Monday, December 21, 2009

Alexander Perezhogin Jersey Card

There are players that your team will try to sell you as 'Future Stars' eventhough they couldn't find the back of the net if they were caught in it (we call them Chipchuras); there are others who get drafted really late and turn out - surprisingly - to be gems, cornerstones, 'Franchise Players' (such as Pavel Datsyuk and Andrei Markov); others have the potential to become stars, but management loses patience with them, or they're never really given a fair shot, and they turn into scoring machines elsewhere (like Mike Ribeiro and John LeClair).

Then there is Alexander Perezhogin.

The team sold the fans on him, they definitely thought he was top talent; he believed so, too. But no one thought he was a headcase, for some odd reason, but it was there all along.

We're talking about a guy who left his home country Kazakhstan with his coach to play with Avanguard Omsk in the late 90s and actually became Russian in the process - he left his roots behind and changed his citizenship.

Then he came to North America to play with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Montréal's farm team, where he didn't even get to finish the season - he was suspended for the remainder of the playoffs as well as the whole following season - the longest suspension in AHL history - for cross-checking an opponent in the face, rendering him unconscious and leaving him convulsing on the ice.

During his AHL suspension, as it would have not been too kosher to have him play in the NHL during that time span, he returned to Omsk.

Upon his return to North America in 2005, he spent the better part of the next two seasons with the Montréal Canadiens, playing over 60 games each year in a relatively limited role, playing mostly with Tomas Plekanec, the Habs wanting to let them develop progressively, at their own pace. While Plekanec became the team's best centerman in the past 3 seasons (despite the presence of Saku Koivu and Scott Gomez), Perezhogin left for the KHL, unsatisfied of 'only' being used between 12 and 15 minutes per game.

In his first year playing with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, so-named in honour of Salavat Yulaev, a national hero of Bashkiria who was from Ufa (thanks, Wikipedia! - kind of like if the Habs were named to ''Maurice Richards'', I guess), he gathered 21 goals and 41 points in 50 games. In his second year, he'd upped that total to 28 goals, 22 assists (good for 50 points) in 55 games, helping his team win the KHL championship, ensuring its place in the 2009-10 Champions League. Also on the team's roster are former NHLers Alexander Radulov, Alexei Medvedev, Dmitri Kalinin, Viktor Kozlov, Oleg Tverdovsky, Patrick Thorensen and Ilya Zubov.

He was also a part of the Russian team who won the gold medal at the last World Championships, playing alongside Ilya Kovalchuk and 5 Ufa teammates, defeating Canada for a second straight year; he is likely also to make the cut for the Russian team in the upcoming Olympics.

Meanwhile, the Canadiens have struggled to find a top-6 forward to complete their second line... (and have another headcase on board who hasn't even scored yet - hi, Sergei!)

This is card #FE-AP from Upper Deck's 2006-07 Be A Player Portraits series and sports a piece of jersey that Perezhogin has worn in a photo shoot.

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