Kimmo Timonen (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Kimmo Timonen announced Thursday that 2014-15 will be his final season in the NHL. With Timonen set to hang up his skates, we look back at the top 10 Finnish players to suit up in the NHL.
Kimmo Timonen was never the flashiest of players, so it comes as little surprise that he quietly announced yesterday that the 2014-15 season will be his final one.
Timonen, the 39-year-old blueliner who had missed the entire season due to blood clots in his legs before a trade sent him from Philadelphia to Chicago, announced yesterday that he plans on retiring once the Blackhawks wrap up their playoff run, whether it be in a four-game first round or a long, grueling road to a Stanley Cup championship.
He was never a Norris Trophy finalist, nor did he win any major award, but after a long, successful career, it’s hard not to rate the blueliner among the best Finns to ever suit up in the NHL. Here is the list of the 10 greatest Finnish players to play in the NHL:
10. Jyrki Lumme
It’s hard to argue against a defenseman who played most of his career in the league’s worst goal scoring eras yet still managed to fire home nearly half a point per game.
Over a 985-game NHL career, Lumme tallied 114 goals and 468 points. Lumme was selected 57th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1986 draft and made his debut two years later when he got a 21-game run with the Habs. The following season, Lumme was dealt to Vancouver, where he made his name on the Canucks blueline. After nine years in Vancouver – including two goals and 13 points in Vancouver’s Stanley Cup final appearance in 1993-94 – Lumme moved to Phoenix and finished his career with stints in Dallas and Toronto.
9. Pekka Rinne
Some will argue with Rinne’s positioning on this list, but the only reason he isn’t ranked ahead of other goaltenders on this list – of which there are two – is because he doesn’t have any hardware to speak of.
He’s posted a career .919 save percentage and 2.36 goals-against average, both remarkable totals, but he’s never had that one season that’s gotten him an award to put in his trophy case. And after twice being in the top-three in voting for the Vezina Trophy, it appears this could finally be the year he grabs the trophy. That is, if Carey Price doesn’t take it from him.
8. Tuukka Rask
That Rask’s career isn’t yet through and he’s already on this list speaks volumes about two things: his amazing ability and the goaltending factory that Finland has become.
Rask stands a very real shot of becoming the best netminder to come out of his homeland. A first-round selection of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2005, Rask was dealt to the Boston Bruins for Andrew Raycroft before he even played a game in Toronto. In his six full seasons as a Bruin, Rask has won the Vezina Trophy, been selected as a first-team all-star, and helped Boston to a Stanley Cup final in 2012-13.
He also has a Stanley Cup ring from 2010-11, although he watched most of the year from the bench as Tim Thomas backstopped the Bruins to their Cup victory.
If he stays healthy for the remainder of the season, Timonen will finish his career with 1,100-plus games and should net about 575 points. Not bad for a defenseman that wasn’t selected until the 10th round of the 1993 draft.
Picked 250th overall by the Kings in 1993, Timonen didn’t play a single game for Los Angeles, instead being traded to Nasvhille with Jan Vopat in the off-season before the Predators first season. For eight seasons, he was the face of the Predators’ blueline, but was one of the key pieces in a deal that allowed Nashville to select Jonathon Blum in the first round of the 2007 draft.
He has never won the Norris, but finished fifth in voting with 13 goals and 55 points in 2006-07. Timonen also appeared in four all-star games.
In three straight seasons, from 2003-04 to 2006-07, Kiprusoff was the best goalie in the entire league. One could argue that he deserved two Vezina Trophies for his play during that stretch – he had a much better SP and GAA than 2004 winner Martin Brodeur – but he walked away with just the 2005-06 award.
His 2005-06 season was magical, though. Not only did Kiprusoff take home the Vezina, he added the Jennings and finished third in Hart Trophy voting, something rarely seen from goaltenders in today’s age. The Flames faltered in the playoffs, losing in a seven-game first round series to the then-Anaheim Mighty Ducks, and were never able to recapture the magic of their 2003-04 run that ended with Calgary one win shy of the Stanley Cup.
Kiprusoff retired as the Flames all-time leader in wins, saves, shutouts and has one of the best career SP and GAA marks in Calgary’s history.
5. Saku Koivu
Beyond his extremely inspirational back to the ice from cancer, Koivu was the modern-day the face of the Canadiens, no small feat for a Finnish kid in a city where the French-speaking player had been king for so long.
Koivu was Montreal’s captain – and the first European to ever hold the honor – for ten of his 13 seasons with the Canadiens and played the 20th-most games in Montreal’s history. When he left the team in 2009-10, he was the 10th highest scorer in franchise history, tallying 191 goals and 641 points in 792 games with the Habs.
Though he never won a single individual award and only appeared in one All-Star Game, he remains one of the greatest Finns to ever skate in the NHL.
4. Esa Tikkanen
A four-time Selke Trophy nominee, five-time Stanley Cup champion and a part of the Oilers’ 1980s dynasty, Tikannen was the perfect mix of pest and scorer.
In 877 career games, Tikannen registered 244 goals and 630 points, but that went along with him spending over 1,000 minutes in the penalty box. Tikannen scored 30 goals in a season three times while with Edmonton, and notched more than 20 on six occasions. He also had three 70-plus point seasons while with the Oilers.
Of the 183 Finns to suit up in the NHL, Numminen ranks second in games player with 1,372. He began his career as a Winnipeg Jet in 1988-89, two years after he was selected 29th overall the Jets in the 1986 draft. He would remain in the organization – even after the team moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix – until 2003-04 when he was traded to Dallas for Mike Sillinger.
In 2007, while a member of the Buffalo Sabres, Numminen had a major scare when he was forced to have open-heart surgery and missed all but one game of the 2007-08 season. However, he returned the following year and suited up for 57 games, registering two goals and 17 points.
His 117 career goals and 637 points rank fifth all-time among Finnish skaters.
2. Jari Kurri
There was no Finnish-born player that was ever as prolific as Kurri. Though it was largely due to the era he was playing in, Kurri’s point totals were absurd. In both 1984-85 and 1985-86, Kurri posted more than 130 points, leading the league in scoring in the latter season with 68 goals. He averaged nearly two points a game both seasons.
He played in eight All-Star Games, won the Lady Byng Trophy in 1984-85 and was five times voted to either the NHL first or second all-star team. That’s no to mention his major role in the Edmonton Oilers’ 1980s dynasty, which included him leading the postseason in scoring for four of the Oilers five Stanley Cups.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001.
Of course it’s Teemu, right?
Not only is Selanne one of the greatest Finnish players to ever play in the league, he’s one of the best to ever play in the NHL. No Finnish player has skated in as many games as Selanne, nor has any scored as many points as the legendary No. 8.
When the Jets drafted Selanne in 1988 with the 10th overall pick, there was no one who could have imagined the career he would go on to have. In his rookie season, Selanne not only broke Mike Bossy’s rookie goal scoring record, he smashed it to pieces. In his rookie year he potted 76 goals and 132 points.
He would go on to have three 50-plus goal seasons and won the Rocket Richard Trophy in 1998-99 with 47 goals in 75 games for the Anaheim Ducks. He appeared in 10 All-Star Games, finished top 10 in scoring seven times and won his first and only Stanley Cup in 2006-07 with the Ducks.
All-time Selanne ranks 11th in goals (684), 37th in assists (773) and 15th in points (1,457). Undeniably the greatest Finnish player of all-time.