Playing in his sophomore season at St. Cloud State in 2005-06, Washington Capitals right wing prospect Andrew Gordon significantly improved upon his freshman year numbers. The 20-year-old Nova Scotian doubled his goal, assist and point totals, netting 20 goals and putting up 40 points in 42 contests. But Gordon’s skates remain firmly on the ice. He knows it will take more than fancy numbers to get him where he wants to be: in the NHL.
“Foot speed and skating are things that are always going to be a priority in the new NHL, no matter who you are,” he declares. “I think skating is always something that I am going to be working on until the day I hang them up. That’s one thing I really like to do.”
Certainly the “new” NHL has put a premium on speed and the importance of a quick first step. But that’s not all that’s on Gordon’s mind in the way of self-improvement.
“Defensively, that’s another aspect of the game that I find I can always improve,” says Gordon. “If you are giving up one goal a game, there is still room for improvement. If I can get better in my own zone and pitch in as much as I can defensively, my game will be elevated that much more.”
Gordon spent two seasons playing for the Notre Dame Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. In his first season there, fellow Caps prospect Andrew Joudrey was among his teammates. In his second season with the Hounds, Caps defense hopeful Sasha Pokulok also wore a Notre Dame sweater.
Gordon was third on the team in scoring in his first year at Notre Dame, and second on the club the following season. At the end of the second campaign, the Capitals spent a seventh round draft choice (197th overall) on him. He began his freshman season at St. Cloud State that fall.
After a reasonably solid freshman year (nine goals, 17 points), Gordon broke out as a sophomore under new head coach Bob Motzko in 2005-06. He led the Huskies in goals, points, power play goals and tied for the team lead in shorthanded goals.
“Our coaches put a lot of faith in me last season, so I was playing quite a bit,” he says, modestly explaining his jump in production. “I was killing penalties and I was on the power play starting just about every night. I will pretty much keep the same progression of ice time [in 2006-07], but I am expecting more from myself and from our team. I want to produce more from an offensive standpoint for myself and from a team standpoint, I want to win a championship. I think with the guys coming in the next year or two, we have a real good shot at making a run for something. That’s my focus right now; I’m not really looking at anything beyond this coming season.”
Like many of the college players in attendance at the Capitals’ annual summer development camp in Hershey last month, Gordon was a first-time attendee. But there were plenty of familiar faces in the locker room that week.
“Travis Morin is in our division [WCHA] and I’ve known Andrew Joudrey forever,” says Gordon. “There are a lot of guys you see on the ice but you don’t know anything about them. It’s good to come here and put some names to faces and build some relationships. When I go back for the regular season, I know them that much better on the ice as well. It’s good to come out and meet some new friends and personalities. The hockey world is so small; it is good to have some connections wherever you go.”
Summer development camp concludes with a four-on-four scrimmage on the final night of the week. Gordon and Morin were able to get acquainted that evening, as they frequently skated together. The duo combined for what was arguably the prettiest goal in a 5-3 game when they broke into the zone on a 2-on-1. Morin patiently held the puck before feeding Gordon for a one-time wrister that found the back of the net.
Joudrey also hails from Nova Scotia and his on-ice relationship with Gordon dates back several years.
“I first started playing with him in midgets, and he was the youngest guy on our team,” remembers Joudrey when asked about Gordon. “He was one of those guys who has the heart to play, and worked as hard as he could all the time. He has a great work ethic on and off the ice, and he is a team guy. He has improved every year. He was the youngest guy on our team and he improved so much that year. I played with him in junior and [the difference] was night and day. He has worked so hard and he has deserved all he’ll get.”
Gordon fared well in his first development camp.
“I just wanted to make myself as visible to the organization as possible,” he states, when asked about his reasons for attending. “If I stayed home I wouldn’t get this exposure, I wouldn’t get to mingle in with the coaches and general manager. It’s a chance for me to be seen, no matter who is on the ice with me. I think that’s what it is all about, getting yourself exposed and trying to be the best player you can in front of the right people at all times.”
Growing up in Nova Scotia, Gordon’s hockey heroes included a handful of different players from different NHL teams.
“I always loved Adam Oates,” says Gordon. “When I was young, I was always a small player, and I used to play the perimeter and just get assists all day. So I used to watch Adam Oates and try to model his game. Steve Yzerman is a guy I’ve admired off the ice for his leadership and the way he carries himself. He is an ambassador for the game. I’ve loved Cam Neely, Paul Kariya, guys who are respected around the league as people as well as players.”
With the way he plays and the way he carries himself, Gordon has begun to carve out his own measure of respect. His attitude certainly doesn’t hurt him in that regard.
“I realize by coming to these camps that I am probably not a guy who is going to play pro as a first-line, goal scorer,” he admits. “They have guys like Ovechkin to do that. I want to round out my game and become more of a total, all-around player and hopefully I can fit into the system as a defensive forward as opposed to an offensive scoring threat. I figure the rounder my game is the more versatile I can be to whoever is coaching.”
And if for some reason Gordon’s NHL dreams don’t come true, he’d like to somehow stay close to the game he loves.
“I am going to be a marketing major,” he says. “I am going to try to get my degree as fast as possible and whenever hockey doesn’t pan out or I decide to stop playing, I will have something to fall back on. I always see myself as being involved in the game forever whether it be coaching, scouting or just being involved in an organization. Maybe my degree can help me give back to the game, and I can help market the game somehow, who knows?”