Radulov emerging as one of NHL's best primary playmakers

Sonny Sachdeva 2d ago
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin rolled the dice last summer, betting big on KHL veteran Alexander Radulov in the form of a one-year, $5.75-million deal.

The gamble paid off. With 14 goals and 42 points through 56 appearances, Radulov has been the club's second-most dangerous offensive weapon, bested only by captain Max Pacioretty.

Even so, the captain has put his new teammate in the spotlight over himself, heaping praise on him for helping the offense become more dynamic as a whole.

Looking at the numbers, that praise certainly seems apt, as Radulov has been one of the best playmakers in the game this season.

It might not be clear from a quick glance at the scoring race - he ranks 40th in total points and 37th in assists - but boil it down to the most pertinent numbers, and his impact becomes more clear.

In terms of primary assists, the 30-year-old is tied for sixth in the league, sitting level with Sidney Crosby.

The central reason for the discrepancy in his first-assist ranking and overall ranking: Radulov has only five secondary assists to his name this season, the fewest of any of the top nine primary assist-getters of 2016-17.

But it's clear Montreal's new star is contributing where it counts.

Secondary assists aren't without value, and, in certain cases, the secondary assist can represent the most impressive sequence of a particular play. But for the most part, it's the primary assist that represents most of the heavy lifting - and a look at the game's best playmakers should start there.

The best still rise to the top when doing so, as Connor McDavid, Evgeni Malkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Patrick Kane, and Crosby all rank among the top seven.

Taking into account those leading the league with first assists and failing to rack up secondary markers can highlight some oft-missed elite talent. For example, the one other player among that All-Star list of primary playmakers is Mikael Granlund, who ranks second with 26 primary assists to his name, alongside just nine secondary helpers.

The Canadiens likely aren't sweating Radulov's lack of secondary numbers. Montreal has the 11th-best goals-per-game pace in the league with him in tow, and still holds a division lead.

Bergevin's bold offseason move made him the second-highest paid forward on his team's roster, but heading into the home stretch, the slick Russian has undoubtedly lived up to the hype.