Nik Antropov has had moments in his NHL career where he's lived up to the promise of his huge body and soft hands. The Winnipeg Jets are hoping the 31-year-old has some magic left.
Antropov is expected to eat up minutes in the club's top six forwards and if he's healthy and working with the right people, there's potential for production.
A 20-goal scorer on three different occasions during his time in the NHL, Antropov has had consistency issues due to injury. But he's big, has elite ice vision and despite what some say, has a reputation for being engaged.
"The first time I was in Winnipeg was in 1999 in the world juniors and I remember it was minus-48. But this seems like a great community and it's good to be back in a market where people care about hockey," said Antropov, a 6-foot-6, 240-pound winger.
Antropov is busy getting used to the new surroundings and a fresh direction in his hockey career but for the most part is mind is elsewhere.
Antropov had nine friends die in Wednesday's horrific plane crash that wiped out the Lokomotiv team of the KHL and he considered former Winnipeg Jets forward Igor Korolev "like a brother."
"Igor was my good friend and this is very sad for me. I knew Igor for 11 years since I first came to North America and he took me under his wing," said Antropov, who is entering his 12th NHL season. "He did a lot of good things for me."
Antropov has scored 172 goals and 240 assists in 679 career NHL games. He arrived in North America as a lanky kid out of Kazakhstan with lots of hockey ability but limited life skills.
"It's a tough loss for us. He's the godfather of my son," said Antropov, selected 10th overall in the first round of the 1998 entry draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"I couldn't speak English and didn't know where to go for something to eat. Igor showed me everything."
Antropov called Korolev's wife when he heard about the crash. "I didn't know what to say. I told her I hoped he wasn't one of them but then we found out it was."
Hockey is a refuge for Antropov right now. "Any time you lose one of your best friends or your family, it's hard to take, but you have to move forward from it. I will always remember what he did for me," he said.
"You could call him at any time and he was there for you. I think about this all the time. You come to the rink and hang out with the guys and no one talks about it, but then I get in the car to leave and it's there. It's hard right now."