BY MICHAEL GARDNER – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
Mats Sundin has been named to the Hockey Hall of Fame. It is a great achievement for a player that had numerous International Awards and a handful of NHL accolades. His consistent point production, charity leanings and personality all made him a likable figure in Toronto where he spent the bulk of his NHL career. He had to overcome the stigma of being the player that had to replace Toronto Maple Leafs captain Wendel Clark and stereotypes regarding his style of play given his nationality. He handled each with grace and professionalism.
While it is impossible to rank Mats relative to the long list of his fellow Hall of Famers, we can make some comparisons with his fellow countrymen. At least those that have ventured over the pond to ply their trade in the NHL. I am going to run down a very brief ranking of whom I believe to be some of the 10 best Swedish hockey players of all time. I will give you my ranking and ask for yours in return.
1. Nicklas Lidstrom
This was the easy pick. Seven Norris trophies, 12 NHL All Star selections, four Stanley Cups, one World Championship, one Olympic gold medal and a Conn Smythe Trophy for good measure. Not bad for the 53rd overall pick in 1989 is it?
2. Borje Salming
I gave Salming a high ranking for both his achievements on the ice and the climate in which he played. Coming to the NHL in the 70’s was not an easy task. A marked man on the ice and in the media, Salming let his play do the talking and his place in the Hall of Fame is rightly deserved.
3. Peter Forsberg
Despite often being injured, Forsberg tallied 885 points in 708 games. Art Ross trophy winner. Hart trophy winner. Multiple NHL All Star selections and two Stanley Cups, he was a player most teams coveted.
4. Mats Sundin
A nine time NHL All Star, 1,349 points in 1,346 games and an Olympic gold medal. Sundin’s record speaks for itself.
5. Mats Naslund
A phrase I got tired of hearing as a Leaf fan growing up. “Naslund……Le Tir! Et la but!” A four time NHL All Star and Stanley Cup winner with Montreal (1986), he added a Lady Bing Trophy, World Championship and an Olympic gold medal to his trophy case. Not bad for a 5’7″ 160 lbs winger playing in the 1980’s.
6. Kent Nilsson
Nilsson’s NHL career was relatively short by his fellow countrymen’s standards, spanning 11 seasons. In those 11, he played well above a point a game and still holds the record for most points scored by a Swedish player in an NHL season at 131.
7. Markus Naslund
A Canucks legend. Hard to argue with 869 NHL points that covered a 15-plus year career. A five time All Star who also has his name on the Hart and Pearson trophies, there was a reason the Canucks named him Captain.
8. Daniel and Henrik Sedin
Hard to separate the two of them, though some have tried. Their careers have spanned over 10 years and neither shows any sign of letting up. Some might criticize them for playoff performance but over the last five years they were nearly point a game playoff performers. Hard to chip in more than that.
9. Henrik Lundqvist
A four time Vezina trophy nominee with a career .920 regular season save percentage and a .917 career playoff percentage. One of the best to play for Sweden and with six NY Rangers MVP nominations, one of the best to ever play in goal for that storied franchise.
10. Jonte Berg
Who is Jonte Berg you ask? For fun, I included him. Not because he plays in the Swedish league. But because he broke his stick on a breakaway, scored anyways and celebrated as if he knew what he was doing. That’s my kind of guy.
Honourable mention to Daniel Alfredsson and Henrik Zetterberg who still are playing and have a crack at this elite and exclusive Top 10 list.
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