As we continue to talk about Forsberg, Hejduk and all the players that played for the Avs (jersey number related) and NHLers playing overseas, I thought it would be interesting to look at a few NON-North American players the Avs drafted over the years that had great success overseas but never really got their careers started here in NA. Mostly players who never wore the Avalanche jersey but could have had success in the NHL if things would have worked out differently. Despite using all their first rounders from 1999-2002 on players from outside North America (who all "busted") the Avs were still very good at finding talent (from overseas) in the later rounds. For every Hejduk that came over and spent their prime (and in Milan's case, career) in the NHL, there are players like Tomi Kallio that spent it overseas where they had great success.
The Colorado Avalanche's first ever player drafted from outside of NA was a player by the name of Tomi Kallio. Tomi Kallio is an elusive, fast and skilled scorer from Finland. During his prime, he was an extremely dangerous sniper and one of the Swedish Elite League's top goal scorers amassing over 150 goals in just over 380 games...an average of between 21-22 goals every 55 games during that time. The year prior to Zetterberg scoring 39 goals in the NHL, he would score 19 goals in the SEL. Justin Williams would score 31 goals in the NHL after 14 goals the year prior in the SEL (during the lockout). To score over 20 goals let alone average that over 55 games in the SEL was impressive.
Kallio had the unfortunate luck of being claimed in the 1999 expansion draft by Atlanta before he even came to North America. Kallio spent one more season overseas with TPS and would be one of the top scorers in the SM Liiga and league All Star as a 22/23 year old (despite most of the point leaders being in their primes or older). He would be also be named the MVP of the playoffs and win his second league championship. Before even coming to play for Atlanta, Kallio was a highly decorated player winning championships and international medals.
Kallio would then come to NA in the 2000-2001 season and spend the next two seasons playing with the Atlanta Thrashers, where he spent time between the second and third line playing with such talented individuals as Patrik Stefan, Shean Donovan, and Hnat Domenichelli. Unfortunately he struggled to find consistency, despite playing with such NHL greats, and ended up bouncing around his third NHL season before heading back overseas to play for Frolunda in the SEL. Despite the bouncing around, Kallio would go on to finish the season as the top point-per-game player in the SEL regular season. In the playoffs he would be the #1 scorer (goals, assists and points) and winner of the SEL Championship when he scored the game winning goal.
Tired of the NHL Expansion team lifestyle, Kallio would spend the next 8 years of his life and his entire "prime" playing for Frolunda. He would win the SEL Championship one more time and even lead the league in goals during the 2005-2006 season. During his entire 8 years with Frolunda, he was a top 2 scorer on his team every year but one. That one year was the 2004-2005 season where the team was "blessed" by NHLers like Alfredsson.
Tomi Kallio is a very talented individual that had the unfortunate luck of being claimed by Atlanta and having to endure the struggles of a new expansion team to start off his NHL career. Had he not been claimed, there was the chance he could have followed Drury and Hejduk and had success playing with players like Forsberg & Sakic (rather than Stefan & Domenichelli) where his skill and creativity would have been on show in the NHL rather than the SEL. He's the closest the Avs have gotten to drafting another Hejduk in the nearly 20 years of drafting as the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately Kallio landed in Atlanta in 1999 and became an afterthought to Colorado from then on.