From the early days of the NHL, Russian players have made a significant impact on the league.
Today, we take a look at the best active Russian NHL players, including the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Nikita Kucherov, Artemi Panarin, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Evgeny Kuznetsov.
Let’s dive into the skill set these players possess and the unique contributions they bring to their teams.
Alex Ovechkin: The Great Eight
Alex Ovechkin is undoubtedly one of the most dominant and well-known Russian players in the NHL. Since his debut in 2005, Ovechkin has been a force to be reckoned with, earning numerous awards and accolades throughout his career. Known for his powerful shot and incredible goal-scoring ability, Ovechkin has consistently been among the league’s top goal-scorers, earning the nickname “The Great Eight.”
Some of Ovi’s notable achievements include winning the Calder Memorial Trophy, multiple Hart Memorial Trophies, and the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy. In 2018, Ovechkin led the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup championship, cementing his place among the NHL’s all-time greats. Ovechkin even drank champagne out of the Stanley Cup, showing he knows how to celebrate his accomplishments.
One of the most impressive things about Ovechkin is his consistency. During his 18-year NHL career, Ovechkin has missed just 53 total games. His ability to stay healthy is a key reason he’s scored at least 50 goals in eight different seasons. Ovi is closing in on Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goal record, which would be an incredible accomplishment. As he continues to etch his name in the NHL record books, Ovi’s influence on the game and his undeniable status as one of the best active Russian NHL players will be remembered for generations to come.
Evgeni Malkin: The Russian Phenom
Evgeni Malkin is another Russian powerhouse in the NHL. Since joining the league in 2006, Malkin has been an integral part of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ success, playing alongside Sidney Crosby to form one of the most dynamic duos in the league’s history. He has achieved significant success both individually and with the Penguins, winning multiple Art Ross Trophies, a Hart Memorial Trophy, and three Stanley Cup championships.
Malkin’s playmaking abilities, size, and skill make him a formidable opponent on the ice, and his contributions have been instrumental in the Penguins’ continued success. “Geno” also has a feisty side to him, as he recently became the Pens’ all-time leader in penalty minutes. Malkin’s angry breakaway slapshot goal is one of the more memorable revenge NHL moments.
Internationally, Malkin has represented Russia in various tournaments, including the Olympics and World Championships, showcasing his talent on the world stage. He has been an important figure for Russian hockey, serving as an inspiration for the next generation of players. Considering his individual and team accomplishments, Malkin is right up there among the top Russian NHL players.
Nikita Kucherov: The Silent Assassin
Nikita Kucherov has quickly risen to become one of the league’s top wingers since his NHL debut in 2013. Known for his precise shot and exceptional hockey IQ, Kucherov has been a key player for the Tampa Bay Lightning, helping them secure back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021. Kuch’s legendary press conference after his most recent Stanley Cup win is one for the record books.
In addition to his team accomplishments, Kucherov has also received individual accolades, such as the Art Ross Trophy and the Hart Memorial Trophy. Kucherov has hit 100 points on three different occasions, making him a somewhat underrated NHL superstar compared to more well-known NHL stars. His relentless work ethic and determination to win have earned him the nickname “The Silent Assassin” among fans and teammates alike.
In addition to his success with the Lightning, Kucherov has also represented Russia in various international competitions, including the Olympics and World Championships. His play has been critical to the success of Team Russia, further solidifying his status as one of the premier Russian talents in the NHL.
Artemi Panarin: The Breadman
Artemi Panarin made his NHL debut in 2015 and has since become one of the league’s most electrifying forwards. Known for his dazzling stickhandling and playmaking abilities, Panarin has been a driving force for both the Chicago Blackhawks and the New York Rangers. During his stint with the Blackhawks, Kane developed incredible chemistry with Patrick Kane, creating a lethal dynamic duo. The two were later reunited when Kane was also traded to the Rangers in March 2023.
Throughout his career, Panarin has been a consistent point producer, earning the Calder Memorial Trophy in his rookie season and being named a First Team All-Star multiple times. Off the ice, Panarin has been outspoken about political issues in his home country, further solidifying his impact on and off the ice. Nicknamed “The Breadman” due to the similarity between his last name and the Panera Bread restaurant chain, Panarin’s skill and passion for the game make him a fan favorite and a force to be reckoned with in the NHL.
Vladimir Tarasenko: The Sniper
Vladimir Tarasenko is another Russian star who has made a significant impact in the NHL. Known for his lethal shot and nasty hands, Tarasenko was a key player for the St. Louis for many years before being traded to the New York Rangers. Following his NHL debut in 2012, Tarasenko’s impressive goal-scoring ability has earned him the nickname “The Sniper.” Tarasenko has also scored several highlight-reel goals, including “The Forsberg” move.
Tarasenko was a consistent point-producer for the Blues, helping them secure their first-ever Stanley Cup championship in 2019. He’s already made a significant impact since joining the Rangers, scoring six goals in his first 25 games with the team. In addition to his team success, Tarasenko has also been named to multiple NHL All-Star teams, showcasing his exceptional talent and skill on the ice.
Evgeny Kuznetsov: The Birdman
Evgeny Kuznetsov is another standout Russian NHL player who has been making waves since joining the league in 2014. As a key member of the Washington Capitals, Kuznetsov has showcased his incredible playmaking abilities and vision on the ice, playing an essential role in the Capitals’ 2018 Stanley Cup championship. During that Cup Final, Kuznetsov scored a game-winning overtime goal against the Vegas Golden Knights, propelling the Capitals to their first championship in franchise history.
Kuznetsov is known for his signature “bird” celebration, which he introduced during the 2018 playoffs. This led to fans and teammates to give Kuznetsov the nickname “The Birdman.” In addition to his unique celebration, Kuznetsov has been recognized for his on-ice performance, being named to the NHL All-Star team and earning a spot on the list of players who have attempted the Michigan move.
Kuznetsov is often overshadowed by fellow Russian teammate Ovechkin, but “Kuzy” is a star in his own right. While he may not be as consistent as some of the other NHL Russian players on this list, the Caps’ center has scored 20-plus goals in four different seasons and had one 80-plus point season in 2018. Reports have surfaced that Kuznetsov requested a trade out of Washington, but the Russian star has denied the reports.
Kirill Kaprizov: The Thrill
Kirill Kaprizov has taken the NHL by storm since making his debut in the 2020-2021 season. As a highly-anticipated prospect, Kaprizov joined the Minnesota Wild and quickly made a name for himself with his electrifying play, earning the nickname “Dollar Bill Kirill” from fans and teammates. His arrival has brought a new level of excitement to the Wild organization and its fan base, as he’s been a game-changer from the moment he stepped onto the ice.
Kaprizov’s combination of speed, skill, and hockey IQ has made him one of the most exciting players to watch in the league. In his rookie season, he shattered numerous team records, including most points and goals by a rookie, en route to winning the Calder Memorial Trophy. Kaprizov’s impact has been so profound that many have compared his arrival to that of the legendary Russian forward, Pavel Bure.
As a leader on the ice, Kaprizov has demonstrated a maturity beyond his years, embracing the pressure of being a franchise player for the Wild. His relentless work ethic and dedication to improving his game have quickly made him one of the most respected players in the locker room.
Kaprizov’s impressive performance on the international stage has also been noteworthy, as he’s represented Russia in multiple tournaments, including the World Championships and the Winter Olympics. With his incredible talent and potential for growth, Kirill Kaprizov is poised to become a household name and one of the NHL’s biggest stars for years to come.
Andrei Svechnikov: The Human Highlight Reel
Andrei Svechnikov, a dynamic forward for the Carolina Hurricanes, has quickly established himself as one of the league’s most exciting young talents. Since being drafted second overall in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Svechnikov has showcased his exceptional skill set, which includes dazzling stickhandling, a powerful shot, and incredible hockey sense.
One of Svechnikov’s most memorable moments came early in his career when he became the first player in NHL history to successfully execute the “Michigan” lacrosse-style goal in a regular-season game. This remarkable feat earned him a spot on the list of players who have scored the Michigan and instantly turned him into a human highlight reel.
Svechnikov’s impact on the Hurricanes has been immense, as he’s played a crucial role in their resurgence as a Stanley Cup contender. His chemistry with fellow young stars, such as Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, has created one of the most dynamic and formidable forward lines in the league. As he continues to develop and refine his game, Andrei Svechnikov is on track to become one of the premier Russian talents in the NHL, providing fans with countless unforgettable moments and highlights along the way.
All these Russian NHL players have undoubtedly made their mark on the league, showcasing their incredible skills, determination, and passion for the game.
As the NHL continues to evolve and grow, it’s certain that guys like Ovechkin, Kucherov, and Malkin, plus the upcoming talented Russian players, will leave a lasting legacy on the sport of hockey.