The 5 best players in France in the history of the NHL

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When André Peloffy adapted to the expansion of the Washington Capitals from 1974 to 1975, he became the first French-born player to play in the National Hockey League. Originally selected by the New York Rangers in the ninth round of the 1971 draft, Peloffy never played for the Blueshirts and was traded to the Capitals before the start of their inaugural season.His NHL career lasted only nine games – all played with the Capitals in the fall of 1974 – and he was useless throughout. Although Peloffy was born in France, he was not the product of his country’s development system for hockey. He played his junior career with the Laval Saints and the Rosemont National in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).

Peloffy would however continue to have an exceptional career for the French national men’s team. He has played in six world championships and one Olympic for his country. By the time Peloffy retired after the 1989 season, he was the top scorer in French history in international play with 55 points (28G, 27A) in 42 games.

It was not until March 10, 1992 that Philippe Bozon made his debut for the Saint-Louis Blues that a player born and trained in France would play in the NHL. As the passion for hockey has grown steadily in France for decades, six players other than Bozon fall into this same category. One would even become a Stanley Cup champion, while three others would gain full-time employment in the NHL.

André Peloffy was the first French player to play in an NHL game. He played 9 for the 1974 to 1975 expansion of the Washington Capitals (Photo Credit: 1974-75 Washington Capitals Media Guide).

THW ranks for you the top 5 players in France in NHL history. See if you agree with who we selected and where we placed them on our list.

5) Alexandre Texier

Alexandre Texier played two seasons in the NHL before his 21st birthday. Originally from Grenoble in the French Alps, he is the youngest player to appear on our list. We also have the feeling that Texier will further increase our list over the years.

Blue jackets Alexandre Texier Columbus
Alexandre Texier became the first player drafted directly outside of France in the NHL (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers).

Texier grew up in France playing for the same club as his father Frabrice, Brûleurs de Loups in the Magnus League. Internationally, Texier has played for France at the junior and senior levels. At the 2017 Men’s World Under-18 Championship, he helped his country win the Division I tournament to win France’s very first promotion in the Top Division.

When the Columbus Blue Jackets selected Texier with the 45th overall pick of the 2017 draft, he became the first player drafted directly outside of France and in the NHL. While he spent time playing in Finland for KalPa while under contract with Columbus, he would eventually come to North America. The Blue Jackets assigned Texier to their AHL affiliate, the Cleveland Monsters, at the end of the 2018-19 season.

Texier would make his NHL debut on April 5, 2019 against the New York Rangers. He scored his first NHL goal the next day against the Ottawa Senators.

Blue Jackets Columbus Alexandre Texier
Columbus Blue Jackets center Alexandre Texier celebrates his first NHL goal (LA PRESSE CANADIENNE / Sean Kilpatrick).

In his first 38 regular season games between 2018-19 and 2019-20, Texier had seven goals and seven assists for 14 points. He is also 2-1-3 for scoring in 8 playoff games with the Blue Jackets. These figures will no doubt continue to increase.

4) Philippe Bozon

We mentioned Bozon at the start. Not only was he the first player born and trained in France in the NHL, but he was also the only player to have legitimized himself as a full-time player in the league before the arrival of his most recent contemporaries. Bozon was proof that players from his home country could be regulars in the NHL.

While excelling in the most defensive aspects of the game, he managed to hold out alongside St. Louis Blues superstars like Brett Hull and Brendan Shanahan from the early to mid-1990s.

Bozon has played four seasons for the Blues. His most complete season occurred in 1993-1994 when he played 80 of the 84 regular season games at Saint-Louis, as well as his four post-season games. His 80 games played were the team’s second best this season behind the Hull and Shanahan 81 – no other Blues has gone past 77 competitions this season. In addition, Bozon’s scores of 9-16-25 earned him seventh place among the scorers of St. Louis.

Despite this solid performance, Bozon played only one more NHL game and returned to Europe after the 1994-1995 season to end his career. He scored 16 goals, 25 assists and 41 points in 144 regular season games. Although his NHL career has been short-lived, Bozon has played a total of 21 seasons of professional hockey between North America and Europe.

It is also important to note that Bozon is a quadruple Olympian and has participated in 12 world championships for France. He is currently the head coach of the French national men’s team.

For his role as the first French player to solidify in the NHL, Philippe Bozon wins fourth place on our list.

3) Pierre-Édouard Bellemare

Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, like Texier, played in France’s first men’s league, the Magnus League. He has played a total of 12 world championships for the French team, as well as four Olympic qualifying tournaments. In addition, Bellemare played four seasons for the Rouen Dragons of the Magnus League, before finally jumping to Sweden where he really made a name for himself in nine seasons.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare # 41, Vegas Golden Knights
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare helped the Vegas Golden Knights reach the Stanley Cup final in their inaugural season (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers).

Bellemare used his time with Leksands IF and Skellefteå AIK to further develop his scoring touch and level of play. In 238 SHL games, he had a total of 64 goals, 61 assists and 125 points. Bellemare’s last season in Sweden – 2013-14 for Skellefteå AIK – was his best season with 20 goals, 15 assists and 35 points in 52 games.

The solid SHL performance caught the attention of the Philadelphia Flyers. Bellemare, 29, signed a one-year bilateral contract with the Flyers on June 11, 2014. He has remained in the NHL since.

After three solid seasons at Philly, Bellemare was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights expansion. He played 20 Vegas playoff games in the 2017-18 season as the first-year club reached the Stanley Cup final. Bellemare also stayed with the team for the 2018-19 season.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare Colorado Avalanche
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare currently plays for the Colorado Avalanche (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports).

Signing a new two-year contract on July 1, 2019, Bellemare is currently a member of the Colorado Avalanche. In total, he scored 38-49-87, scoring 454 regular season games in the NHL. These 454 games are the second highest number of games played in the league by a French player.

2) Antoine Roussel

Forward Antoine Roussel has played the most NHL games of any French player. An undrafted forward, he was born in Roubaix, France, but played his junior hockey in the QMJHL for the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. He has represented France in five world championships and was team captain for their world junior team in 2009.

Antoine Roussel, Dallas Stars
Born in France, Antoine Roussel broke into the NHL and became a pillar of the Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers).

Roussel spent his first two seasons of professional hockey with miners and won the looks of the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks. Nothing materialized until he signed a contract with the Dallas Stars on July 2, 2012. He would split the 2012-13 season between Dallas and their AHL affiliate, the Texas Stars.

Roussel made his NHL debut on February 1, 2013 and then played in 39 of Dallas’ 48 games that season. He scored his first goal in his first NHL game against the Phoenix, Arizona Coyotes.

From that moment, Roussel earned a full-time position in the Stars organization. He has played five more seasons of 81, 80, 80, 60 and 73 games respectively for Dallas. Never afraid of the more physical aspects of the game, Roussel also accumulated a total of 806 penalty minutes in his 413 games as a player for the Stars.

After six seasons in Dallas, Roussel opted for free agency and signed a four-year contract with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1, 2018. He set his career high in points in the 2018-19 season (9 -22-31 in 65 games), but suffered an ACL tear during a game on March 13. Having had to undergo surgery, his recovery time forced him to miss the start of the 2019-20 season.

Antoine Roussel Canucks of Vancouver
Now with the Vancouver Canucks, Antoine Roussel continues to add to his record most games played by a French player (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers).

Roussel has 80 goals, 105 assists and 185 points in 519 NHL regular season games. For its competitive nature, its multitude of games and its value for its hockey club, Roussel obtained second place on our list.

1) Cristobal Huet

It’s no surprise goalkeeper Cristobal Huet tops our list. Of all the players from France in the NHL, he is certainly the most decorated and the most accomplished.

After establishing himself as a superb goalkeeper in his homeland for the Wolf Burners and in Switzerland for the HC Lugano, Huet was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the seventh round (214th overall) of the 2001 draft. Having succeeded with the Kings Monarchs affiliated to the AHL, Huet rose through the ranks and finally presented himself as a goalkeeper leaving for Los Angeles. He wore the colors of the Kings in 2002-03 and 2003-04.

Montreal player Cristobal Huet stops against New Jersey Devils Travis Zajac (The Hockey Writers Archives).

In a three-team exchange on June 26, 2004, Huet was traded to the Montreal Canadiens as part of an agreement that sent goalkeeper Mathieu Garon to Los Angeles and the Radek Bonk center from Ottawa to Montreal . After the NHL lockout in 2004-2005, Huet became the Canadiens ’main goalkeeper and stayed that way until his injury and the emergence of Carey Price pushed him aside.

In Montreal, Huet received the 2006 Roger Crozier MBNA Saving Grace Award as a goalkeeper with the best NHL save percentage (0.929). He was also nominated for the Bill Masterton Trophy that same season. The following season (2006-07), Huet would represent the Canadians at the 2007 NHL All-Star Game as one of three goalkeepers for the Eastern Conference.

At the end of February 2008, Huet was traded from Montreal to the Washington Capitals, notably to make room for Price. The trip to Washington was short, but Huet performed admirably well at the end of the 2007-08 season.

Cristobal Huet won the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks 2009-10 (Pam Rodriguez / THW).

On July 1, 2008, the first day of unrestricted free agency, Huet agreed to enter into a 4-year agreement with the Chicago Blackhawks. He would become the team’s number one goaltender, but lost the starting position to Antti Niemi in the 2009-10 playoffs. Despite playing the role of substitute, Huet had played the majority of regular season games for the Blackhawks, as the team would win their first Stanley Cup since 1961. He has become the first and so far the only French player to have his name entered. on the trophy.

Huet went to Switzerland after winning the 2010 championship and ended his career with eight more seasons in the Swiss leagues.

With a record 129-90-11-21 in 272 regular season games, Cristobal Huet is our undisputed number one choice for being the first French Stanley Cup champion, an NHL All-Star and a grand individual winner from the NHL.

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