You can’t say enough about Alexander Radulov and his play this season. The 30-year-old has been key to the Montreal Canadiens success this season, proving that he does belong in the NHL.
It’s been a long road for Radulov. Drafted by the Nashville Predators with the 15th pick in 2004, he’s had to fight his way back to the NHL after many thought he was done for after leaving the Predators to play in Russia, a move which was not taken to well by the Nashville front office.
His stay in Russia’s KHL league lasted from 2008-2012. He returned to Nashville, who still owned his rights, to continue his NHL career. He didn’t last long, as an incident with the team caused the Predators to forgo extending his contract, making him a free agent.
With the NHL behind him, Radulov once again sets his sights on the KHL, where he would stay for four more seasons, leading his team to two straight Continental Cups. It was after the 2015-16 season in the KHL that Radulov decided that he would return to the NHL, but it wouldn’t be easy this time around.
Knowing his troubled past, Montreal signed Radulov to a one-year deal. If he wanted to return to NHL prominence he was going to have to earn it, and thus far he’s done just that, as he’s one of the Canadiens most consistent scorers.
His play on the team’s first line has been instrumental in the breakout year of the former top-three pick, Alex Galchenyuk, who was putting up career numbers before his injury. The Galchenyuk injury hasn’t slowed down the Radulov train, as he’s found mew chemistry with Max Pacioretty, a consistent 30-goal scorer.
Edmonton had the right idea by signing Radulov to a “prove it” contract. Everyone knew he had the skill of a top-six forward, but could he also be a team player?
So far, it seems like the gamble has paid off. And while his 23 points on the season aren’t a team-high, Radulov has been the Canadiens most important player.
With play like this, it’s going to mean Radulov is in line for a big payday at year’s end. Whether or not Montreal decides to pony up the cash to keep him is unknown, but as for now, he could be the difference maker for a Montreal team that is starved for a Stanley Cup win.
Follow Daniel James Gentile on twitter @dgentleman9288