lost the gold by half a second to legendary American swimmer Mark Spitz.
Bure won many awards. Again, I’ll just list all of his awards because it’s too long to elaborate!
Soviet champion in 1988 and 1989
European Champions Cup in 1988 and1989
Rookie of the Year in 1989 (Russia)
Best Forward in World Junior championship in 1989
World Junior gold (Soviet Union) in 1989
World Championship gold (Soviet Union) in 1990
Calder Memorial Trophy in 1992
Played in six NHL All-Star Games in 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001
NHL First All-Star team in 1994
NHL Second All-Star Team in 2000 and 2001
Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy in 2000, 2001 (also led the league in goals in 1994)
Most Exciting Player award (Vancouver Canucks) in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1998
Molson Cup (Canucks' three-star selection leader) in1992, 1993, 1994 and 1998
Cyclone Taylor Trophy (Canucks' MVP) in 1993, 1994 and 1998
Cyrus H. McLean Trophy (Canucks' leading scorer) in 1993, 1994, 1995 and 1998