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Making The Jump: How Will Radulov Fare In His Return?

by Jay Levin / Nashville Predators
Alexander Radulov is being labeled as the best player not currently in the NHL. Looks like that distinction will change this week; Radulov touched down in Nashville late tonight and will be re-introduced at a press conference tomorrow morning (check in the morning for a live stream of the press conference).

Radulov has been the clear and away best player in the KHL the last three seasons, scoring 69 goals and 206 points in 158 games, and has been an impact player in international tournaments --- notably the hero of Team Russia’s Gold Medal performance at the 2009 World Championships, scoring the game-winner against Canada in the Finals after creating up the game-winner in the semifinals against Team USA, both one-goal wins for Russia.

While most will agree that the KHL is the second-best league behind the NHL, success in Europe does not always translate to success in the NHL. The biggest concern with players making the jump from Europe to the NHL is the adaptation to smaller ice surface and the increased physical play that results from the reduced room on the ice.

But in Alexander Radulov the Preds have a player who proved he can be successful on the NHL ice surface, scoring 26 goals and 58 points in his last NHL season --- as a 21-year old. And by all accounts, in the years since his departure from the NHL, Radulov has become stronger and has actually improved his two-way game. Team Russia has used Radulov on the penalty kill in World Championships and Olympic tournaments.

When he last skated for the Preds, Radulov’s playing weight was around 188 pounds; now he tips the scales at 200 pounds. With the added muscle and two-way play, Radulov has become a more physical player than he was four years ago when he last starred in the NHL.
The improved strength and two-way awareness could make Radulov a more dangerous player than when he left. Considering his past abilities to perform in the NHL Playoffs – Radulov has 5 goals and 8 points in 10 career NHL Playoff games – a more mature game should only translate better in the post-season grind of the NHL.

While there have been difficulties on players in the past making the jump from European superstar to the NHL, Radulov would seem to have some important differences in his favor; he has prior NHL experience and success, he would be returning in the prime of his career, he would be returning to a locker room with strong leadership and low-ego players that has already shown an ability to integrate impact players into the team culture.

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