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Getting to know Montreal Canadiens 170th overall selection Alexander Gordin

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In the final round of the Draft, the Canadiens selected one of the best MHL forwards of last season.

Peter Kovalev\TASS via Getty Images

Alexander Gordin was one of the very best MHL forwards last season. He lead SKA-1946 in points with 68 in 59 games, 17 more than his next closest teammate. As a draft re-entry, a spike in production was expected, but he more than doubled his point total in 2019-20, showing some improvements in many facets of his game.

Birthplace: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Date of birth: July 31, 2001
Shoots: Left
Position: Left-Winger
Height: 6’1”
Weight: 194 lbs.
Team: SKA-1946 Saint Petersburg (MHL)

Gordin suffers from the typical issues that affect most MHL players. First is the lack of pace. There is a distinctive absence of defensive and forechecking pressure in the Russian lower leagues. Players have a ton of space to execute plays in transition and Gordin definitely uses that to his advantage, sometimes even further slowing down the tempo to widen his gap with defenders. It’s a bad habit that can be hard to shake.

Second, Gordin’s skating ability needs work. His stride is heavy. He doesn’t skim and float on the ice surface as much as he pounds it. He skates upright, doesn’t achieve full extension and lands on his inside edges. His lack of speed and explosiveness also further exacerbates the pace issues.

So how did the Russian forward score? By outsmarting everyone else. Excluding a couple of draft-eligible prospects who featured regularly in the KHL last season, there was no player more clever than Gordin in the MHL.

He works around his suboptimal skating form by constantly using teammates for give-and-gos, one-touching pucks to them on breakouts to move it out of the zone before activating as a trailing forward. Last season, Gordin worked especially well with a speedy linemates like Marat Khusnutdinov who could push back the defenders with speed.

When he is forced to carry the puck up himself, Gordin relies on his ability to freeze opponents. He makes them hesitate with stickhandling moves, buying just enough time to slip in the offensive zone and look for passing options.

Above all else, the ability to manipulate defenders is what makes Gordin effective. He can fake out opponents with weight shifts and slight change of stick positioning. He can make them overshoot in their pursuit, go down, or attract them to create passing lanes. And when those lanes remain clogged, Gordin can connect with teammates with aerial passes coming from either side of his blade.

Due to his frame and this above-average feel for defensive pressure, the forward also protects the puck well; he keeps defenders on his back, handles with one hand to keep them away with the other one, and cuts away when he senses a pokecheck coming. A lot of Gordin’s offence comes from rolling off defenders on the walls to attack the slot. The forward is confident and willing to take on multiple opponents to get to a shooting spot — where he is at his most dangerous.

Gordin scored 39 goals last season. He made short work of goalies with a deceptive wrist shot off either leg and from a variety of puck position. But more than his firing ability, the MHLer collected goals by anticipating passing and jumping in to one-touch pucks into the net.

Ranking

NHL Central Scouting: #35 (European skaters)
Elite Prospects: #124
Future Considerations: #287

The forward’s ability to support teammates and deceive defenders is likely what got him drafted as a re-entry. But he has a very long way to go to reach the NHL. None of his abilities will translate if he can’t correct his stride. He can probably learn to move the puck even faster, but he won’t be able to separate from defenders after his feints and jump into seams in time if doesn’t add explosiveness.

We currently have no information on his contract with SKA, but like a lot of Russian forwards, the earlier he can make the transition to North American ice and work with specialty coaches the better. Especially since he is already older than most drafted prospects (even though he is a young re-entry with a July birthday).

This season, it’s probable that Gordin splits time with both the KHL team of SKA St. Petersburg and the VHL one. To begin the 2020-21 season during a short stint with SKA-Neva in the VHL, Gordin recorded two goals in six games.