The Nashville Predators have enjoyed the luxury of some fine freshman campaigns over the past couple of seasons. The emergence of Ryan Suter and Shea Weber on the blue line last year as well as the steady contributions of Dan Hamhuis have allowed the team to build a solid base. This past year the Predators had a number of rookies, and one outstanding forward in particular.
Alexander Radulov, RW
6’1, 188 lbs
July 5th, 1986
Drafted 15th overall in 2004
His offensive prowess and ability to raise his level of competition will make the 20-year-old a mainstay in the lineup for a long time.
Radulov’s junior career has been well documented and rightfully so. In his conquest of the CHL in 2005-06, the dynamic winger from Nizhni Tagil Russia, tallied 152 points in 62 games and 55 points in his 23 playoff contests. He was named Memorial Cup MVP and was a huge contributor of the Quebec Remparts’ championship. His resume also boasts the CHL Player of the Year Award, CHL Top Scorer Award, Memorial Cup All-Star team, QMJHL Jean Beliveau Award (leading scorer), QMJHL MVP, QMJHL First All-Star team and the QMJHL Top Offensive Player of the Year Award — accomplished all in the 2005-06 season.
His professional career began in Milwaukee in this 2006-07 season, playmaking and lighting the lamp for the Admirals. In the three games before his first call-up by Nashville on October 20, he put up seven points. That included a six-point night (1 goal, 5 assists) versus Grand Rapids which tied a 2001-02 record by Tony Hrkac for most points in a game. In his second stint with the Admirals in November, he went on to score another three goals and eight assists in his final seven games (18 points in 10 games).
It was a tough Calder Trophy race in the NHL in 2006-07 as Evgeni Malkin in Pittsburgh (85 points), Paul Stastny in Colorado (78) and Anze Kopitar in Los Angeles (61) will garner most of the rookie of the year votes, but Radulov could have just as bright a future. His competitive nature and skills combined with his grit and willingness to go into the trenches make him a much-coveted forward. His first NHL goal was scored against San Jose on Oct. 26. The 37 points he scored in 64 games were good enough for ninth overall for rookies and his 18 goals set a Predators franchise record for goals by a first-year player. He notched four game-winning goals and his +19 rating was the best of any of the top 10 rookies in the NHL this year.
In what proved to be a hard-fought first round playoff exit by Nashville, Radulov was +1 and had 13 shots on netminder Evgeni Nabokov of the Sharks. He was suspended by the NHL for a hit-from-behind on San Jose forward Steve Bernier and missed Game 3 of the series. He scored his four points of the five-game series after the suspension, in the final two games of the season.
His season was also highlighted by a selection to the National Hockey League’s YoungStars Game during the NHL All-Star Weekend in February.
Rich Peverley, C
6’0, 198 lbs
July 8, 1982
Signed as a free agent Jan.17th, 2007
A collegiate player at St. Lawrence University who worked his way up through various levels, Peverley began his professional career in the ECHL and was a key two-way forward for the Milwaukee Admirals of the AHL (30 goals, 38 assists, +9).
The centerman from Guelph, Ontario demonstrates how players might rise from the developmental leagues and thrive with proper coaching and ice time. Originally on an Admirals contract, he was signed to an NHL contract Jan 17.
In 13 games when called up by Nashville on March 4, Peverley tallied one point, an assist, which was scored in his NHL debut versus Anaheim. He was +2 in the game and logged what ended up as a season-high 14:37 in ice time on 21 shifts. He averaged 7:47 and 11 shifts a game, logging many of his shifts with Jerrod Smithson, Vern Fiddler, Jordan Tootoo and Darcy Hordichuk, though he did see action with better players after the trade deadline. Peverley’s exposure to special teams was scarce. Later on in the month of March, he was given a few power-play and penalty-killing shifts.
Peverley was reassigned to Milwaukee (AHL) on April 2. He is not overly physical and his face-off skill is adequate at 54 percent (22/41). In a strong Predators’ organization, he will likely see limited time and must succeed in establishing a two-way forward role.
Kevin Klein, D
6’1, 195 lbs
December 13, 1984
Drafted 37th overall in 2003
Klein has good size and noted offensive skills. The native of Kitchener, Ontario played 70 games for the Milwaukee Admirals in 2006-07, registering 5 goals, 15 assists, 67 PIM and a +2 rating.
He was called-up to the Predators three times this year, appearing in one game each time before being relegated to Milwaukee before the next. He is durable and can take a regular shift at the NHL level, demonstrated in his consistent 16+ minutes and 20+ shifts/game. He was paired with Greg Zanon exclusively and was used a good deal on the penalty kill. Klein saw limited time on the power play. He opened the scoring in a game against the Blackhawks for his first NHL goal on Jan. 26.
Contributing at every level played, look for Nashville to give Klein a hard look for a spot on the club next year.
Sheldon Brookbank, D
6’2, 200 lbs
October 3, 1980
Signed as a free agent 2005
The defenseman from Lanigan, Saskatchewan has displayed the mettle of a true team player, patrolling the blue line for Milwaukee. He was selected to the Canadian AHL All-Star Team this year on the strength of his 15 goals, 38 assists and 176 PIM in 78 games. He was also voted by his peers and media from the 27 AHL cities as the "Eddie Shore Award" winner, as the league’s top defenseman.
The captain of the Admirals earned a three-game stint with the Predators between Feb. 5-11. He played his NHL debut at Pittsburgh, notching an assist on a goal by forward Scott Nichol. He logged over 10 minutes twice and saw most of his action partnered with Zanon. Brookbank’s presence was felt by the opposition as well, receiving fighting majors against the Maple Leafs Kris Newbury and LA’s right winger, Tom Kostopoulos.
With the talent on Nashville’s defense, he will most likely be calling Milwaukee home for some time. He is a valuable depth defenseman with grit and integrity.
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