Debating which players from Europe are going to be the next to make the jump to the NHL is a popular conversation.
Just this season, Alexander Radulov made his way back to North America, signing with Montreal Canadiens. Will prolific KHL scorer Sergei Mozyakin ever follow in his footsteps?
A topic that’s a lot less discussed is which current NHLers are the most likely to go the other way.
Whether it’s someone like Brandon Kuzon struggling to crack an NHL roster or a player who’s lost a step due to injury or age like Jonathan Cheechoo.
Perhaps they want to follow in the footsteps of Ilya Kovalchuk and return closer to home or maybe they were talked into it by a friend like Theo Fleury, but the signs are there to suggest certain players may be going the other way.
One of these indicators is when you’re not receiving any minutes on a bad hockey team. As MyTopSportsbooks pointed out, expectations for the Colorado Avalanche were not very high at the beginning of the season.
The Avs have followed through, recording the fewest points in the NHL. Their 32-year-old centre John Mitchell has only netted one goal this season, which also accounts for his only point.
The journeyman is now on his fourth team and may be forced to find a home on a new continent if he wants to continue playing professional hockey.
Although he doesn’t play for a bad team, Chicago Blackhawks’ Jordin Tootoo finds himself in the same situation as Mitchell.
The 33-year-old veteran is receiving less than seven minutes of ice-time per night and has failed to contribute a single point.
Free-agent forward Mason Raymond is another name who may travel overseas to continue his career. Tipping the scales at just 179 pounds, the speedster always struggled with the physicality of the NHL.
Europe has proved a cushy landing spot for similar players, like Brandon Reid and Andrew Ebbett. The 5ft 8ins Reid was an absolute sniper in junior – he had 126 points in 57 games his last year in the QMJHL – but only scored six points in 13 career NHL games.
He found a second life in Europe, scoring over 100 goals while playing in Switzerland, Germany and Russia.
Two goaltenders who have been struggling mightily this season and haven’t done much with their opportunities in the NHL are Jonas Gustavsson and Jhonas Enroth.
Gustavsson squandered his chance to back up Cam Talbot at Edmonton Oilers and finds himself in the American Hockey League, while Enroth hasn’t played a game in the NHL since being traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Both goalies are Swedish born and may want to head back home to continue their respective careers.