SEPTEMBER 29: Gilbert Brule #67 of the Edmonton Oilers finds himself surrounded by Viktor Tikhonov #41 Maxim Goncharov #57 Derek Morris #53 and Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Phoenix Coyotes on September 29 2010 at Rexall Place in Edmonton Alberta Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)
As much as NHL fans believe their league is the center of the hockey universe, theirs is not the only place professional hockey players ply their trade. The top tier leagues in Europe have seen an increase in popularity and skill recently, as evidenced by the NHL Premiere Series games that featured NHL clubs (including the Coyotes in 2010) taking on some of the best Europe had to offer. Although leagues like Russia's Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) and Switzerland's National League A still lack the organizational depth and money the NHL does, they remain a destination for many quality hockey players. Here are a few recent Coyotes who have gone overseas. (Post publish note: I am aware this is not a complete listing. There are dozens of players that have played for the Coyotes and European teams as well. I opted to include some of the most recent, and in my opinion, most prominent players from the team. If there are others you feel deserve mentioning I'd love to see them in the comments section).Mikael Tellqvist - Tellqvist played for the Coyotes from 2006-2008, playing in tandem with Alex Auld and later behind Ilya Bryzgalov. His numbers were competent if unimpressive, finishing with a 27-24-6 record in 65 appearances over three seasons. After a 6 game stint with the Buffalo Sabres in 2008-09, Tellqvist headed to Latvia to play with Dinamo Riga in the KHL, where he would end up playing the Coyotes as part of the 2010-11 NHL Premiere Series. Phoenix won 3-1.
Petr Prucha - Prucha arrived to the Coyotes in the 2008-09 season from the New York Rangers. In his only full season with the Coyotes, Prucha scored 22 points (13G, 9A) and had a goal and two assists in seven games in the playoffs against the Detroit Red Wings. Prucha did not stick with the Coyotes in the 2010-11 season; he was sent down to the AHL after 11 games and opted instead to play with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL.
Radim Vrbata - Vrbata's first season as a Coyote produced 27 goals and 29 assists, leading to a lucrative contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He never managed to catch lightning in a bottle (pun completely intended), and was granted a release in the 08-09 season. Vrbata spent the rest of that year in the Czech Republic's Extraliga on two different teams before returning to the Coyotes, where he once again found his scoring touch.
Viktor Tikhonov - Tik is one of the Coyotes prospects who may have come up to the NHL too early, as he struggled in his first season in the NHL. Since then Tikhonov has split time between the Coyotes' AHL affiliate and Severstal Cherepovets of the KHL. This season may be Tikhonov's best chance to establish himself as a bona fide NHL player.
Maxim Goncharov - Drafted in 2007, Goncharov has spent most of his development time with CSKA Moscow in the KHL, although he did make the jump to the AHL in 2009-10. He was called up for a few games in the 2011-12 season, but never made it onto the ice for the Coyotes. He is also expected to be in the hunt for the 6th and 7th defenseman spots in training camp.
Marc-Antoine Pouliot - Pouliot's stay with the Coyotes was rather short lived; he played only 13 regular season games. He did however play 8 games in the playoffs, where his size and physicality came in handy in the absence of Raffi Torres. For 2012-13, Pouliot will be making his first trek overseas in his career to join EHC Biel in the Swiss A League.
Ulf Samuelsson - Though he never got a chance to put on a Coyotes sweater, the hard-hitting defenseman was an assistant coach in Phoenix from 2006-2011. He finally got his head coaching job with MODO Hockey in his native Sweden. The Samuelsson legacy does continues with the Coyotes in the form of 2012 1st round pick Henrik.