Alex Radulov: A rising star
I have to say I'm a little surprised at some of the reaction in the wake of the news Alex Radulov has signed to play in Russia next season.
For one, many observers, in my opinion, vastly underrate what he brings to the table.
Of Radulov, The Hockey News' Ken Campbell says he "hasn't even scored a total of 50 goals in his two NHL seasons and he’s prone to long periods of low productivity." Spector called the whole saga "a minor irritant," while Puck Daddy asked "Why have a massive fight over a kid who's a poor man's Alex Semin?"
Two factors that one has to consider, first and foremost, in evaluating Radulov's 26 goal, 58 point sophomore season:
- He was 21 years old
- He played primarily on the second-unit of one of the weakest power plays in the league
Scoring 26 goals as a 21-year-old is quite a feat these days, something that's been done almost exclusively by the NHL's elite. In the past decade, only 26 different players have scored 25 or more goals at 21-or-under (using ages as of Feb. 1).
Here's that list, sorted by peak number of goals in a single season:
- Alex Ovechkin (x2)
- Evgeni Malkin (x2)
- Eric Staal
- Ilya Kovalchuk (x3)
- Rick Nash (x2)
- Sidney Crosby (x2)
- Joe Thornton
- Mike Comrie
- Simon Gagne (x2)
- Anze Kopitar
- Patrice Bergeron
- Jeff Friesen
- Nathan Horton (x2)
- Marian Gaborik (x2)
- Marian Hossa
- Jordan Staal
- Jarome Iginla
- Paul Stastny
- Alex Tanguay
- Nikolai Zherdev
- Dany Heatley
- Alex Radulov
- Ryan Getzlaf
- Vinny Lecavalier
- Patrick Marleau
- Sergei Samsonov
Then there's the matter of just how Radulov put together such a remarkable season.
Playing 16:24 a game, he managed 58 points while putting up just four goals and two assists with the man advantage, making him one of the league's most prolific players at even strength (15th in the NHL).
On a per-minute basis, Radulov was the ninth-highest scoring player in the league at 5-on-5 last season. At 21.
The real wonder is that he didn't get more time on the first power-play unit.
During one especially strong stretch last season, Radulov produced 17 goals and 30 points in 30 games from Christmas until March 1. All but one point came at even strength.
In fact, if you take all 158 players who had 40 or more points last season, Radulov rates way up at the top of the list for percentage of points scored at even strength, with nearly 90 per cent of his points scored without the benefit of a man advantage:
By comparison, Alex Kovalev scored just 41 per cent of his points at even strength last season (the full list is here).
Part of the problem is definitely that Radulov simply wasn't effective on the power play in 2007-08, but I'd be good money that would change going forward as he (a) was given more plum ice time and (b) matured into a top line role.
Radulov's pedigree is incredible, and he is probably the best European import player to ever play in the Canadian junior leagues. At 19, he had 61 goals in 62 games with Patrick Roy's Quebec Remparts, scoring 152 points in the regular season and then 55 more in 23 playoff games.
If he in fact does play in the KHL next season, the Predators are losing quite a player, someone who could easily score 35 goals and close to a point a game next year in a larger role.
Nashville can't replace that from within — no team could. And the NHL might be down a burgeoning superstar.
For a Nashville perspective on all things Radulov, The Forechecker is your man: "If this indeed pans out," he says, "it is obviously a crushing blow to the Predators organization."
I couldn't agree more.