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Alexander Mogilny: The Lost Shifts (An Analysis of Another Russian Hockey Superstar)

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Published on Oct 1, 2012

While hockey fans are well aware of, and quite familiar with some of the sport's greatest all-time players, some players have become relatively forgotten since retiring from the NHL. Some of these players' abilities, their styles of play, and their once-renowned presence in the hockey world have rarely been discussed recently; Alexander Mogilny is one of these cases. He retired under unfortunate circumstances, buried in the AHL in the midst of the 2005-06 season and finishing his career with the New Jersey Devils' minor-league affiliate. Throughout the majority of his career, however, Mogilny proved he could at times be a dominant force against opposing teams. He scored 76 goals in his fourth NHL season to tie for the league lead in scoring, became the first ever European NHL captain, was named to six NHL All-Star games, is a member of the Triple Gold Club, and became the second ever Russian player to reach the 1000-point mark in 2004.

Despite his accomplishments, though, there seems to be much curiosity about what made Mogilny so effective; strangely, little is heard about him from Sabres fans, Devils fans, Leafs fans, or Canucks fans. In many discussions, Mogilny has fallen under the radar, and many have even forgotten the details regarding his play. Some have only identified him as a gifted skater who could score goals. Canucks fans recall little of him, and there is little discussion ever about his years in Vancouver. It is remarkable to see that Mogilny is the least discussed of the trio featuring Pavel Bure, Sergei Fedorov, and himself; more surprising is the lack of footage online to educate and remind fans of what made him unique.

To answer several questions and provide a clear understanding of exactly what kind of player he was, I have compiled a footage reel featuring shifts from five NHL games featuring Alexander Mogilny from between 1993 and 2000. This footage includes many regular shifts in which he did not score goals, as well as goal highlights, breakout plays, physical plays, and demonstrations of immense creativity, structure, and control. Footage was taken from the following games:

February 24, 1993 vs. the Detroit Red Wings
April 27, 1994 vs. the New Jersey Devils
April 22, 1996 vs the Colorado Avalanche
October 5, 1996 vs. the Calgary Flames
April 13, 2000 vs. the Florida Panthers

Alexander Mogilny was, by all accounts, a sniper, scoring many goals using either his tremendous slap shot or quick wrist shot to blast the puck by the goaltender. Additionally, he was generally a very structured, calculated player, utilizing his patience, physicality, and creative passing plays to generate offense. Offensively, Alex often drifted within a designated area in the offensive zone and would rely particularly on plays from the right side and behind the net; his anticipation, meanwhile, permitted him to retrieve loose pucks and create second opportunities from behind the opposing net. He utilized his shot and side-to-side movement, as well as sneaky tactics to generate chances and would generally return to a number of preferred locations in the offensive zone if he was out of position. If he was freewheeling, however, Mogilny's skill set allowed him to at times perform remarkable feats with the puck.

Alex was also strong on his skates and had incredible balance. Consequently, he could control the puck well from behind the net or skate into traffic to retrieve the puck. Often, he would be challenged by opposing defenders, forcing him to play a physical and rough style involving much pushing along the boards, behind the net, and at times in the crease. In the footage, he is seen at times involving himself with Adam Foote and Scott Stevens. He was a physical player, and was unafraid to use his body to protect the puck. Furthermore, he would always finish his check.

A poised player with the puck, and gifted with incredible vision, Mogilny generated an abundance of remarkable plays. In addition, his stick handling skills were excellent, and his skating was terrific. While he was not as explosive a skater as Bure, Mogilny's tremendous agility allowed him to navigate smoothly throughout the open ice. His speed was also very admirable. As a result, when carrying the puck into the offensive zone, he could frequently cut across the slot or maneuver into an open space to unleash his shot. Occasionally, though, he would catch the opponent unprepared, and would swiftly stickhandle through the defender. Defensively, his ability to send pucks cross-ice was useful when his team needed to transition quickly.

It is unfortunate that Mogilny is less-often discussed than Bure and Fedorov. Though Mogilny's game may not be as exhilarating as Pavel's or as defensively-slick as Sergei's, his presence as an intuitive, physical, creative sniper and playmaker should be recalled with fondness by fans of the former 76-goal scorer and Russian hockey legend.

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