Increasingly less exotic, Denmark’s ice hockey stock is rocketing

Ahead of the start of the NHL season on October 1, meet the Danes bidding to make an impression on the ice

As a breeding ground for players, Denmark operates on the fringe of North America’s National Hockey League. But for a country of less than six million people, its reputation for producing quality players belies its small stature in NHL circles.  

When teams finalise their line-ups before the puck officially drops on Tuesday October 1, there’s likely to be six Danes on active rosters: Jannik Hansen (Vancouver), Mikkel Boedker (Phoenix), Lars Eller (Montreal), Philip Larsen (Edmonton), Frans Nielsen (New York Islanders) and Peter Regin (New York Islanders). While that pales in comparison to Scandinavian neighbours like Sweden and Finland, Danish players are valued as do-it-all contributors, able to play a physical yet creative style valued by NHL general managers. 

Finishing 12th at the World Hockey Championships in Stockholm in May, and making the quarter-finals in 2010, the Danes have impressed many in recent years. They have come a long way since Frans Nielsen became the first Dane to suit up for an NHL club when he took the ice for the Islanders in 2007.

With the exception of Regin – who is fighting for a third-line role in training camp after two seasons spoiled by shoulder injuries – each of the Danish players listed is expected to be a contributor to their club. Several, like Hansen, Nielsen and Eller, are invaluable. 

Hansen had his best season as a pro in last year’s strike-shortened campaign, notching 27 points in 47 games. The Canucks’ second-line winger adds a bit of spiciness to an otherwise finesse team, battling for pucks “like it means food on the table”, according to the Vancouver Sun this month. Vancouver’s top scout added that Hansen is the most “North American-style player” on the team – a strong compliment in a league that treasures grit and toughness. 

Eller had a breakout season for Les Habs and his absence in the first round of the playoffs contributed to Montreal’s early exit. But it remains to be seen if Eller can recover from the devastating open-ice check in Game 1 that necessitated off-season facial-construction surgery. 

Nielsen might as well be a human widget for his Islanders club, where he logs plenty of ice time as a reliable two-way player and has a reputation for soft passes that lead to easy goals. 

Meet the players

Mikkel Bødker 
Right winger, 23
Phoenix Coyotes
Hometown: Brøndby

Considered one of the Coyotes’ top young players after years developing his game in Europe. Recently signed a two-year contract worth $2.55 million per season. Played in 48 games last season and had seven goals and 19 assists.

Lars Eller  
Centre, 24
Montreal Canadiens
Hometown: Rødovre

Considered a favourite to centre Montreal’s top-scoring line. His size (1.88m, 95 kg) means he’s physical enough to ward off checks and feed passes to his wingers. His contract expires at the end of this season, so will be playing with added incentive to secure a long-term deal. 

Jannik Hansen 
Right winger, 27
Vancouver Canucks
Hometown: Herlev

Described as the heart and soul of a Vancouver Canucks club that disappointed one season after making the Stanley Cup finals. Provides speed and toughness along the boards. Known as an agitator and a capable two-way player. 

Philip Larsen
Defenceman, 25
Edmonton Oilers
Hometown: Esbjerg

Called a “pleasant surprise” on the Oilers blue line by the Edmonton Journal. Considered small for his position (1.85m, 83 kg), but is a tenacious player and has the speed to exploit space between the gaps, especially on Edmonton’s slick home ice.  

Frans Nielsen
Centre, 29
New York Islanders
Hometown: Herning 

Smooth on the ice and skilled at setting up team-mates. Particularly adept on power plays, where his passing skills are prized. Owns the highest conversion rates on shootouts among active players (61.5 percent). Not much of a scorer otherwise. 

Peter Regin  
Centre, 27
New York Islanders
Hometown: Herning 

Played five years in Ottawa before shoulder injuries derailed his career. Now trying for a reboot on Long Island. Currently battling for a place in training camp. According to reports, he agreed to his contract in the back of a taxi.

  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.