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2022 NHL Draft prospect profile: Has Alexander Perevalov shown enough to be a first-rounder?

The Russian winger is the epitome of a divisive prospect, and it all depends on how you choose to look at him.

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If the Montreal Canadiens eventually decide not to sign the scorer named Alexander Gordin, perhaps they would like to replace him with one of his own countrymen? If so, then look no further than his namesake, Alexander Perevalov of Molodezhnaya Hokkeinaya Liga’s Loko Yaroslavl.

Birthplace: Mezhdurechensk, Russia
Date of birth: April 16, 2004
Shoots: Right
Position: Left Wing
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 192 lbs.
Team: Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)

Born and raised in Mezhdurechensk, situated in remote Kemerovo-Oblast, a 50-hour drive from capital Moscow, Perevalov gained attention from scouts while playing for his local youth team Vympel. Eventually, he transferred to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl’s youth program, where he excelled in their U16 team BC (Before COVID). Yaroslavl is a city which is situated closer to his home town, but that just means it’s a cool 47-hour drive (say 42 hours if you step on the throttle a little) instead of the previously mentioned 50.

Equipped with a quality shot, Perevalov looks to have a bright future ahead of him. This year, which was his first full season in the MHL, he averaged over a point per game, providing an equal number in both departments when you compare his goals and his assists.

Elite Prospects

I have to admit that my initial comparison to Montreal prospect Gordin is more of the bantering sort. We have to remember that regardless of some discrepancy in the scouting world surrounding his skating stride and general movement, Perevalov is still considered a well-touted and highly-regarded prospect. Gordin, comparatively, was chosen as an over-ager with selection 171 back in 2020.

With some scouts even regarding Perevalov as a first-rounder, there naturally has to be more than just a booming shot to his game, and there is. The Russian is a smart and offensively gifted player, whose stick-handling stands out at the U18 and at the MHL level. His creativity feels natural and he seems to have the ability to process a game quickly in his mind, thereby seeing solutions which are not always available to the naked eye. Perevalov also played extensively on the penalty kill in the MHL, which tells us a bit about what his coaches think of his defensive acumen.

Although some scouts have questions surrounding his mobility, this could have something to do with his slightly unorthodox, crouched skating style more than a pure lack of pace. He did not look out of place when he reached the considerably more challenging KHL level. If his skating remains a lingering issue in the upcoming years, he may be yet another potential project destined for some lessons with the EOTP community’s spiritual guru Barb Underhill.

His initial dominance at the Junior level this season was rewarded with a couple of brief call-ups to the senior squad, where he ultimately finished the season with five games played in a limited role. Going into the 2022-23-season, he is still waiting to register his first KHL point, but the rest of his game translated well to the highest level in his home country.

Rankings

Elite Prospects: #95
FCHockey: #42
McKeen’s: #16
Bob McKenzie (TSN): #24
NHL Central Scouting: #14 (European Skaters)
Corey Pronman (The Athletic) #58
Scott Wheeler (The Athletic): #66

If these rankings would have been finalized during the autumn of 2021, there is a good chance that this Russian winger would have been more universally praised among the scouting community. His impressive start to his draft season, contributing heavily to Team Russia’s victory in last year’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup and subsequently following that up by starting his domestic season on fire, turned quite a few heads. Especially when you consider that he came off a, production wise, modest freshman season with Loko Yaroslavl.

If he had kept his production going at the same insanely high rate, he would have been difficult to keep off the World Junior Championship roster. Head coach Sergei Zubov could however see Perevalov’s streak dwindling during the final months leading up to the tournament. One would expect that this, combined with him being two years a minor on such a squad, made Zubov prefer to go with some of his other winger prospects.

HockeyProspecting

The more worrying fact is that Perevalov failed to catch fire again, never regaining the heights his first couple of months suggested for the remainder of the season. Once the MHL playoffs came around, he was no longer a dominant piece for Loko, something his four points in nine played games demonstrate. Him being pointless in six of those playoff games could be additional reason for concern. Normally, you want a prospect to trend upward and provide his best hockey when it matters most. Perevalov’s season suggested the opposite.

Additional gasoline was added when Team Russia was barred from the recently settled World Under-18 Championship. Suddenly, the pride of Mezhdurechensk wouldn’t even get a final shot to prove his doubters wrong with an exemplary showing on the international stage.

All of this, combined with a somewhat lost 2020-21-season, means that it is difficult to project where this Kemerovo-born forward will be selected in this year’s draft. One NHL team may bet on the upside which clearly is there and believe it can work him toward more consistency during the two years he has left on his current deal with his KHL side. Another, equally likely scenario, is that teams see a player who hasn’t dominated his peers for an extended period of time, something which would make you hesitant to draft him early.

Time will tell if teams choose to look at Perevalov’s body of work and see the glass as half full or half empty.