Their numbers continue to slowly grow, even on the day the NHL regular season was supposed to open.
Los Angeles Kings backup netminder Jonathan Bernier has signed to play over in Germany, becoming (by my unofficial count anyway) the 133rd locked out NHLer to find a temporary home overseas.
Not surprisingly, the KHL is the top destination for players so far, with 27 per cent of NHLers signing in Russia’s top league.
Next in line is the Czech Republic, followed by Switzerland and Finland, all three of which have about 15 per cent of those playing overseas.
Where are players playing during the lockout?
Led by Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, Malkin and Datsyuk, the KHL has drawn the majority of the top NHL talent in the early days of the lockout
What’s interesting is that there’s a huge difference between the number of players from different NHL teams who are playing overseas.
The Boston Bruins, for one, have nine players suiting up there. So do the Detroit Red Wings. And a handful more, like the Flyers, Sharks and Blues, have eight.
Then there are the Canucks, who, as far as I can tell, don’t have a single player playing overseas (surprising given they draw players from so many different countries). The Ducks, Wild, Rangers, Penguins and Lightning only have two.
If this lockout stretches on for three or four months, you have to think that the teams with more players playing at a high level right now will be better set up to play NHL games when the puck drops.
If there’s a shortened season, there’s going to be a short training camp and few preseason games, meaning those in “game shape” already will have an advantage. (On the flip side, players playing fewer games this season will likely be less fatigued late in the year.)
Another thing worth noting? There really aren’t that many North American players among those playing overseas.
Of the 133, I count 32 Canadians and 11 Americans, which means they make up about one-third of the total. That makes a lot of sense, as it’s far more comfortable for European players to simply remain in their hometowns where many spent the off-season, but it could put the North Americans who make up 75 per cent of the NHL at a disadvantage once the season finally begins.
Hardly any of the North American players are in the KHL, either, with only Joe Pavelski and Evander Kane playing there so far. The top choice for Canadians and Americans has been to go to either Switzerland, Finland or Germany.