The Montreal Canadiens biggest free agent signing is better than you may think
When the Montreal Canadiens signed Alexander Radulov this summer, fans on Twitter immediately started to grumble about “the annual right-winger experiment.” Many Montrealers saw Radulov as just another Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau or Alexander Semin. They jumped to the conclusion that he will be a disappointment from the start. A more appropriate reaction to signing a superstar who has dominated his league for years, would be elation.
Right off the bat, Radulov blows every free agent signing the Canadiens have made over the last few years out of the water. He is an outstandingly skilled player who has proven himself in the NHL before with the Nashville Predators, and demonstrated an elite talent level overseas in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). In terms of talent, the KHL is second only to the NHL. Just look at NHL stars like Artemi Panarin and Vladimir Tarasenko and you will see successful KHL alumni.
Radulov won the KHL’s MVP award four out of the eight times it has ever been awarded, according to CBS Sports. His statistical dominance has put him in the books as the KHL’s second all-time leading scorer and the player with the most assists in the league’s history. Had he not begun playing in the NHL, Radulov would likely have continued to dominate in the KHL record books.
Some seem content to simply argue that “the KHL is not the NHL.” While that is true, just because the KHL is not the same as the NHL, does not mean Radulov lacks value. There is a widely respected conversion system for point totals between the NHL and most other leagues in the world. It’s used to predict the success that players coming from Sweden or the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA), for example, might experience in other leagues.
According to behindthenet.ca, this system is called the National Hockey League Equivalency (NHLE) and uses a player’s points-per-game rate to predict what rate they would score in the NHL. The rate for KHL to NHL is 0.8 or 80 per cent. If we were to use the NHLE, it shows that if Radulov were to play a full season, he would score 80 points. For context, only five players broke the 80 points mark in the NHL last year, according to nhl.com.
Looking at all of this, Radulov seems to be an elite talent with the potential to have a huge impact on the league this year. A combination of excellent vision, incredible hands and great hockey IQ makes Radulov a gifted passer. He has the ability to score goals at an incredible rate with his first class shot. Expect great things from Radulov for the 2016-2017 season—you will not be disappointed.
Graphic by Thom Bell