Radulov makes successful NHL transition

By Russell Luna

There are many nicknames that come to mind for Russian rookie Alexander Radulov: “A-Rad”, “Alexander the Great” or maybe even “Rad-u-lator.” While Radulov is not yet a household name in Nashville, the young Predator rookie has a knack for finding the net and hopes his first experience in Nashville this season is just one of many to come.

A first-round selection in the 2004 draft (15th overall), Radulov entered his third hockey season in North America this season after an impressive career the past two seasons with the Quebec Remparts in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

With the Remparts, Radulov quickly made a name for himself after scoring 32 goals and 43 assists (75 points) in 62 games during the first season. He led the QMJHL rookies with goals scored in 2004-05.

Radulov’s second season was much more impressive. The young sniper potted an astonishing 61 goals in 62 games with 91 assists for a total of 152 points. He also racked up numerous awards including the Jean Beliveau Trophy (top scorer), the Telus Trophy (offensive player of the year), the Michel Briere Trophy as the league’s most valuable player and was named the CHL player of the year.

Radulov had a good training camp with Nashville this fall, but began the season with AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals. He received player of the week honors in the AHL his first week of play after accumulating a team-record six points (two goals and four assists) in two games.

The 6’1, 188-pounder received his chance to play in the NHL last month when Josef Vasicek was put on the injured reserved lists for a hip flexor in mid-October. The Predators recalled Radulov in time to make his NHL regular-season debut on Oct. 21 against the Vancouver Canucks.
He received about seven and a half minutes in ice time.

“I worked hard but I didn’t play my best,” Radulov said of the game. “They game me some ice time, but it wasn’t a lot, as I expected.”

Radulov’s second game presented different results as the rookie scored his first career NHL goal against San Jose on Oct. 26. It was even done on his first shot of his career.

“It was amazing,” said Radulov. “I really don’t know what to say, my first goal was definitely emotional. I hope there are many more to come.”

Radulov is not the only Russian young blood making an impact on the new NHL. Just last season, Washington Capitals forward Alexander Ovechkin scored an impressive 52 goals in his first career NHL season. This season, Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin delivered seven goals in his first six games and picked up NHL rookie of the month honors for October.

Radulov has averaged 8:45 per game in ice time in his six games, as the coaching staff is slowly getting him adjusted into the fast-paced game of the NHL.

Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz recognized the young forward’s talents and summarized Radulov’s hockey skills as some of the best he had seen – a pure goal scorer.

“He has a lot of potential,” Trotz said. “We don’t want him out there getting knocked around by some of the older guys. We want him to slowly get a rhythm out there. He’s making progress and he has a great ability to make him one of the most dangerous shooters in this league.”

His limited ice time has already produced some good results, but don’t necessarily expect the young rookie to remain in Nashville the entire season, mainly due to the depth of the Predators’ lineup.

Regardless of whether he’s in Nashville or Milwaukee, the Predators organization understands that it has a talented forward who not only has a raw talent of finding the net, but brings much-needed youthful exuberance to the team.

“He played great,” Predators left wing Paul Kariya said. “He brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm out there.”

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