Photo Credit: HV71
Scouting Report written by Josh Tessler
Alexander Suzdalev is a 2022 NHL Draft eligible prospect and he plays for HV71. Suzdalev was born in Khabarovsk, Russia and moved to Sweden when his father Anatoly Suzdalev had signed a bandy contract with Swedish bandy club, Vetlanda Bandyklubb. Per a 2015 post on Laget.se, Anatoly had been playing for Yenisei (a Russian club) and left for Vetlanda before the 2011-2012 season. Suzdalev was seven years old when his father signed with Vetlanda.
In his youth, Suzdalev played for Boro-Vetlanda HC. He played for them at the U16, J18 and J20 levels before joining HV71’s system in 2019-2020. This past season, he played the majority of the season at the J20 level, but did appear in five games for HV71 in the Allsvenskan.
While born in Russia, Suzdalev holds dual citizenship (Swedish and Russian citizenship). Suzdalev has represented Sweden at the international level and was part of the Swedish U18 championship team at the 2022 IIHF U18 World Championships in Germany / Deutschland.
Suzdalev’s CHL rights are owned by the Regina Pats. The Pats had selected Suzdalev in the 2021 CHL Import Draft at pick #95 in the second round.
D.O.B – March 5, 2004
Nationality – Sweden & Russia
Draft Eligibility – 2022
Weight –172 lbs
Position – Left Wing
Handedness – Left
Suzdalev’s Style Of Play
Suzdalev typically enters into the offensive zone as the F2 or the F3. As we will discuss later on in the transitional play section, his straight line speed prohibits him from moving the puck up the ice. There are shifts in which he does pick up right near the offensive blue line and complete a controlled zone entry, but it’s not consistent.
When he doesn’t have possession of the puck in the offensive zone, Suzdalev alternates from supporting his center in the left corner when he is facing tight pressure from the attack and grabbing open ice at net-front.
Earlier on in the season, when on the forecheck, he would be more passive than assertive. He waited for the puck carrier to come to him before he cut in front of the puck carrier to disrupt puck movement. He wouldn’t go hunt in the dirty areas very often. But, over time throughout the season, he started to show that he was up for being slightly more aggressive on the forecheck. Towards the end of the season, he was skating to the corners and was highly effective at cutting inside and getting around defenders to loose pucks behind the red line.
Given his straight line speed issues, it’s apparent that he didn’t feel comfortable skating down low to the corners because the attacker would have plenty of time and space to collect the puck and navigate around him. At that point, Suzdalev would be out of position to defend against the rush. So, he took more of a passive role on the forecheck.
After adopting a more aggressive style of forechecking, Suzdalev showed that he can leverage his reach to poke check especially in situations when he is slightly further back from the attacker. He can use his reach to stick lift and force the attacker to lose possession of the puck. Suzdalev also showed that he can be physical and would lean in with a shoulder check when he was well-aligned to an attacker. Even though Suzdalev has shown that he can effective at being aggressive on the forecheck, his skating will limit his effectiveness at the NHL level and thus he needs to develop a true power stride to be truly effective at forechecking. With a power stride, he could be far more aggressive in the corners and be a pain for opposing puck moving defenders.
Suzdalev’s stick-handling allows him to net quality separation as he has great reach and can extend the puck well past the attacker’s stick blade. The only thing missing is his speed. I know that some fans feel that Suzdalev does not possess a strong interior game with the puck on his stick. At the moment, that is true, but if he develop a power stride, that will change quickly. In situations in which he has the puck in low danger, used his reach to navigate around the attacker, he struggles to keep enough separation from the attacker to drive inside. If he had the speed, he’d be able to truly separate from the attacker.
In the below clip, you will see Suzdalev quickly shift the puck around the attacker when the attacker shifts over to him. While Suzdalev doesn’t have a lot of speed, he is very quick from a reactionary stand point. After doing so, you can see him struggle to net separation and thus he doesn’t try to continue to skate towards the slot. He deviates and ends up behind the red line. If he had the speed to create separation, he could create a give and go opportunity by passing behind the red line to his teammate, drive towards the slot and then collect a pass from his teammate after establishing open ice down low. Or he could leverage that speed to drive right past the attacker and then use his stick-handling reach to swing the puck around the defender at net-front.
When Suzdalev is behind the net and in possession of the puck, he will look to pass to the slot to an an open teammate. If he is in low danger along the half-wall boards and he struggles to get enough separation with his reach, he will look to complete tight passes underneath the attacker’s stick blade when he sees a teammate almost at net front. But, if he can get quality separation with his reach, he has shown that he can wire passes to teammates in the slot with ease.
Suzdalev has shown on a consistent basis that if he can’t manufacture passing lanes to exploit and pressure becomes far too intimidating that he will double back. He won’t force the puck in. Since he doesn’t have the raw speed to get around pressure, he has to be far more conservative with the puck on his stick.
When it comes to manufacturing scoring opportunities for himself and he doesn’t have possession of the puck, he looks to establish open ice in the slot when the attack is busy behind their own net. Suzdalev quietly sneaks into medium danger and provides his teammate at the red line an open passing option. After gaining possession of the puck off of a quality tape-to-tape pass, he doesn’t hold the puck on his stick for too long. Suzdalev has a quick release, good weight transfer as he shifts his chest above the knee for maximum power and has an open stick blade. With his shooting mechanics, he can generate height and power to be lethal in all shooting situations.
In the defensive zone, Suzdalev typically positions himself along the boards to collect an outlet pass from behind his net and then looks for a teammate skating towards the blue line. Then he quickly completes a pass to them. Given some of the speed issues that we talked about earlier on, Suzdalev’s approach is to retrieve the puck but quickly get the puck out of his hands to a teammate who is driving up the ice with speed.
While he does have a lot of success with his outlet passing, he does needs to be a bit more cautious when looking to complete a pass with an attacker maintaining stride for stride positioning. He will have an attacker right on him and fail to identify a quality lane to use and gives the puck right to the attacker in front of him. It’s a depth perception issue. He will try to pass between the legs when there is really no room at all. Suzdalev needs to work on identifying quality lanes to use when he starts to run out of space. Since he can’t manufacture separation with speed, he has to be more selective with his passing and thus he needs to be cautious about putting the puck in an area in which the attacker can easily swallow up possession of the puck.
In the rare situations in which Suzdalev is driving the bus and bringing the puck up the ice, he can use his reach to get by an attacker coming at him as he swings the puck around the attacker and it’s far enough that the attacker can’t get his stick blade in range.
Suzdalev’s defensive pressure can be very inconsistent. There are shifts in which he is implementing good pressure along the boards on a vulnerable attacker who has his back turned to Suzdalev. But, isn’t always engaged and putting up tight pressure along the half-wall boards. Given his speed issues, he can get beat by faster attackers as they will manage to use their speed to get quality separation. He needs to leverage his reach more and more to take away time and space when defending along the boards. At the point, he does use his reach to trap opposing defenders. As the season progressed, he started using more and more of an active stick to take away space for puck carrying attackers along the blue line.
In the neutral zone, Suzdalev is stronger with the puck on the stick versus when he is defending against oppositional puck movement. Given that Suzdalev has become slightly more aggressive with his forechecking and his skating stride hasn’t improved much over the course of the year, you will see Suzdalev often skating behind the rush. Even though he usually is skating behind the rush, he can leverage his reach when in range to stick lift and cause puck disruption.
When in control of the puck, if he collects possession of the puck before vacating the defensive zone and completes a zone exit or collects the puck off of a pass right near the defensive zone blue line in the neutral zone, Suzdalev has shown that he can complete excellent diagonal feed from the left side to his open right winger near the offensive zone blue line. He constantly looks to move the puck quickly after receiving the puck as he doesn’t have the separation speed.
Similar to his approach in the offensive zone when he is in control of the puck and looking to push the puck up himself, should pressure become far too intimidating, he takes the safe approach by doubling back in the neutral zone. He button hooks and then looks for an open teammate on the other side of the zone, who has a better shot of bringing the puck into the offensive zone unharmed and then passes.
As I’ve mentioned throughout this report, the one thing holding Suzdalev back from being a dominant winger up and down the ice is his speed. When Suzdalev is in stride, his skate extensions are rather short and he doesn’t have great posture. Suzdalev isn’t hunched over, but at the same time, he isn’t lowering his chest and bending his knees. There are many shifts in which Suzdalev will look to carry himself up the ice with his extensions and then he will decide to start gliding. Unfortunately, he already doesn’t have much power to drive himself up the ice and gliding eliminates whatever acceleration he was able to create. Ideally, Suzdalev will adopt a power stride and cut down on his gliding. If he can do so, you will see Suzdalev truly reach his potential of being a dominant power forward. He will be able to forecheck aggressively and use physical play to shut down the cycle in his own zone.
It’s not just his straight line speed that needs to be improved upon though. His crossovers and edges need a bit more refinement too. His crossovers like his stride extensions are rather short and they simply don’t net good acceleration. So, when he deploy his edges, he can’t rely on his crossovers for activation after changing directions.
Suzdalev has top six potential written all over him. He just needs to develop that power stride to get to the NHL level. If he doesn’t, I don’t believe he will make much of an impact at the NHL level as he speed will hinder his ability to bring the puck inside. He can leverage his quick decision making and excellent passing ability to get the puck out of his hands, but for Suzdalev to be an impact player, his speed will need far more refinement. While this might seem rather negative, it isn’t. There are plenty of prospects in this class that are very similar to Suzdalev. Luca Del Bel Belluz and Devin Kaplan come to mind. Both are prospects who are not the fastest skaters, but can be highly efficient at getting the puck to the teammate with more separation and more speed. Should all three prospects improve their speed, all three could be impact power forwards at the NHL level. So, the lesson is don’t sleep on Suzdalev nor Del Bel Belluz or Kaplan. The potential is there.
June 4, 2022
stats from InStat and EliteProspects
Prospect report written by Josh Tessler. If you would like to follow Josh on Twitter, his handle is @JoshTessler_.
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