Russia has always produced high-end dynamic forwards and one of the latest to carry on that tradition is left winger Alexander Perevalov of Loko Yaroslavl - and the youngster traveled quite far to get where he is today.
Perevalov, a potential first-rounder in the 2022 NHL draft, is originally from Mezhdurechensk, a city near Novokuznetsk on the eastern side of the country and in fact just a bit northwest of Mongolia. He was eventually scouted by Yaroslavl and joined the program several years ago, which meant moving more than 3,600 kilometres away from his hometown. It was a big challenge for the kid, but as he noted through translator and Loko assistant coach Denis Grebeshkov (the former NHL defenseman), he wasn't alone: he had his parents and younger siblings.
"Obviously it was difficult," Perevalov said. "But we came as a family and that helped a lot."
Perevalov has thrived in the Yaroslavl program, throwing up more than two points per game at the U16 level in 2019-20, then making his MHL debut the next season. He was a point-per-gamer for Russia at the Hlinka-Gretzky summer tournament, where the Russians won gold thanks to a roster laden with talent: On top of Perevalov, that team also featured 2023 draft phenom Matvei Michkov and coveted 2022 prospects such as Ivan Miroshnichenko and Artyom Duda. Now Perevalov is a top-30 scorer in Russia's top junior circuit despite being only 17 years old.
Perevalov's Loko team has also been one of the strongest in the Western Conference, battling it out with powerhouses Krasnaya Armiya (Red Army) and SKA-1946. But the left winger isn't satisfied with 'good.'
"Obviously we want to be in first place, not third," he said. "With my success as well, I still want to play better. Things are fine but I can play better and the team can play better."
When you watch Perevalov play, the upside is obvious: The kid has incredible hands and creativity, but he's also trustworthy enough to see time on Loko's penalty-kill unit. Not only that, but he's been advanced enough to warrant five games of duty in the KHL with the squad's parent club, Lokomotiv. That was a "very cool" experience for Perevalov.
Once he's done his domestic duties with Yaroslavl, the talented left winger will likely draw more international duty with Russia for the world under-18s in Germany this spring - and once again, he'll be joined by a great cast of teammates.
And though Grebeshkov translated for the teen for this interview, Perevalov does speak some English (much more than I speak Russian, that's for sure. Spasibo!).
"When I play video games, I learned some English," he said. "And playing in tournaments for the national team I would speak English to some of the locals."
But on the ice, he lets his skills do the talking. His hands are elite, though he does have aspects of his game that he is still concentrating on.
"Right now I'm working on my vision," he said. "I want to get my head up and my eyes up so I can control the situation."
In Russia, Perevalov has drawn stylistic comparisons to the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, David Pastrnak and Nathan MacKinnon and he is more than happy to use them as models. With his combination of elite offensive skill and determination, Perevalov will be one to watch for years to come. And based on how far he's already come geographically to advance his hockey career, don't bet against him.