Saturday, January 19, 2008

The All Star Game By Nationality

It is always interesting to look at which countries are producing NHL players and how those rates are changing with time. David Lee at Red and Black Hockey has a good study. His study shows the number of players in the entire NHL from various countries. It is interesting to look at these numbers for top players only and see if they mirror the overall trends or if they reveal anything new. For this study, I will assume that the top players in the NHL are those that will appear in the All Star Game. I am including in this study, any players selected to the game who will not participate.

Here is the breakdown of 44 All Star Game players by nationality:

Canada 23: Jason Arnott, Martin Brodeur, Brian Campbell, Sidney Crosby, Ryan Getzlaf, Dany Heatley, Shawn Horcoff, Jarome Iginla, Ed Jovanovski, Duncan Keith, Vincent LeCavalier, Manny Legace, Roberto Luongo, Rick Nash, Chris Osgood, Dion Phaneuf, Chris Pronger, Mike Richards, Martin St Louis, Marc Savard, Jason Spezza, Eric Staal, Joe Thornton

Russia 7: Pavel Datsyuk, Sergei Gonchar, Ilya Kovalchuk, Andrei Markov, Evgeni Nabokov, Alexander Ovechkin, Sergei Zubov

Sweden 4: Daniel Alfredsson, Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Sedin, Henrik Zetterberg

Slovakia 3: Zdeno Chara, Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa

USA 3: Rick DiPietro, Scott Gomez, Paul Stastny

Czech Republic 2: Tomas Kaberle, Tomas Vokoun

Finland 1: Kimmo Timonen

Slovenia 1: Anze Kopitar

Canada is the overwhelming hockey superpower. Slightly more than half of the all star players are Canadian. That is in line with the number of Canadian players in the overall league.

The fact Russia is second is a surprise. The number of Russian players in the NHL is in decline due to a lack of a player transfer agreement. There have been 31 players from Russia who have played one or more NHL game this season (I am counting Nabokov as a Russian - even though he was born in Kazakhstan because he competes internationally for Russia. It's phenomenal that almost one quarter of all Russians in the NHL for one or more games this year will appear in the All Star Game. Russia has produced top level NHL players, but if the pipeline of players from their country getting cut off, we will stop seeing some of these players who become all stars.

Sweden is next with a strong showing of four players.

Slovakia is next with three of their 22 NHLers in the All Star Game. That is a good showing and is one player better than rivals Czech Republic (with less NHL players).

It is interesting that USA only placed 3 players in the All Star Game (and one Paul Stastny was born in Canada, though he competes internationally for USA). USA is the country with the second most NHL players and is growing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the world, but they have not produced a proportionate number of all star level players.

The Czech Republic is next with two players, which is a bit of a disappointment for them, but with the low numbers here falls within statistical variation.

Finland has one player, which is a reasonable showing for them.

Slovenia has only produced one NHL player ever in Anze Kopitar and he is in the All Star Game. Are there any further Slovenian players with NHL potential?

The nationality of the players in the All Star Game roughly follows the nationalities of players in the NHL as a whole. There are two obvious exceptions. Russia produces far more all stars than would be expected for the number of players they have and USA has far less than would be expected.

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