Alexander Radulov adapting to the North American game

By Simon Richard





2005 Prospects: Alexandre Vincent

Born on July 5th, 1986 deep inside Russia, Alexander
Radulov
was barely 18 years old when he left his native country to move to
Quebec City last summer. His maturity beyond those years is evident, however.

When Hockey’s Future’s wanted to have a chat with him last week right
after a Quebec’s win in overtime, Radulov asked if we could wait 10 minutes
because he wanted first to spend some time on the stationary bicycle. Radulov had spent more than 25 minutes on
the ice that night having been used on regular shifts and both power play and
penalty killing units.

That night against Shawinigan Cataractes, he played hard every shift. At
times, he showed strokes of genius, setting great passes to his teammates. In
the third period, he got the puck at the center of the rink and used his speed
to bypass the right blueliner into the zone before making a play that gave the
Quebec Remparts a 2-1 lead.

In overtime, Radulov went coast to coast but was unable to score. Later,
he set up the winning goal scored by teammate Josh Hennessy (San Jose).
His efforts earned him the third star of the game.

"I’m happy because my team won tonight but I’m not satisfied with
my play, I can do better," Radulov told HF when he came back from cycling.

That game was his second one in two nights. It was also Radulov’s and
teammates’ fifth game over the last eight days. Exhausting? Apparently not for
the young Russian who judged that he needed cycling in order to polish his
shape. These extra efforts paid off. Three days later, Radulov earned the fist
star of the game recording four points (1-3) against Acadie-Bathurst in a 4-1
Remparts win.

This young man is determined. He has one goal, reaching the NHL. He will
succeed to do it because he is ready to develop his exceptional natural-born
potential.

Decision to move to the CHL

Radulov left Nizhni Tagil in the Oural a few years ago to join the
Dynamo Moscow’s hockey school. At the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, the 6’1 and
186-pound right winger was the first choice of the Nashville Predators (15th
overall).

Quebec Remparts chief scout Denys Faucher was in Minsk with two teams’
fellow scouts last April scouting at the Under-18 World Junior Championship.
"Alexander was dominant on the ice, he showed up every game, the only
player better than him was Evgeni Malkin," Faucher told Hockey’s
Future.

At the 2004 CHL Import Player Draft, Quebec Remparts had the 21st
choice but traded to get the ninth one. "I was surprised and most of all
very happy that Alexander was still available," recalled Faucher.

"After the NHL Draft, the management of Nashville Predators
suggested to me to play in North America this year. They said that doing so,
they could more easily keep an eye on my development," Radulov said after
that game on October 23rd.

"Patrick Roy (Quebec Remparts’ GM) was very interested to get me
with his team and I thought that it would be better for me to come in the CHL
in order to get prepared to eventually play in the NHL," added Radulov.

His decision to play in the CHL was surely inspired by the one taken by
his older brother Igor (Chicago Blackhawks) who also left Russia in 2001-02 to
play in the CHL for the Mississauga Ice Dogs.

Lots of skills but time needed to
adapt

After 16 games, Radulov has 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points. He
ranks eighth overall in points, leading all rookies. With 80 shots on goal so
far, he ranks third behind Edmonton Oilers prospect Marc-Antoine Pouliot
and 2005 eligible Sidney Crosby.
Those statistics are not bad at all but the observers who have seen the
great potential of Radulov know that he can still improve himself.

"He is spectacular right now, he has a lot of skills but he is
sometimes still looking for himself on the ice," Patrick Roy told HF.
"He still has to adapt to the major junior level and to the north American
style of hockey, but I’m convinced that he will do so, he just needs
time."

Le Soleil newspaper writer Kevin Johnston also pointed
out that Radulov needs time to adapt, saying, "Radulov is very fast and he
has great hands, he also has an open mind, he talks all the time, is funny and
hyperactive. For sure he will get adapted."

"I still have to adapt," agreed Radulov. "The game is
faster in the QMJHL than in the Upper League in Russia and there are more hits
here because the rink is smaller," he added.

According to Denys Faucher, Radulov has no fear on the ice, he is
particularly tenacious with the puck, even in the training sessions. "He
wants the puck and once he has it, he fights hard to keep it, he has this kind
of tenacity we are not used to seeing from Russian players." Faucher also
states that off the ice, "Radulov is enlightened and he wants to get
integrated in the new world he has chosen."

Away from home living in a foreign
language

It is easy to forget that it
is not obvious for these young kids to get adapted to a new world.
"Everything is fine," said Radulov. "The team management is very
generous and does everything for me, I do appreciate it a lot. I do not get
bored, I’m pretty comfortable off the ice and Quebec is a great place to stay,
surely the best town in the league. I can not imagine myself playing somewhere
else," added Radulov.

 

Radulov has not mastered the
English enough to give an interview in this language. He says it does not
affect his game on the ice because he knows just enough English to understand
his coach and teammates. "I just don’t feel comfortable when guys are
making jokes that I can’t understand."

 

The rookie is studying
English every day. "At the end of the season, I’ll be fine with it,"
he promises.

On Canada/Russia Challenge and World
Junior Championship

Russian authorities have not
yet called Radulov to play in either the upcoming Canada/Russia Challenge or
the 2005 Word Junior Championship. "I would like very much to play on the
Russian national team at the next World Junior, but the decision is not mine.
If it does not happen, it won’t be that terrible," he commented.

Asked if it would be terrific
to play with Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, he said that
he doesn’t want to play with specific players but just be part of the U-20
Russian team.

 

Finally, questioned about the
next season, Radulov said he hopes he will have a contract with Nashville, but
he will come back to Quebec if he doesn’t play in the big league.

 

 

Simon
Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the
Summit Series published in 2002.
Copyright 2004 Hockey’s Future. Do not duplicate without permission of the
editorial staff.