With Alexander Radulov currently participating in his first practice after returning to Nashville (watch it here), speculation has been mounting over how he'll fit in the lineup, both in terms of who he'll play with, and who will get bumped to the pressbox in order to make room for him.
Barry Trotz said on the radio this morning that he's thinking of starting off with Rads alongside David Legwand and Patric Hornqvist, but that this will be a work in progress. So with that in mind, what I want is your input on who should end up centering Rads. We'll get to the other winger in a separate post.
Let's look at the options...
#12 / Center / Nashville Predators
Jun 05, 1980
|2011 - Mike Fisher||64||23||23||46||+12||31||5||0||7||145||15.9|
Pro: He's enjoying a strong year, and has a bit of history supporting gifted offensive Russian wingers. I checked with Peter Raaymakers of Silver Seven to see how Fish fared playing alongside Alexei Kovalev during his days in Ottawa:
I can tell you that Fisher and Kovalev did play pretty well together, for the most part. There are plenty of fans in Ottawa who will never compliment anything that Kovalev did while with the Senators, but it was no coincidence that Fisher had his best offensive season while on a line with Kovalev (2009-10 season).
I don't know much about Radulov, but Fisher's shot and willingness to drive the net and grind in the corners complemented pretty well with Kovalev's offensive flair, vision, patience, and playmaking ability. If that's Radulov's style, too, there might be a good fit.
Radulov and Kovalev are by no means a perfect match as players, but there is quite a bit in common there.
Con: Does Barry Trotz dare mess with the relatively successful Erat-Fisher-SK74 line? I'm not a big believer in sacrosanct line combinations, but most would be extremely hesitant to switch that up.
#11 / Center / Nashville Predators
Aug 17, 1980
|2011 - David Legwand||69||18||30||48||+1||22||5||0||2||128||14.1|
Pro: Is also having a relatively strong offensive season, and has experience playing with Radulov from years ago. Has the skating ability to keep with and maximize Radulov's speed.
Con: He's the one center around who remembers what happened to the last guy who had Rads on his wing.
#13 / Center / Nashville Predators
Sep 19, 1988
|2011 - Nick Spaling||68||10||9||19||-8||14||0||0||3||98||10.2|
Pro: The coaching staff and front office love him, and have professed their belief that he can develop into a two-way, Top Six-caliber player.
Con: Hasn't yet shown the offensive game at the NHL level to convince that he's ready to support a premier talent like Radulov.
#28 / Center / Nashville Predators
Feb 03, 1982
|2011 - Paul Gaustad||62||7||13||20||-3||72||0||0||3||68||10.3|
Pro: He's a faceoff demon, so there's a notion that he can win possession of the puck and get it to Radulov consistently.
Con: More suited to being a physical, defensively-minded shutdown guy than a setup man.
#15 / Center / Nashville Predators
Sep 05, 1989
|2011 - Craig Smith||69||13||20||33||-12||28||6||0||0||169||7.7|
Pro: Has the wheels to play an up-tempo game with Rads.
Con: Production has tailed off as the season has dragged on, and combining a rookie with the new guy could prove to be a defensive disaster.