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How good will Alexander Radulov be in the NHL?

Well, his hands go up...

Photo Credit: US PRESSWIRE
Well, his hands go up... Photo Credit: US PRESSWIRE

With Alexander Radulov possibly joining the Nashville Predators lineup as early as Thursday at Pittsburgh, Preds fans are buzzing over how he'll fit into the lineup, and what this all means for the team's playoff hopes. Radulov comes back to the NHL after having won a host of awards in Russia over the last few years. He's a two-time KHL MVP, won the Gagarin Cup last season, and just led the league in scoring for the second consecutive year.

But just how well will his KHL success translate to the NHL game? Let's take a look...

The concept we use to take a stab here is called League Equivalency, which is explained in detail over at Behind The Net. The idea is remarkably straightforward - simply track the points-per-game performance of all players who move from various leagues to the NHL every year, and see how those PPG values change, on average. For example, a guy coming out of the AHL typically racks up points at 44% of the prior rate once reaching the big leagues, while one coming from the Swedish Elite League might retain 78% of his scoring. This reflects the relative strength of those leagues, and the analysis can be refined in a number of ways (filtering by the position or age of the player in question, for example).

In an analysis last summer at Hockey Prospectus, Rob Vollman examined the issue of players coming over from the KHL over the last few years:

Normally players jumping to the NHL from almost any other professional league can expect to lose at least half their scoring, but not when they jump from the KHL. In fact, recent history has shown that players retain roughly three-quarters of their goal scoring and almost all of their assists when making the leap...

One can take a more conservative view, using League Equivalency values calculated by Bruce Peter of Puck Worlds for players coming over from Russia, which pegged them to produce at 65% of their previous scoring levels here in the NHL. That yields the following projections for Radulov's work over the last four seasons (columns at right reflect playing all 82 games of an NHL season):

KHL Season Games Goals Assists Points KHL Pts/Game Lg Equiv NHL Pts/Game NHL Goals NHL Assists NHL Points
2008-09 52 22 26 48 0.92 0.65 0.60 22.6 26.7 49.2
2009-10 54 24 39 63 1.17 0.65 0.76 23.7 38.5 62.2
2010-11 54 20 60 80 1.48 0.65 0.96 19.7 59.2 79.0
2011-12 50 25 38 63 1.26 0.65 0.82 26.7 40.5 67.2

Even taking these relatively cautious values as the basis for comparison, Radulov would project as clearly the Nashville Predators' top offensive producer.

Going with Vollman's assessment puts those last two seasons in the 90-110(!) point range, but one has to consider that Radulov will have to fit into more of a team concept in Nashville as opposed to being the star of the show for Salavat Yulaev Ufa, so that could realistically drag those numbers down to the 70-80 point range. In conversation via email with Gabe Desjardin of Behind The Net, he agreed with that ballpark as well.

The last player to even hit the 60-point mark for Nashville was J.P. Dumont, with 65 in the 2008-2009 season.

Granted, expecting such a level of production right away might be unrealistic. There will be an adjustment period to get accustomed to new teammates, as well as the smaller North American ice surface. In addition, it's probably safe to assume that the NHL at large is a slightly faster game than it was four years ago when Radulov left.

That's OK, Alex. It sounds like you'll get one game at Pittsburgh to get used to things before playing in front of the Smashville faithful Saturday night vs. Winnipeg. A rabid, sellout crowd will be waiting for you.

Only 5 more home games left... take the OTF Discount and save on tickets!