The Russians are coming:
Now that the 2001-02 Russian Super League and Upper
League seasons have come to a close, the post season dust of transfers and
roster cuts is starting to settle. Some players find out their services are no
longer needed with their current clubs, while others leave their teams on their
own initiative. There are also a select few who, at the end of their contract
with their Russian team, are eyeing intently across the ocean towards North
America thinking – “Am I strong enough?” For many it will be a short visit to
North America for the training camp and back to Russia. Some have already been
there and returned to Russia after their unsuccessful first, second or just
another one of many attempts to make it in the NHL. For several, it will be
their first trip to North America and first impressions go a long way. Not
just first impressions the team’s management and coaches have of the player, but
also the impressions the player has of North America. Here are a few of the
more notable players who will make their way to North America from Russia and
likely make a notable impact.
Alexander Frolov – Los Angeles Kings
Alexander Frolov’s stock skyrocketed after his
impressive performance in the Russian Upper League that helped the Soviet Wings’
ascend back into the Super League. In the post season discussion even
Alexander’s strongest supporters did not expect him to maintain the same scoring
pace at the Super League’s level. But he did just that.
After failing to come to an agreement with the Los Angeles Kings, he stayed in
Russia and continued to play for the Soviet Wings. During the beginning of the
2001-02 season, Alexander represented most of the Soviet Wings’ offense.
Throughout the season, Alexander’s role was similar to that of Pavel Bure where
during the 00-01 season, when he scored more then 30 percent of the Flordia’s
goals. Alexander led the Super League in scoring for the first two months of
the season. He did not play well at the Four Nations Tournament where the
Russian ’83 National Team delivered a sub par performance. Some were quick to
judge Alexander, who then proceeded to shut his critics up with a six goal,
eight point performance at the 2002 U20 WJC where the Russian National Team
tasted the sweet gold after suffering a humiliating series of defeats just a
After the WJC, Alexander’s performance leveled off,
likely due to fatigue. He remained a scoring threat, but in January his
production declined and he slowly fell from the ranks of Super League’s leading
snipers. His season got even grimmer when Alexander fell awkwardly after a
check and left the ice with what was later diagnosed as a knee sprain.
The Wings lost Alexander to injury for more then two
weeks, though he returned in time to help the team hold on to the eight and
final playoff spot. The Soviet Wings exceeded everyone’s preseason expectations
by maintaining a competitive team and making the playoffs. Unfortunately they
did not advance far, bowing out in the first round to the eventual Super League
champions, Lokomotiv Yaroslavl.
After the conclusion of the season, the Super
League’s coaches awarded Alexander Frolov the Rookie of the Year award.
Alexander also made significant impact at the training camp for the Russian
National team that was to compete at the World Championships. He remained with
the team during most of the training camp and exhibition games, and was sent
home in the final cuts just days before the tournament.
The Los Angeles Kings’ management considered signing
Frolov one of the club’s top priorities of the summer and on July 15th
they signed Alexander to a three year contract. Alexander proved his worth
during the 2001-02 season and strengthened his negotiating position. He will
showcase his skills at the training camp and will likely remain with the Kings
for the 2002-03 season opener. He is a matured player, who is ready for the