Fedorov is in his 18th season in the league and once he stops playing his legacy will be more than that of just a supreme offensive force. He will be remembered as an all-time great all-around player — a star forward so gifted and skilled athletically than he can shift to defense and star on the blue line as well. That’s an uncommon blend of talent so rarely seen in the history of professional hockey.
Without a doubt Fedorov is the best all-around Russian forward who has ever played in the NHL. Early in his career I saw greatness in the 6-foot-2, 205-pounder. He was drafted by the Red Wings in the 1989 NHL Entry draft, taken in the fourth round with the 74th overall pick. It wouldn’t take him long to reach a breakout season.
To make his way to the NHL he had to defect from the then Soviet Union. He did so in 1990 while in Seattle to play in the Goodwill Games with CSKA Moscow on a line with two other future NHL stars, Mogilny and Pavel Bure.
His first NHL action came in the 1990-91 season when he had 79 points and 31 goals in 77 games. He made the NHL All-Rookie team but even more impressive about the success he achieved in his first season in the league is it came at such a young age. Fedorov started the season as a 20-year-old, turning 21 on Dec. 13, 1990. At the time most of the Russians coming into the NHL were much older.
The next two seasons would see Fedorov score 32 and 34 goals but it was in the 1993-94 campaign when he blossomed into one of the top players in the league. That year he had 120 points and 56 goals but looking beyond the numbers the stellar nature of his all-around play was reflected in his taking home a lot of hardware when it came awards time.
Fedorov won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the league’s MVP, captured the Lester B. Pearson Award as the NHL’s most outstanding player as voted on by his peers and also took home the Frank J. Selke Trophy given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.
Given the rate at which he scored goals in his first four NHL seasons I had little doubt he could someday become the top Russian goal scorer in league history. The only question beyond him staying healthy was would he choose to play long enough to achieve such a milestone. And that question first arose because at times he appeared to be as interested in off-the-ice activities as he was in his on-the-ice performance. As his career continued, the question lingered for another reason – that being that he had made so much money that there really wasn’t a financial incentive to keep playing if he no longer desired to do so.
Fedorov has been enigmatic. When he was young, he was loner. But now his interaction with two young Russian stars with the Capitals — Alexander Ovechkin and Alexander Semin — has been terrific and even in the short time he’s been with Washington his influence on the two has been invaluable in their continued development.
What perhaps most rubs off on Ovechkin and Semin from Fedorov’s play is his commitment to team defense. He’s always been so responsible defensively and add to that the way he carries himself with such professionalism and his younger compatriots and other teammates have quite a role model in the 38-year-old.
Fedorov came to the Capitals from the Blue Jackets in a deal near last February’s trade deadline. The change in scenery seems to have rejuvenated him. He likes his teammates, his coach Bruce Boudreau and he likes Washington — all reasons he choose to re-sign with the Capitals, a one year deal worth $4 million.
Fedorov’s most productive seasons were spent in Detroit and he won three Stanley Cups with the Red Wings (1997, 1998 and 2002). His former coach in Detroit, Scotty Bowman, loved Fedorov because he could do anything Bowman asked of him — be it scoring, killing penalties, being the top center on the power play or taking the point on the power play and perhaps most impressively dropping back to play on the blue line when the teams are at regular strength (he’s even done that at times for Washington this season).
A forward shifting to rearguard when his team is not on a power play is something almost never seen in the NHL and it’s quite a difficult transition but one Fedorov excels at. Ask most NHL forwards if they can play on the blue line and they will look at you like you are crazy. Not a chance, they’ll say, they won’t even consider trying it. Yet it seems to come naturally to Fedorov, which is a real testament to his greatness as an athlete.
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