Alexander Suzdalev at home in Sweden during the 2022-23 holiday break/Photo: Fredrik Johansson
He’s been in North America and playing hockey on North American-sized rinks for less than a year, but so far, by most accounts, things are going really well for Washington Capitals forward prospect Alexander Suzdalev. Suzdalev made the jump across the pond from Sweden last summer, signing with the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League (WHL).
What has Suzdalev enjoyed about playing for the Pats so far this season?
“Everything so far,” Suzdalev told Robin Wark. “I fit in pretty good in the group and everyone is really nice. I love the city. The fans were really good the last couple games here and it was sure fun to play. Of course, when you have as good a player on your team as Connor Bedard [who is projected to be the first pick in the 2023 National Hockey League Draft], it sure makes it a lot more fun to play with him and go at it every practice.”
Suzdalev was chosen in the third round, 70th overall, by the Capitals in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. It just so happens to be the team he grew up rooting for.
“I was a huge Caps fan,” Suzdalev said. “I was loving Ovi [Alexander Ovechkin] and I was from a place in Siberia where Alexander Semin was from so that was my favourite player when I was little. … Really happy to be drafted by them. It couldn’t be any better almost.”
Suzdalev attended the Capitals’ development camp in July and Capitals rookie and training camps in September. “It didn’t feel real almost at the time,” he said. “In your first rookie camp, you learn a lot – taking from the good players.”
As for his first WHL campaign, Suzdalev is second on the team in points and goals to phenom Bedard. Through 45 games played, the 6-foot-3, 171-pounder has 26 goals, 36 assists and 62 points. Some of his goals have come in highlight reel fashion. Against Portland, he scored a between-the-legs goal.
🚨 SUZY GOES BETWEEN THE LEGS 🚨
We are tied at 2!#LegendsInTheMaking | @Capitals | @TheWHL pic.twitter.com/CtaLxz9Ctk
— Regina Pats (@WHLPats) January 15, 2023
Suzdalev was named the WHL Rookie of the Month for December. In 10 games, he racked up 17 points, including six goals. There was only one contest where he did not register a point, while also recording six multi-point games.
Suzdalev said playing in the WHL has helped him develop his game, particularly with the smaller details.
“It has helped me a lot in the small details. I needed to adjust to North American hockey. The coaches help a lot. Just take it game by game.”
Suzdalev didn’t grow up playing hockey, but started in the game of Bandy. He recalls he was seven when his family moved from Russia to Sweden after his father signed with a bandy team there.
TSN piece on Alexander Suzdalev’s father Anatoly, and the game of Bandy. pic.twitter.com/3LPmiVJl8V
— Capitals Prospects (@jon_m_sorensen) February 2, 2023
The now 18-year-old tried the ball sport, which is played on a large ice surface and utilizes sticks and skates, but said he fell in love with hockey. However, Suzdalev said playing such sports as bandy, floorball and soccer when he was younger have helped him in hockey.
“I think it helps the thinking of the game,” he said. “How you think in soccer and hockey kind of helps with the give-and-go passes and everything.”
From tonight. Remind you of anyone?
You never know how a kid will do when moving from big ice to the NA rink. This kid has clearly thrived, even without Bedard on the ice with him most of the time. He needs to fill out that frame, but he’s got a chance to be a 3rd-round steal.
Spot on, GR. He has at least one more year in CHL, or play in Europe. Hopefully he adds some weight, works on the finer details. His raw skill, puck handling, etc is fantastic.
As I see the two paths leading to Hershey, those playing in the Russian or European leagues have an advantage of playing with and against older players but disadvantage of not learning English and the NA smaller rink. Those taking the college or junior hockey route have the opposite pros and cons.
I’m biased towards doing a NA year before Hershey (so would prefer one more year in the CHL) but am curious if there are any stats or wise wisdom on this? How do AHL and NHL coaches feel?
Also good is, because he is European, he is not precluded from the AHL until age 20 like North American players are.
Didn’t think about that. Good point. But you avoided my end question.
Depends on the player and their development needs. All players vary.
OK, thought that AHL and NHL coaches might have general preferences.