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Ranking the 5 Best European Players in Philadelphia Flyers History

Dan FremuthContributor IIIJanuary 23, 2014

Ranking the 5 Best European Players in Philadelphia Flyers History

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Through much of the team's 46-year history, the Philadelphia Flyers have largely garnered their talent from North America.

    Faces of the franchise like Bobby Clarke, Bernie Parent and Eric Lindros all hailed from the hockey hotbed of Canada. Meanwhile, Flyers standouts like John LeClair, Mark Howe and Jeremy Roenick were products of the United States.

    But Europe has produced its fair share of Philadelphia's talent as well. Here's a look at the five best European players in Flyers history.

5. Sami Kapanen, Finland

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    Mike Stobe/Getty Images

    Sami Kapanen came to Philadelphia in one of the most lopsided trades in Flyers history, when the Orange and Black shipped Bruno St. Jacques and Pavel Brendl to Carolina in exchange for Kapanen and Ryan Bast.

    St. Jacques and Brendl played just a combined 79 games for the Hurricanes while Kapanen spent four-plus seasons producing in the City of Brotherly Love.

    From 2003-08, the Finnish native played 311 games for the Orange and Black, the fourth-most of any European forward in Philadelphia.

    In those 311 outings, Kapanen recorded 44 goals, 66 assists and 110 points. His best season came in 2005-06 when the 5'8", 170-pound forward managed 12 goals and 34 points in just 58 games.

    Kapanen was part of four postseasons in Philly and registered seven goals and 17 points in 37 playoff outings with the Flyers. His signature moment came during the 2004 playoffs when Kapanen absorbed a vicious hit from Toronto's Darcy Tucker to clear a puck out of the zone, eventually leading to Jeremy Roenick's series-clinching conversion.

    Finally, Kapanen's above-average hockey sense and team-first mentality gave the Flyers confidence to put him back on defense when the club was short on blueliners.

4. Kjell Samuelsson, Sweden

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    Ian Tomlinson/Getty Images

    No European-born defenseman played more games in a Flyers jersey than Kjell Samuelsson.

    From 1986-92, the hulking 6'6", 235-pound Samuelsson played 387 games in Philadelphia and managed 28 goals and 117 points in his first stint with the Orange and Black.

    Then, after a brief stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Swedish native returned to the City of Brotherly Love for another 158 games from 1995-98.

    All told, Samuelsson produced 35 goals, 106 assists and 141 points in 545 games with the Flyers.

    His massive stature naturally led to a physical style of play, which manifested itself in the form of 815 career penalty minutes while with the Broad Street Bullies.

    Finally, Samuelsson was a horse in his own zone, producing a plus-103 rating in eight-plus seasons in Philly.

3. Mikael Renberg, Sweden

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Originally drafted by the Flyers in the second round of the 1990 NHL Entry Draft, Mikael Renberg played 366 career games with the Orange and Black and produced 128 goals, 168 assists and 296 points while in Philadelphia.

    The Swedish native still holds the club record for most points in a single season by a rookie when he managed 82 points, including 38 goals, during the 1993-94 campaign.

    Renberg, John LeClair and Eric Lindros made up the vaunted "Legion of Doom" line, which carried the Flyers throughout the mid-'90s and was the catalyst to the team's trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 1997.

    His 128 goals as a Flyer are tied for 24th on the team's all-time list, while his 296 points are tied for 26th on Philadelphia's all-time list.

2. Kimmo Timonen, Finland

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    Tom Mihalek/Associated Press

    Kimmo Timonen has played the fourth-most games of any European-born Flyers skater and has appropriately registered the fourth-most points of any European-born Philadelphia skater during that time.

    In 494 career games in the City of Brotherly Love, the Finnish blueliner has amassed 34 goals, 218 assists and 252 points.

    Timonen has been the centerpiece of Philadelphia's defense corps for the last seven years and won the Barry Ashbee Trophy as the team's top defender in four of his first six seasons with the Flyers.

    As consistent as they come, the 38-year-old blueliner has recorded at least 29 points in each of his first six seasons with the Orange and Black and is on pace for nearly that same total this year.

    A truly complete defenseman, Timonen hasn't allowed his offensive contributions to impact his defensive play. The 14-year veteran has finished all but one campaign in Philadelphia with a plus or even rating and is boasting a plus-six mark through 52 games this season.

1. Pelle Eklund, Sweden

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    Mike Powell/Getty Images

    No European-born Flyers skater has played more games or compiled more points than Pelle Eklund.

    The Swedish forward played all but five of his 594 career NHL games in the City of Brotherly Love and registered 118 goals, 334 assists and 452 points with the Flyers. In fact, Eklund's 452 career points are good for 15th overall on Philadelphia's all-time list.

    A native of Stockholm, Sweden, Eklund burst onto the scene in 1985 when he paced all rookies with 51 assists and finished third among all first-year skaters in total scoring. When all was said and done, the 5'10", 175-pound forward recorded four 60-point campaigns while in Philly and notched double-digit goals in seven of his nine seasons with the Orange and Black.

    Eklund enjoyed postseason play in each of his first four seasons with the Flyers and totaled 10 goals and 43 points in 57 playoff outings, including a jaw-dropping 27 points in 1987 when Philly made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

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