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Author: JOHN GLENNON (The Tennessean)Date: 06/27/2004
Preds net skilled scorer in Radulov

RALEIGH, N.C. — In selecting Russian right wing Alexander Radulov with the 15th overall pick, the Predators hope they've added a skilled goal-scorer to their stable of workmanlike forwards.

The Predators not only had Radulov ranked among the top 10 prospects, but thought so highly of him that they probably would have dealt away the 15th pick if Radulov hadn't been available.

''Outside of the top two players that were taken, this guy is probably one of the best offensive players in the draft,'' Predators General Manager David Poile said. ''We haven't really drafted a lot of high-end offensive players, but he has as good a chance as anyone in our system to be a real goal-scorer.''

Radulov, rated the ninth-best European skater by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau, collected 31 points (15 goals, 16 assists) in 42 games for Moscow Dynamo's junior team last season.

Scouts describe him as a highly skilled player, strong skater and natural scorer.

''He's explosive and he's got the ability to break a game wide open,'' said Paul Fenton, director of player personnel for the Predators. ''He's got really good vision and he has an innate ability to find holes in the net.''

That should be good news for a franchise that's only once in six years scored more than 200 goals in a single season.

''There have been a lot of times we played good, hard games, but at the end of the night we might be a little offensively challenged,'' Poile said. ''Hopefully he'll be able to help in that kind of situation.''

So why was Radulov still available at No. 15?

''His desire for defense and defensive responsibilities are a little lacking,'' Poile said. ''But as I've heard some big scorers say, 'If you score a goal, you never have to come back (on defense).' ''

The 18-year-old Radulov hadn't been to North America before this weekend, but he does have firsthand knowledge of the NHL. His brother, 21-year-old Igor, was a third-round draft pick of Chicago in 2000 and has played 43 games for the Blackhawks.

''My brother has been instrumental in explaining to me the lifestyle and hockey in North America,'' Radulov said through an interpreter. ''He's told me many times that the NHL is the best league, and I realize this is the place I want to be. The real work begins now because what I want to do is play in the NHL.''

It's become increasingly difficult in recent years to bring Russian prospects to North America, but the Predators may find a smoother path with Radulov.

Unlike many of his peers, Radulov is not under contract to any particular Russian team. He said he's open to staying in North America, and that might mean playing the upcoming season in the Canadian Hockey League, which holds its draft next week.

Radulov said he believes he's only one or two years away from playing in the NHL, where he hopes to contribute to a Nashville franchise that's already impressed him. He said he knows a couple of Predators, fellow Russians Denis Arkhipov and Timofei Shishkanov.

''I know that it's a fairly new franchise,'' Radulov said. ''I know that it has a lot of good young players, and I want to be one of them.''

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