Suzdalev Details Road To Capitals
ARLINGTON, VA — Once Alexander Suzdalev took to the ice for Washington Capitals rookie camp, a shift took place in his mind. Mechanically, he grabs a loose puck and shows off his silky mittens. And, for the 18-year-old, it’s second nature at this point, as easy as breathing now that he’s donning an NHL practice jersey.
“It’s fun,” he encourages.
Suzdalev is perhaps best known for his quick hands, deception, creativity and puck-handling ability. That, along with his versatility and high hockey IQ, put him on Washington’s radar ahead of the 2022 NHL Draft. The Capitals called his name in the third round and then signed him to an entry-level contract this offseason. And since then, Suzdalev has made himself comfortable in the organization of which he has grown as a huge fan.
“I was really proud, a very good organization,” Suzdalev said modestly.
His passion for the game started in Russia. He was born in Khabarovsk, and since he can remember he was on skates. His father, Anatoly Suzdalev, was a professional bandy player. Bandy is quite similar to ice hockey. Athletes skate on a considerably larger playing surface, the size of a football field. The goal cage is 11 feet wide and 6 feet 11 feet high. Body checking is not allowed, the game is played with a ball instead of a puck, and many games are played outdoors.
Given his bandy background, Anatoly introduced his son to hockey at a young age and took him to the rink almost daily, where Suzdalev automatically found his calling.
“I got a lot of support and went to the rink every day…I went on the ice every day and fell in love with it,” Suzdalev said.
🚨 GOAL 🚨
Alexander Suzdalev has his 1st in a Pats uniform & we lead 3-0! Yes, we know it’s pre-season, but we’re still excited 😁
— Regina Pats (@WHLPats) September 10, 2022
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At the age of seven, Suzdalev left Russia for Sweden to pursue his hockey career after his father signed a bandy contract with Vetlanda Bandyklubb. Suzdalev doesn’t remember much about the move, but for the most part the adjustment was easy and he quickly made friends through the tight-knit hockey community. Still, there were notable differences between the Russian and Swedish hockey ranks that took some getting used to.
Off the ice, Suzdalev would go home and watch the Capitals on TV, where he idolized Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin. Semin was among his favorite players; he had his jersey and Ovechkin’s and also met Semin this summer since they started playing hockey at the same place in Russia.
All the while, he was playing mini sticks around the house, which he now credits to his ability to swing. He easily rose through the ranks in Sweden, progressing every year.
“I really like playing the game…you get to the rink and step onto the ice,” Suzdalev said with a smile. “I played so many games when I was young and I played mini-sticks all the time. [Quick hands] come with this.
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For the past two seasons, Suzdalev has played with HV71 Jr. in the Swedish Jr. League. In 13 games in his first season, he had nine points. Last year, he scored 15 goals and 36 assists for 51 points in 45 games. This year, however, it continues its development in the WHL as he transitions to North American play. However, he could not have been better placed since he skates alongside Connor Bedard with the Regina Pats.
“It’s a good opportunity for me to develop my game and my weaknesses, and I think it suits me well,” Suzdalev said, adding: “It’s a bit more physical game, and I have to improve it. And of course, playing with Bedard is going to be a very good experience.
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Bedard and Suzdalev have played together overseas in Sweden and so far they have bonded a bit during training camp in the W. The 2023 slated first overall pick says a lot about the winger, who skated on its line and complements its style well.
“He’s so good and it seems like he can find me all the time,” Bedard told reporters at Pats media day. “I’m really looking forward to building that chemistry and he’s definitely a special player.”
Bedard-Suzdalev chemistry is already growing 👀
— Regina Pats (@WHLPats) September 3, 2022
Suzdalev is also thrilled to be in a league where he feels he can put his skills to better use and also admitted to liking North American rinks more than overseas ones.
“It was really good… [Bedard and I] know each other a little more now and things will get better day by day,” Suzdalev said. “It was a big transition and a much faster little ice and you have to think faster. I like to play on smaller rinks because it’s more space for skills and stuff.
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Despite the high stakes, Suzdalev tries to stay relaxed and enjoy the moment. When he’s not at the rink, he relaxes with movies and TV and stays tuned to the NFL and football. His favorite TV show: “The Last Dance”, which Michael Jordan is a source of inspiration. The Russian-born Swede is also a music fan. He grew up on EDM, but since moving to North America he’s turned to country music.
Ultimately, as he pursues his NHL dream, Suzdalev soaks up every experience. After rookie camp in Washington, he will attend the Capitals’ main training camp next week. He’s just one of three Regina players to attend an NHL training camp ahead of the 2022-23 campaign.
“Overall it’s just a great experience,” Suzdalev said. “I’m looking forward to everything. Good start with the guys and [we’re] good competitors on the ice,” Suzdalev said.