As the NHL labor talks stagger forward, fans must be wondering where the best hockey is being played elsewhere in the world.
The Kontinental Hockey League has grabbed the most talent, but Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and Germany have also gobbled up lots of players.
For the sake of these rankings, I split the massive KHL into its two division. We also included the first and second-tier leagues for the other European countries.
Most of the players listed below have some NHL experience. Some, like Ilya Kovalchuk, are established NHL stars who are locked out.
Other players are former NHLers playing out the string overseas. The listings do not include many world-class players who never made it big in North America.
I would love to see how these teams would stack up in a tournament format:
1) KHL WEST
Forwards: Ilya Kovalchuk, Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Radulov, Joe Pavelski, Evander Kane, Artem Anisimov, Pavel Datsyuk, Ruslan Fedotenko, Mikhail Grabovski, Alexi Ponikarovsky, Vladimir Tarasenko, Jakub Voracek, Nikolai Zherdev.
Defense: Zdeono Chara, Anton Babchuk, Dmitri Kulikov, Andrei Markov, Andrej Sekera, Lubomir Visnovsky, Dmitry Kalinin, Shaone Morrisonn.
Goaltenders: Pekka Rinne, Niklas Backstrom, Ilya Bryzgalov, Sergei Bobrovsky, Semyon Varlamov.
The western half of the NHL has gobbled up the best goaltenders in addition to elite talent up front and on the blue line. This mythical team would be the runaway favorite in our make-believe tournament.
Forwards: Rick Nash, Joe Thornton, Jason Spezza, Tyler Seguin, Henrik Zetterberg, John Tavares, Patrice Bergeron, Logan Couture, Tyler Ennis, Brooks Laich, Max Pacioretty, Patric Hörnqvist, Linus Omark, Simon Gamache, Peter Sejna, Jason Williams.
Defense: Mark Streit, Roman Josi, Luca Sbisa, Jared Spurgeon, Yannick Weber, Raphael Diaz, Joel Kwiatkowski, Mark Popovic, Brian Pothier.
Goaltenders: David Aebischer, Jussi Markkanen.
There are worse places to play than Switzerland, which is why so many players gravitated toward the Alps. This team would have ample firepower up front but not much depth on the blue line or quality in goal.
3) CZECH REPUBLIC
Forwards: David Krejci, Jaromir Jagr, Ales Hemsky, Tomas Plekanec, Roman Cervenka, Michael Frolik, Vladimir Sobotka, Jiri Tlusty.
Defense: Andrew Ference, Tomas Kaberle, Rostislav Klesla, Roman Polak, Jakub Kindl, Michal Rozsival, Ladislav Smid, Marek Zidlicky, Radem Matinek.
Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Michal Neuvirth, Ondrej Pavelec.
Many solid Czech players returned home, beefing up an already good league. This is a well-balanced team of NHL-proven forwards, defensemen and goaltenders.
4) KHL EAST
Forwards: Evgeni Malkin, Nik Antropov, Nikolai Kulemin, Nail Yakupov, Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexander Frolov, Jan Bulis, Nikita Filatov, Stanislav Chistov, Niko Kapanen, Mats Zuccarello.
Defense: Sergei Gonchar, Victor Hedman, Nikita Nikitin, Oleg Tverdovsky, Brent Sopel, Deron Quint.
Goaltenders: Karri Ramo, Michael Garnett, Jan Lasak, Chris Holt.
The best goaltender on that side of the league might be Konstantin Barulin, a Blues draft pick who has remained in Russia. Malkin would give this team a chance.
Forwards: Mikkel Boedker, Valtteri Filppula, Jussi Jokinen, Frans Nielsen, Rich Peverley, Kyle Turris, Craig Smith, Tommy Wingels, Lauri Korpikoski, Jarkko Ruutu, Ville Nieminen, Brian Willsie, Ville Peltonen.
Defense: Erik Karlsson, Jason Demers, Philip Larsen, Jonas Junland, Alec Martinez, Kris Russell, Stephane Robidas.
Goaltenders: Antti Niemi, Antero Niittymäki.
This country gets stronger by the day, thanks to the lockout. Karlsson would have to generate a lot of offense from the blue line, but he’s good with that. Niemi provides a legit No. 1 goaltender.
Forwards: Claude Giroux, Daniel Briere, Jamie Benn, T.J. Galiardi, Marcel Goc, Chris Stewart, Wayne Simmonds, Mike York, Matt D’Agosinti.
Defense: Christian Ehrhoff, Dennis Seidenberg, Doug Janik, Mathieu Roy, James Pollock, Shawn Belle.
Goaltenders: Sébastien Caron, Jason Bacashihua, Scott Langkow.
This country hasn’t reached out to NHL goaltenders, so it lags behind the rest. German is also thin on the blue line.
Forwards: Anze Kopitar, Matt Duchene, Carl Hagelin, Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Read, Alex Steen, Mikael Backlund , Patrik Berglund, Fabian Brunnström, P.J. Axelsson, Jason Krog, Ladislav Nagy, Oscar Moller, Sami Pahlsson.
Defense: Douglas Murray, Christian Backman, Niclas Wallin, Cody Franson, Tom Preissing, Kyle Cumiskey, Jonathan Ericsson, Niclas Hävelid. Ole Kristian Tollefsen.
Goaltenders: Alexander Salak, Martin Gerber.
This country wasn’t going to reach out to locked out players. Some litigation changed that, but Sweden has yet to woo top-end defensemen or goaltenders.
Forwards: Thomas Vanek, Michael Grabner, Bryan Bickell, Andreas Nodl, Steve Regier, Jan Mursak, Jamie Lundmark, Matt Keith.
Defense: Corey Potter, Andy Delmore, Rob Davison, Patrick Coulombe, Alan Letang, Curtis Murphy.
Goaltenders: Alex Auld, Patrick DesRochers.
With Switzerland filling up, some notable NHL forwards landed in this country to add firepower. But this team would struggle in its own zone.