The Washington Capitals have a unique opportunity at the NHL Draft Lottery on May 8. The Capitals, who finished eighth-worst in the overall standings will jump up to the first overall selection if their ball is pulled by league commissioner Gary Bettman. With that pick, they would surely select Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard.
Bedard put up an insane 143 points (71g, 72a) in just 57 WHL games this past season. The Caps have a prospect on the Pats that featured on plenty of those goals and assists in Alexander Suzdalev.
Suzdalev, who is currently with the AHL’s Hershey Bears as a playoff black ace, sat down with RMNB’s Ian Oland on Tuesday and talked about potentially being able to reunite with his superstar junior teammate in the NHL with the Caps.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Suzdalev told RMNB. “The lottery, it happens how it happens. For sure it would be fun to be reunited.
“[He’s a] great leader in the locker room,” he continued. “Leads by good examples and I knew him before too when he was in Sweden so it was pretty easy to talk to him. We’re pretty close. Just a very nice guy and sets good examples.”
Suzdalev is coming off his own highly-successful season in the WHL. The 19-year-old Swede, selected by the Caps in the third round of the 2022 NHL Draft, recorded 86 points (38g, 48a) in 66 regular season games. He added 10 more points (3g, 7a) in 10 playoff games.
The 6’3″, 172-pound winger ranked first among all WHL rookies in scoring by a whopping 28 points. Suzdalev was named WHL Rookie of the Month in both December and February. He also pulled off ‘The Michigan’ in a live game and recorded his first career hat trick.
The Suzdalev and Bedard match made in heaven that linked up a ton on Regina’s first power-play unit was one Bedard saw coming from training camp back in September. The two had a bit of previous experience sharing the ice with one another when Bedard went over to Sweden and played on Suzdalev’s junior team for four games.
“He’s such a skilled player,” Bedard said of Suzdalev then. “I got to play with him a bit in Sweden a couple years back. In these couple intrasquad games so far, it’s been so fun to play with him. He’s so skilled and it seems like he can find me all the time. I’m really looking forward to building that chemistry and he’s definitely a special player.”
Connor Bedard with the dish, Alexander Suzdalev with the finish.
Bedard up to 5 goals and 10 points through 7 periods of playoff hockey. pic.twitter.com/YkN4DDMmPh
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) April 5, 2023
Suzdalev returned some of those nice comments on Tuesday when asked about what exactly makes Bedard so special and why he has been talked about as a future NHL superstar for so long. As a 15-year-old Bedard became the first-ever WHL player to be granted “exceptional status” which meant he was allowed to enter Canadian major junior a year early.
“His skill level is really high,” Suzdalev said. “His skill set is something else. How he shoots the puck is pretty crazy to see. He just works hard off the ice and on the ice. Very good person.”
As for what’s next for Suzdalev besides maybe a future reunion with Bedard on the Caps, he says there are two options on the table for next season. Suzdalev is a very unique case as normally CHL players cannot jump to the AHL level until they are 20 years old or have played four seasons of junior hockey.
Suzdalev was drafted by the Caps out of Europe, playing his last season there with HV71 in Sweden before signing with the Pats. That means he is a rare exception to the CHL-NHL Transfer Agreement and could freely suit up for the Bears as a 19-year-old next season.
“I think this offseason is about get stronger and a little bit faster on the ice because it’s faster of course in pro hockey and you sure want to keep with the pace,” Suzdalev said. “I have to have a good offseason and we’ll see if it’s here or going back to junior. I don’t know really yet.”
Screenshot via Capitals/YouTube
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