HALIFAX — Fedor Gordeev knows the impact a strong Memorial Cup can have on his career.
The 20-year-old Guelph Storm defenceman has a lot riding on the tournament. He has yet to sign a contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs, who picked him in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Draft.
Toronto has until June 1 to sign him or lose his rights. If they decide to pass Gordeev would be eligible to re-enter this year’s NHL Draft in Vancouver.
Gordeev says there hasn’t been any progress on a deal as of Thursday and is hopeful a good performance at the Canadian major junior championship will help his case.
“This tournament (is) obviously big for me. So just trying to show myself and get a contract hopefully.”
At six-foot-seven and 224 pounds, Gordeev is hard to miss.
He has one goal and is a minus-one with four penalty minutes through three games at the tournament.
Guelph plays the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies on Friday night looking for a spot in Sunday’s championship game at the Memorial Cup against the host Halifax Mooseheads.
Storm coach George Burnett has a long history with Gordeev, drafting him in the third round of the 2015 OHL draft when he was with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
He mostly played in junior B during the 2015-16 season but suited up in eight games for the Bulldogs while practising occasionally with the team.
After playing two games with Hamilton the following year, he was dealt to the Flint Firebirds, where he played the next 2 1/2 seasons. Gordeev had 25 points in 67 games in 2017-18 for Flint while racking up 106 penalty minutes and a minus-33 rating.
Burnett loved Gordeev’s size, skating and skill enough to re-acquire him from the Firebirds in January.
“He’s not fun to play against when he’s on his game and he’s able to play against highly skilled players because of his reach and his skating ability and his mobility for a guy that’s that big,” Burnett says.
“There’s some special qualities there.”
The trade paid dividends for both sides as Gordeev put up 13 points in 31 games for the Storm and improved to a plus-21.
Gordeev says scoring the opening goal in Tuesday’s round-robin win over the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders was “fantastic.” He’s no stranger to jumping up in the play either after spending the occasional game at left-wing in the OHL playoffs.
He says he likes to be a physical presence when playing forward to wear down the opposition’s defence. While on the back end, he’s a physical, two-way defender.
“I like to hit a lot but I can also jump into the play and get the job done there,” Gordeev says.
He attended the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago but wasn’t really sure what to expect.
Toronto selected defenceman Timothy Liljegren in the first round of that draft while taking goaltender Ian Scott, who played for Prince Albert at the Memorial Cup, in the third round.
He says the opportunity to be in the Leafs organization so far has been awesome.
“Watching the Leafs growing up was definitely great,” Gordeev says. “So being drafted there was like … I was speechless.”
Despite having one more year left of junior, Gordeev is hoping to move on to an opportunity in the American Hockey League next season.
Burnett says if he doesn’t try to do too much, he’ll find success.
“When he moves the puck and joins the rush, you can’t stop him.”