Who is Alexander Suzdalev?
Alexander Suzdalev is a big, playmaking winger who has played in various levels of Swedish hockey over the past few years, most recently with the HV71 organization. A dual citizen of Sweden and Russia, Suzdalev was born in Russia but is a Swedish prospect for all intents and purposes. Suzdalev has size for a winger, checking in at 6’-2”, but also has room to grow at a listed weight of 176 pounds. Suzdalev played most of this past season in the top Swedish junior league, the J20 Nationell, though he did also spend a little bit of time at the men’s level, appearing for HV71 in the HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden’s second-tier league in their promotion/relegation configuration. He put up strong scoring numbers in the J20 Nationell, finishing second in total points (8th in scoring rate) among U18 players in the league. Suzdalev did appear for Sweden in the U18 Worlds but didn’t have much impact, failing to hit the scoresheet in six games. Full stats from Elite Prospects are below.
It’s always pretty tough to judge performances in European junior leagues, if only because the top prospects typically force their way onto men’s team. Suzdalev had a strong season in the J20, considering he was a U18 player, but his numbers are also not overly remarkable. His limited run in HockeyAllsvenskan probably wasn’t enough to get a good idea of where he is at relative to professionals, but it’s always good to see a guy was at least good enough to get a call-up. HV71 did get promoted back to the SHL in 2021-22, so Suzdalev will potentially have the opportunity to play in the SHL in 2022-23 without changing organizations. The lack of production at U18s is a little eyebrow-raising but Sweden also had a really good team and won the tourney, so it’s possible he just didn’t see a ton of the ice.
Based on the reports out there on Suzdalev, he seems like a high-ceiling prospect but also a little bit of a project. His playmaking is highly regarded, and he can apparently find passing seams in defenses really well. He also has a good shot to go along with those playmaking abilities, making him a very intriguing offensive prospect. There are definitely some question marks with his game, though, with his speed and his play without the puck being raised as concerns. There are elements of a high-end player there for sure but apparently some work is necessary to put it all together in a way that makes him effective at the next level.
Where is Alexander Suzdalev Ranked?
Alexander Suzdalev rates out as a player who is likely to go in the early-middle rounds of the draft. I think this tracks with the type of prospect Suzdalev seems to be, which is a player with some high end tools but has to fix/improve significant aspects of his game to realistically project to the NHL. Most rankings put him in the late-second, early-third round range.
- #26 - European skaters - NHL Central Scouting (Final Ranking)
- #72 - Craig Button, TSN (May 10, 2022 ranking)
- #62 - FC Hockey (Spring ranking)
- #37 - Smaht Scouting (Final ranking)
- #48 - Will Scouch (April ranking)
- #53 - Recruit Scouting (March ranking)
- #51 - Draft Prospects Hockey (April ranking)
- #65 - Bob McKenzie (Midterm Ranking)
- #91 - The Hockey Writers - Peter Baracchini (May 7, 2022 ranking)
- #60 - The Hockey Writers - Matthew Zator (April 5, 2022 ranking)
- #60 - The Hockey Writers - Andrew Forbes (March 22, 2022 ranking)
What Others Say About Alexander Suzdalev
He is creative and deceptive with the puck and is consistently able to beat opponents using his hands. In addition, he is an adept passer with good vision. He certainly sees his role as a playmaker but he can finish as well, especially around the crease.
They also note some of the shortcomings of his game, which are primarily connected to when he doesn’t have the puck on his stick.
Suzdalev needs to improve his off-puck play. At times, his movement without the puck on his stick seems to be without intention. He appears disconnected from the game and behind the play, generally in the defensive and neutral zones.
Next, I recommend reading through this scouting report put together by Josh Tessler at Smaht Scouting, which takes a good deep look at Suzdalev as a player. Suzdalev is noted as having a series of great tools that allow him to make plays and also finish them, but he needs to work on his speed to be able to tie it all together at the next level. Here’s an excerpt where Tessler delivers an opinion on Suzdalev as a prospect:
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.
I do recommend reading the whole report, but that paints a pretty good picture of the type of prospect Suzdalev is. Speed is not the easiest thing in the world to just create, but it’s also a skill that can be improved with the right training. With a bit more speed, he can create more space to use some of the high-end tools he has as a puckhandler. Tessler also talks about Suzdalev needing to be more consistently engaged while defending, which echoes some of the concerns of others on his play without the puck.
Finally, we’ll go to this report by Brandon Share-Cohen at The Hockey Writers, where he reiterates the points about about the really positive aspects of Suzdalev’s game:
As a playmaker, Suzdalev has everything a team would be looking for in a player. His vision is excellent and his passing is crisp and typically on the mark. He’s creative and deceptive with his abilities and it’s even more noticeable on the power play when he has more room to operate. The word “fun” comes to mind when watching him play and that’s an easy sell for fans who first and foremost want to be entertained when they watch hockey.
There are certain abilities that aren’t necessarily teachable in sports and high-end vision is definitely one of them. Being able to see lanes opening and thinking the game at a high level can make up for a lot of other shortcomings, but you also have to be at least passable in your play away from the puck to make it to the highest levels. Share-Cohen agrees with the other assessments that there is work to be done on Suzladev’s game, particularly in those aspects.
For all of the good with the puck that Suzdalev brings to the table, his play away from the puck leaves a lot to be desired. While he’s able to box out his opponent at times due to his size and speed combination, his reads defensively are far from where they need to be if he is going to cut it in the NHL where only the most dominant high-end offensive talents can get away without being at the very least average on the defensive side of the puck.
A Little Video
This is a video from a couple years back of Suzladev at lower levels, so the video isn’t great, but you can see the playmaking vision at work in some of the highlights. The return pass for the tap-in score when he has no shooting lane at 0:56 is a good one:
There’s not much in the way of newer highlight videos but here is one of him doing the Michigan in what I believe is a preseason game:
There are also some interview videos out there, but I cannot tell you what he says in them because I cannot speak Swedish.
An Opinion of Sorts
I like Alexander Suzdalev as a prospect. The current shortcomings in his game are fairly well-documented, but there is something about a guy who can see plays that very few others can see that will always enamor me. Suzdalev is a project in some ways, but I think he’s the type of project that it makes a lot of sense to spend mid-round picks on. Certain things in hockey are teachable but elite playmaking isn’t necessarily one of them. If Suzdalev can improve his speed and commit to being more engaged away from the puck, he seems to have a lot of potential as an impact player. Those things are easier said than done, which is why he is rated the way he is, but I think he is the type of player who can make a GM and/or director of scouting look very smart somewhere down the road if they grab him in, say, the third round.
What are your thoughts on Alexander Suzdalev? Do you think his skill is enough to overcome some of the holes in his game? Is he the type of player you’d like to see the Devils grab in the third round if he’s available? Comment with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.