July 28, 2015
Alexander Frolov caused a lot of head scratching and frustration early in his career.
Drafted 20th overall in the 2000 NHL Draft, the Los Angeles Kings had high hopes for the giant winger out of Moscow. After all he had a brilliant rookie debut in Russia, finishing fifth in the league in goals despite being just 18. He also was dominating while leading Russia to a gold medal at the World Juniors in 2002, scoring six goals in seven games.
At 6'4" and 200lbs he had the size and strength to become a dominant power forward and the badly needed goal scorer the Kings lacked in the early 2000s. He protected the puck well on one-on-one situations, aided by great balance on his skates. He was excellent on the cycle and dominated along the boards. He had the softest of hands, was a powerful skater and had strong defensive awareness.
Yet it took a while for Frolov to emerge as a top player. He seemed very reluctant to pay the price to score goals in North America. As a result he was dubbed and floater and a perimeter player who would rather make plays rather than drive the puck to the net.
For Frolov, the NHL game was a very different game than what he was raised with. It took some time.
"People have always talked to me about going to the net," Frolov said. "It's been hard because you learn the game differently in Russia. I'm trying to change because it can only help me. Good things happen around the net."
Frolov, who arrive in LA as a rookie with no skates, sticks or equipment, also had to adjust to life not just in North America, but in Hollywood which is unlike anywhere else. He admitted to being quite homesick early in his career, and the language barrier had him mistaken as shy.
He overcame these early hiccups and became a regular 20 goal scorer. Twice he topped 30 goals. He may have scored even more but he loved his wraparound attempts to a fault. He also tended to start seasons on fire, but would wear down over the course of the year.
During this time Frolov was also a regular on the Russian national team, competing at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, 2006 Olympics (though a separated shoulder hampered him) and four World Championships.
Groin injuries slowed him by 2009, which cause the Kings to shy away from committing to Frolov with another long term contract. So in 2010 Frolov went from coast to coast in a different manner of speaking when he signed with the New York Rangers as an expensive free agent.
Frolov got off to slow start, and then had his seasons ended only half way through thanks to a serious knee injury. He would score only seven goals and sixteen points in 43 games in Manhattan.
That proved to be Frolov's final NHL season. He returned to Russia to play for three more seasons in the KHL before retiring at the age of 32 in 2014.