The Top 10 Players Not Playing in the NHL

Steve McSween@dansallowsSenior Analyst IDecember 16, 2009

The NHL is by far the top hockey league in the world, there is no arguing that, though the fact is that there are a handful of players outside the league that are very capable of making an impact at the sports highest level, but are not.

With the emergence of the Kontinental Hockey League, players now have yet another area in which to hone their skills.

While some have opted to play elsewhere of their own accord, others have either succumbed to injury or had Father Time finally catch up with them.

In any case, it is time to recognize some of the gems and count down the top 10 players not displaying their skills in the NHL right now.

10. Lanny Gare (Bad Nauheim EC)

Out of all the players to never get their shot at the NHL, few have been more productive than former Buffalo Sabres great, and Danny Gare's nephew, Lanny Gare.

Shoulder injuries have been a problem over his career, something that kept the talented centre out of the NCAA Frozen Four in 2003, which was a shame as he tallied 22 goals and 29 assists in 40 games that season for the U. of New Hampshire Wildcats.

In a little over a season with Germany's Bad Nauheim EC, Gare's numbers are remarkable, as he has scored 48 goals and added 72 assists in just 67 games.

They can find a place for Taylor Pyatt to play, but not this guy?

9. Ilya Proskuryakov (Metallurg Magnitogorsk, KHL)

Few goaltenders have been better than 24-year-old Ilya Proskuryakov over the past season and a half in Russia's Konitinental Hockey League. In fact, he leads the league this season, going 20-6-3 with a .927 save percentage, a 1.92 goals against average and has four shutouts thus far.

Last season, he became the first netminder to score a goal in a KHL game, stopping 26 shots for a 2-0 shutout and firing a puck into an empty net with seconds left.

Proskuryakov can stop shots and score goals, yet he has gone undrafted. The last time I checked, the Philadelphia Flyers needed a tender.

8. Jori Lehtera (Tappara Tampere, Finnish Elite League)

Out of all the talent playing outside the NHL, few combine the flamboyant offensive capabilities and the all-around large centerman aspects like 22-year-old Jori Lehtera.

He is a gifted setup man with slick stick handling abilities in a 6'2", 200 lbs. frame, that St. Louis fans may be drooling over for years to come if his skating improves, which may be his only weakness.

If not, Lehtera's star will shine brightly in Finland, as this season he is tied for the scoring lead with 12 goals and 25 assists in just 29 games.

7. Roman Cervenka (Slavia Praha HC, Czech Extraliga)

Roman Cervenka has slowly come into his own after playing five-plus seasons for Slavia Praha HC in the Czech Republic. From scoring just 12 points in his first full season with the club to leading the league in scoring with 24 goals and 31 assists in 33 games so far.

A free agent signing of the Phoenix Coyotes, the 24-year-old Cervenka is a highly skilled player that many anticipate will be productive in the NHL, if he gets an opportunity.

He will most likely have a chance to display his talents for the world soon, as there is a very good chance he will play with team Czech Republic at the upcoming 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.

6. Maxim Sushinsky (SKA St. Petersburgh, KHL)

One has to wonder that if Maxim Sushinsky hadn't been drafted by the defense oriented Minnesota Wild, if he would have been a standout offensive player in the NHL.

Since his brief 30-game stint with the Wild (scoring seven goals and four assists), Sushinsky has been nothing short of brilliant playing in his native Russia.

In 2006, he represented the Russian Federation in the Winter Olympics, scoring five points in eight games. This season, he leads all scorers in the KHL with 16 goals and 26 assists in 36 games.

All of this time, the Leafs have been looking for a legitimate top six forward, and this guy has been going about his business quietly in Russia.

5. Mats Zuccarello-Aasen (Modo Hockey, Swedish Elite League)

Mats Zuccarello-Aasen is about as well known as the cameramen for Hockey Night in Canada, but it may just be a matter of time before they are filming him.

So far this season, the Polish born Zuccarello-Aasen is amongst the leading scorers in the Swedish Elite League with 14 goals and 21 assists in 31 games.

The 22-year-old left-winger has offensive capabilities mirroring that of Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg, though at 5'7" and 160 lbs., he may have a hard time cracking an NHL lineup.

4. Corey Locke (Hartford Wolfpack, AHL)

You can't have a list of top 10 players outside of the NHL and not include career AHLer Corey Locke, who at 5'9" and 168 lbs., may never get his opportunity in the big leagues.

It hasn't been for his lack of production, that is for sure, as Locke currently leads the American Hockey League in scoring with 12 goals and 23 assists in 30 games. Last season, the crafty centerman put up 25 goals and 54 assists in 77 games.

With all of the problems the New York Rangers have had in recent weeks, it is a wonder they haven't called Locke up to Broadway.

3.  Jiri Hudler (Dynamo Moscow, KHL)

With all of the issues in the Motor City this season, there is little doubt that the Detroit Red Wings would love to have Jiri Hudler back in their lineup.

After 23 goals and 34 assists last season for the Wings, Hudler, a restricted free agent, filed for arbitration and then signed a $10 million, two-year deal with Dynamo Moscow. His arbitration case was later settled at $5.75 million over the same term.

This season, Hudler has not disappointed fans in the KHL, as he amongst the top six scoring leaders in the league with 33 points in 35 games so far.

2. Jacob Markstrom (Brynas IF, Swedish Elite League)

The Florida Panthers are in good shape in the goal for years to come thanks to 19-year-old prospect Jacob Markstrom.

At 6'4", this butterfly style goalie has little problem making himself look big in the nets to oncoming shooters, and he displays all of the qualities that will make him a star in the NHL, if and when he gets the opportunity.

Currently, Markstrom is amongst the league leaders with a 2.14 goals against average, and a .921 save percentage over 22 games.

1. Alexander Radulov (Salavat Yulaev UFA, KHL)

Like Hudler, Radulov opted to play in the KHL, as he desperately wanted to return home to his native Russia, though he signed a deal with Salavat Yulaev while still under contract for one more year with the NHL's Nashville Predators.

There is no doubt that Radulov is a player with tremendous offensive skills, and after putting up 26 goals and 32 assists in his second year in Nashville, he has lit up the KHL for 39 goals and 49 assists in 85 games played over the course of a season and a half.

If Radulov ever does decide to come back to the NHL, there is no doubt many teams would be champing at the bit in order to acquire him.



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