Home. The dirty and worn arenas, the old backyard rinks, the smells of sweat, shaved ice, and hope. The 5 AM practices, the endless games of road hockey in driveways and streets. This is the place where it all begins.
Every hockey player has a home, and some of these places seem to manufacture more of the games great young players than others. We call these places, hockey factories. This week’s Hockey’s Future Top 5 takes a quantitative look at the five most prevalent hockey cities around the globe when it comes to producing current NHL prospects. We wanted to know what cities were best represented in our Hockey’s Future prospect talent pool to better understand the players we cover.
Pop quiz. Before you start reading, which city do you think produces the most NHL prospects in the world?
5. Moscow, Russia (15)
Despite the “Russian Factor”, and the linked decline in drafting Russian prospects in recent years, Moscow kicks off our list with 15 hometown NHL prospects. This is a surprisingly good group of kids with tremendous skill and offensive ability, a staple among Moscow natives.
HF Fun Fact: Arguably one of the best players in the NHL, Alexander Ovechkin hails from Moscow.
The group features notable talent such as Nikolay Goldobin (SJS), Nikita Scherbak (MTL), Mikhail Grigorenko (BUF), and Ivan Barbashev (STL); all premier prospects and some of the best their respective pools have to offer.
With a population of over 11,500,000 Moscow’s presence on this list isn’t at all surprising, but what is surprising is the city’s low prospect per population rate. It is abysmal. This likely speaks to the growth of the KHL, and the fact that many of Moscow’s talented young players are remaining in Russia.
Prospect per Population: 1/766,667
4. Edmonton, Alberta (19)
Too cold for the likes of Ilya Bryzgalov, Edmonton currently has 19 hometown NHL prospects. Individually, the group isn’t that impressive. Even the more advanced prospects like Aaron Irving (NSH), Brendan Ranford (DAL), and Mark McNeil (CHI) look to fill lesser roles in their professional careers down the road – if they can even crack a roster spot. Collectively, it’s a different story. Edmonton has the highest prospect to population rate among major Canadian municipalities. This alone begins to paint a picture of just how good Edmonton’s minor hockey system really is. This has been a rejuvenated hockey market since 2006 when the Edmonton Oilers made their big Stanley Cup run and the Edmonton Oil Kings entered the WHL. When you look at some of the young talent coming into the WHL this year and next from the Alberta capital, Edmonton looks poised to continue being one of the worlds most prolific hockey factories.
Prospect per Population: 1/42,747
3. Calgary, Alberta (22)
Calgary, Canada’s third largest municipality by population, makes the list with 22 NHL prospects. “Cowtown” has quietly become one of Canada’s biggest hockey hubs in the last decade, building off of the Olympic infrastructure and 2005 cup run by the Calgary Flames. Not only is Calgary the head office for Hockey Canada and the WHL, but its population proudly supports minor hockey like very few municipalities in North America. Led by a group of dynamic Top 50 prospects in William Nylander (Calgary-born) of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Josh Morrissey of the Winnipeg Jets and Matt Dumba of the Minnesota Wild, the Calgary-born NHL prospects feature a good mix of skill and grit and are arguably the best collection of prospects out of any city in the world
Prospect per Population: 1/49,896
2. Stockholm, Sweden (23)
With a population of 905,184 people, Stockholm represents the best prospect per population rate in our top 5 list. Not quite a modern day Ornskoldsvik, the famous industrial town in Sweden that many NHL stars have come from, including Peter Forsberg, the Sedin’s and Markus Naslund, Stockholm is nevertheless becoming the hometown of many great NHL prospects.
Oscar Dansk (CBJ), one of the best young goaltending prospects in all of hockey, leads the way, with a slew of young, talented defensemen like Andreas Englund (OTT), and Julius Bergman (SJS) not far behind. The forward group recently lost a few upcoming stars to graduation, which lessens the impressiveness, but with many underrated game-breakers such as Nashville’s Pontus Aberg covertly biding his time in the AHL, this Stockholm group is very deep. Interestingly enough, it’s fascinating how different cities seem to excel at developing certain styles of players; we’ve already seen what Moscow likes to produce with their offensive forwards, and Stockholm’s specialty seems to be on the blueline and in the crease.
Prospect per Population: 1/39,355
1. Toronto, Ontario (26)
Toronto might not be the greatest hockey town in the world anymore, and it might not even be known as a hockey town ten years from now, but it still is producing the most NHL prospects in the entire world. And that has to count for the passion that this city breathes onto the ice.
Max Domi (ARZ), and Jamie Oleksiak (DAL) lead the pack of Torontonians with their impressive draft pedigree and stunning skill. Both project to be impact players in the NHL, and Domi could be something really special if his London game can translate in Arizona.
The group leaves a lot to be desired, especially once you consider that there are 26 players from Toronto. But the sheer number of good NHL quality prospects coming from this city, despite the recent shift of many younger athletes into soccer and basketball, is impressive.
Prospect per Population: 1/100,579
Honorable Mentions: Edina Minnesota; Helsinki Finland; Sherwood Park, Alberta; Montreal, Quebec; Vancouver, British Columbia; Skelleftea, Sweden; and Ottawa, Ontario.
What do you think is the best city or town in the world when it comes to producing hockey players and hockey prospects? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.