No matter how many Russian hockey players become success stories in the National Hockey League, they still carry the burden of Alexander Radulov. Players like Artemi Panarin, who came to the NHL from the KHL and scored 77 points in 80 games for the Chicago Blackhawks this season, unfairly face questions about their commitment to playing in North America.
Radulov was slated to be the Nashville Predators' franchise player when he joined the team in 2006-07 after an incredibly successful junior career in Quebec. For two seasons, he was exceptional, scoring 95 points in 145 games. In 2007-08, the 6-foot-1 winger finished sixth in the NHL in even-strength points per 60 minutes.
Then he took off for the KHL, leaving a gaping hole in the Predators' scoring attack. After spending four seasons playing in Russia, Radulov returned to Nashville and picked up right where he left off by scoring 13 points in 17 games. But he was benched during the playoffs for violating team rules. Radulov went back to the KHL, where he has spent the past three seasons dominating the score sheet. In his eight KHL seasons, he has scored 492 points in 391 games and is a four-time MVP.
Now the 29-year-old is set to make another return to the NHL and has already met with several teams. It is clear that Radulov's offensive talent is worth the risk.
Which teams need his services the most? Who might be willing to ignore Radulov's red flags for the potential of a nabbing a star?